If you want to get more done, don’t wait until tomorrow to get your time management in-line. Start today, right now, by planning out what needs to get done and setting a hard schedule for it.
Over at Harvard Business Review, Elizabeth Grace Saunders gives us two insightful tips for how to better manage our time in order to get everything done that we need to:
Unless you make a conscious effort to change your behavior, poor time management today will only lead to poor time management tomorrow…
Eliminate future options
Challenge yourself to find specified times during your workday to complete your commitments. Look at your project list and estimate approximately how long it will take you to get certain items done. For example, if you have a presentation at the end of the month, determine how long it will take you to gather the information, put together the presentation, review it with your team, and run through it. Then assign specific times in your schedule between now and the presentation for you to complete each piece.
The other approach Saunders mentions is to decrease variability in your schedule. That is: set a schedule for your work and stick to it. Doing so ensures you get done what you need to get done, as well as making it easier to do what you need to now rather than later.
These approaches work by disabling psychological loopholes where we say we want to do something, that we’ll get to it later, but when the time comes to do it we find ourselves either too exhausted or distracted to get it done. This leaves us feeling like we either have to play catch-up or like we’ve failed, causing us to put off other tasks until a future time, endlessly repeating the process.
Research has found that people who engage in “instrumental networking,” where the goal is career advancement, made people actually feel physically dirty. So dirty, in fact, that they thought about showering and brushing their teeth!
As creative professionals, it’s understood that for the sake of our careers, we must constantly expand our networks of potential partners and clients. But how can we do that without repulsing people? Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone, suggests ditching traditional networking altogether:
Those who are best at it don’t network – they make friends.
. . .
Business is a human enterprise, driven and determined by people…When you help someone through a health issue, positively impact someone’s personal wealth, or take a sincere interest in their children, you engender life-bonding loyalty.
Opt for spontaneous networking, where the goal is the simply the pursuit of emotional connections and friendship.
When you say “no” to something, you’re choosing how to spend your time. Over at her blog, Bobulate, NPR creative director Liz Danzico describes what would happen if we focused on keeping a No List, and the surprising benefits of doing so:
When I say no (e.g., conference talk invites, ‘pick my brain’ invitations, jury solicitations), I immediately add my regret to the No List. I nurture this growing list of no-things, adding category data like dates events would have happened, themes, and date turned down.
Too much yes, I quickly found, is unsustainable and unhealthy. What could I make from no? So I started a list. Instances of saying no… Suddenly, I’m making list of cities not seen, airplanes not embarked, and time saved, rather than time taken away. Several months later, I have a made a substantial something. It’s how I’ve marked time.
To keep a No List means simply writing down any time you say “no” to something. By tracking everything you decline, you are not only saving time by focusing your efforts on the most important things, you’re also refocusing your attention onto the things you’re truly passionate about.
That’s right. Clients don’t have to just be on the receiving end of our work. Patrick Hanlon at Inc. explores the ways that clients can become collaborators. He writes:
Today, consumers aren’t just your buyers, they can also be your collaborators. They can help you design, build, promote, and sometimes even distribute your products or services.
He pulls an example from the business world about working with customers at the onset:
First, collaborating with customers during the product innovation and design phase helps marketers understand real need states. P&G, GE, Yum! brands, and others bring consumers into early stages of design and development.
Hanlon stopped short of really answering the question, so let’s discuss it ourselves. How can we collaborate with our clients to enhance our work and processes? How can we use them to gather invaluable feedback to make sure what we’re doing – whether it is building a product, developing a new service or executing new promotional ideas – is actually effective? How can we then turn clients into fierce ambassadors invested in our work, of which they feel ownership in?
Let us know in the comments what your experience is with customers as collaborators.
No one really cares that you’re an overachiever. As creative professionals, we’re seldom satisfied with our output because it’s seldom perfect. But more often than not, good enough is perfect. Head of Creative & Design at HubSpot, Keith Frankel, shared a simple guide to recognizing when a deliverable can be considered “good enough.”
- It successfully solves the problem, addresses the need, or conveys the message intended.
- It is clearly and distinctly on brand.
- The quality of work is consistent with or above the level of previous work.
- It has been thoroughly yet objectively scrutinized by other qualified individuals.
- The final decision of preference had been left in the hands of the creator.
According to Ayelet Gneezy, Associate Professor at the University of California in San Diego’s Rady School of Management, “You really, really want to keep a promise, and anything beyond that is marginal, if anything…Don’t kill yourself trying to over deliver.”
If you’re struggling to feel motivated, using tricks or treats may be all you need to get the momentum going again. Illustrator James Victore swears by the unique approach to getting unstuck:
The first step of getting motivated: identify the type of motivation problem you’re having. Are you not motivated by the work itself (such as it doesn’t excite you) or are you lacking internal motivation (like a lack of energy because you didn’t sleep well last night)?
Once you know the type of motivation problem you’re having, you can motivate yourself with tricks like forcing yourself to work for one hour by using a stop watch, or promising a co-worker or peer that you’ll get something done in the next 30 minutes. Anything that can “trick” you into getting started on the work.
Alternatively, the treats approach is just that — a literal treat. If you make progress on (or finish) the work, reward yourself with something you’ve been wanting for a long time.
We’ve all been there. Attended an exhilarating conference, met fascinating people and left charged… Only to get back home, feeling overwhelmed, pulled quickly back into our day-to-day, to the point that we don’t follow-up or follow-through to maximize our conference experience.
On Linkedin Pulse, Nedko Nedkov offers strategies for acting on the learning that takes place at conferences. He suggests:
Before you leave the conference there’s two things you need to do. One, is schedule a 30 minutes meeting with your team for the very first day when you arrive back in the office. The second is schedule a one hour slot for yourself either on the very first day or the very next day when you get back.
During the team meeting, Nedkov suggests a conference debrief of what was learned and what’s to come, including any assignments. During your personal one-on-one, he suggests that you go through any conference notes and start identifying to-dos and what’s next.
The intentionality of sharing and considering what you learned and turning that knowledge into action can possibly make the difference between harnessing that electric energy that we feel after an awesome conference and feeling guilty that we did nothing.