Productivity & Time Management for Creative Entrepreneurs
Sing! Dance! Act! Thrive! Podcast Episode 009
Hello and welcome to episode #9 of Sing! Dance! Act! Thrive! Today I’m going to give you some tips and tricks on productivity and time management for us creative entrepreneurs. We all want to be more productive, however, the real key to remember is that everyone has unique needs when it comes to maximizing efficiency for optimal productivity.
Productivity & Time Management for Creative Entrepreneurs Show Notes:
If your goal is to accomplish more in less time, then you need to make the following seven steps the foundation of your week.
- Know your productivity type.
- Discover your peak energy time.
- Get yourself a simple kitchen timer.
- Make friends with your calendar.
- Batch your tasks, theme your weeks.
- Schedule your downtime.
- Review, reconsider, rework
Each step is essential for helping you learn to manage your time rather than being managed by the lengthy list of items on your to-do list.
Step ONE Know your productivity type
Are you the type of task-driven person who cannot stand seeing unchecked boxes on your “to do” list? Or are you driven by deadlines and can’t seem to get started until a hard deadline is looming on your projects? Knowing your productivity type can help you prioritize your work so you can accomplish more in your day.
One of the four productivity types likely applies to you. The more you know about your own productivity style, the better able you will be to find the right cues to keep you on task and on target throughout the day.
- The Prioritizer
You prefer to stick to the facts. You like data, logic, and are exceptional at critical thinking. You are so focused on your tasks you may not invest much attention or effort on determining how the task is accomplished.
As this title implies, you are exceptionally skilled at prioritizing tasks so you are uber-efficient and can easily meet deadlines. You can make decisions easily but often prefer to work alone.
On the flip side, some of your pet peeves may include daydreaming, idle office gossip, missing or incomplete data, inefficient use of time, vague instructions, or water cooler conversations.
A Prioritizer is an exceptional worker, even in a team environment; they just don’t want to be in charge of the team. Give them their directions and their deadline and let them go to town.
Prioritizer artists who work alone can benefit from hiring a creativity coach to map out a plan and talk out their goals. Once those goals are set, prioritizers can focus on the smaller tasks leading to those goals.
- The Planner
You are a detailed thinker who is always organized and thrives on detailed plans, lists, and order. You are well aware of deadlines and always make a to-do list at the end of your day.
Planners are not very spontaneous, however, and may struggle with creative thinking or working outside the box. They may also find it difficult to contribute in team meetings because they need a little more time to think about the topic in depth before contributing ideas or solutions. Planners also have difficulty reprioritizing tasks and don’t take change well.
Once you figure out your peak energy and how to maximize your use of those hours you will be an unstoppable force. You’ll know exactly what to do from your list and you’ll feel empowered taking advantage of your peak work hours.
In a team setting, planners are key to finishing projects on time. They are the keepers of the work schedule and will hold the other team members accountable for meeting their deadlines.
- The Arranger
You are an emotional being who thrives on working in groups, managing meetings, and creating and selling your ideas. You have a bubbly personality and would cringe at the idea of working alone; you need that personal interaction and you thrive in a group setting. You are thoughtful and encouraging to others and excel in team projects or when partnering with another person.
However, the weakness of an Arranger is easily getting distracted by chit chat and struggling to focus on your tasks. Implementing the Pomodoro technique can greatly help Arrangers focus because they know in a short amount of time they can reward themselves by chatting with others.
In a team setting, Arrangers quickly take control of the group and assign tasks to each team member. They act as the team cheerleader by encouraging other team members and having a positive attitude about the project at hand.
Arrangers who work solo, however, tend to rely on social media for their personal interaction. They can also benefit from a shared workspace or from working in a coffee house where there is a constant hum of activity.
- The Visualizer
You’re the one who needs to juggle multiple projects at any given time to maintain interest in anything. You’re full of ideas and energy to begin projects, but often find completing them to be difficult. You keep a workspace that’s nearly as cluttered as your mind and you love it there. If you have 15 piles of paper on your desk, you know exactly what’s in each of those 15 piles.
Visualizers are creative thinkers who are spontaneous. They can easily switch gears on a project and welcome change. Visualizers also see the big picture and tend to focus on the end result as opposed to the smaller tasks which lead to that end result.
Working on a team, Visualizers can run amok with a project if they aren’t reigned in. However, they often have brilliant ideas to enhance any project and are quick to mention ideas in a meeting.
For Visualizers who work solo, batched tasks and theme weeks may help you maintain your focus without growing too bored with the scenery.
The better you understand your productivity type, the more tools you can utilize to maximize your potential and that of your business.
Step two: Discover Your Peak Energy Time
Most people have certain times of the day when they have more energy than others. Learning to identify those hours when you’re most and least productive can help you arrange your workday so that you accomplish vital tasks when your energy is high and focus on administrative matters during hours of low efficiency.
How do You Identify Peaks and Valleys in Your Energy?
The first step in understanding your peak energy times of day is to observe yourself as you go about your day. During what times of the day do you feel more creative, energized, and ready to go?
Some people have a burst of energy first thing in the morning and can be super productive and then lose steam in the late afternoon or evening. Others need a lot of coffee in the morning and take a while to get going, but are unstoppable late afternoon or evening.
That is me 100%
If you’ve never paid attention to these peaks and valleys before, start taking note of how you feel during certain parts of the day.
How do You Capitalize on Your Peak Energy Hours?
Most energy spikes last approximately 90 minutes and some people will experience two or three peaks and valleys in a 24-hour period. Once you’ve identified your highs and lows, the key is to tackle the right tasks at the right time.
For instance, you want to tackle your most demanding tasks during the hours when you have the greatest amount of energy. Then you want to distribute tasks that require less energy during the times when your mental focus is divided and you are more easily distracted.
For artists, it is important to note that creativity is often at its highest in the morning. A scientific study of brain circuits confirmed that creative activity is highest during and immediately after sleep, while the analytical parts of the brain become more active as the day goes on.
Arranging your tasks according to your peaks and valley will help you accomplish more in the same amount of time while also improving the quality of your work.
For additional info and exercises, download the Productivity and Time management planner for creatives at dianefoy.com
Step THREE: Get Yourself a Simple Kitchen Timer
It sounds overly simplistic, doesn’t it? The idea that a simple kitchen timer can help you eke out a momentous amount of added productivity in your day. It is, however, a tried and true tactic that has helped many seasoned professionals accomplish so much more in less time.
You may have heard of it. It’s called the Pomodoro Technique and the philosophy behind it is sound.
The Pomodoro Technique helps you break down these monumental tasks into bite-sized pieces.
Rather than attempting to complete the entire task in one marathon work session, you break it down into smaller pieces. Using a kitchen timer.
How can a Kitchen Timer Help Your Productivity?
If you’re like the average person, you probably tend to procrastinate with projects that seem too big to tackle. You put them off until it’s do or die time and then you feel like you’ve sprinted an entire marathon by the time you finish.
By using a kitchen timer, though, you can break down the project into short, timed intervals of focused energy. Twenty-five minutes is the recommended interval for this method.
Once you set the kitchen timer, you focus only on your project and nothing else until the timer rings. No phone, no emails, no social media. Only a strict focus on the task at hand.
Then you take a break. Five minutes is perfect. It’s enough time to give your brain a break but not enough that you get pulled into another distraction. Don’t forget to set your timer here as well. Use this time for a bathroom break, refill your water bottle, or simply stretch your body.
Once you’ve completed four of these sessions, you take a longer break. Make this one a 20 to 30-minute break – long enough to recharge.
Then you begin the process again.
Why is the Pomodoro Technique so Effective?
Maintaining focus is one of the most difficult things people struggle within the average workday. It is hard to stay focused on deep work tasks when there are so many distractions. Email, phone calls, Facebook, and Pinterest are all just a click away when you’re working on the computer and any one of those things has the potential to become a giant rabbit hole you can’t climb out of.
The Pomodoro Technique allows you to indulge in these things in short spurts but pulls you back into your work quickly when your mini-breaks are over.
Why a Kitchen Timer and not Your Phone Timer?
Kitchen timers are small investments, many costing less than five dollars. It’s well worth the price you pay to avoid the distractions that exist on your phone where you can access games, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more.
The goal, after all, is to improve productivity, and not to provide an additional opportunity to embrace distractions.
Of course, there are Pomodoro apps available for your phone which block access to your phone during your work time, thus reinforcing the need to focus on your task.
Skeptical if this process can work for you?
Of course, you are. Try it on for size though and see what a difference it can make for you. At worst, you have a new timer for your kitchen. At best, though, you’ve awakened to a whole new world of productivity possibilities…and a lot of completed projects!
Step FOUR: Make Friends With Your Calendar
Your calendar is something you may look at every single day when working, but is it a useful tool or do you mostly take it for granted? It’s something that is always there and, quite frankly, underutilized by the masses. Don’t make the same mistake so many others make. It could undermine all your efforts to boost productivity and squeeze better results from your workday efforts.
Using Your Calendar More Efficiently
Greater efficiency is an important goal. It often begins with mastering the fine art of scheduling your day. That requires you to become closely acquainted with your calendar…the right way.
Unfortunately, many people go about the process all wrong and wind up viewing the calendar as more of a stumbling block rather than the efficiency-boosting tool it really is. These pointers will help you get better results from your calendar efforts.
Use One Calendar
This calendar will be your lifeline for personal and professional appointments, errands, to do lists, and more. If you try to keep separate calendars for business and personal appointments one or the other of them will eventually become a tool for frustration.
Use a calendar that syncs with all your devices, so you never need to worry about missing an appointment. If you’re worried about keeping business and personal appointments separate, consider color coding so you can prioritize and, when necessary, delegate. Google Calendar also allows you to sync calendars with your family or team members so everyone has access to each other’s schedules. No more guessing about who’s picking up equipment for a show or dropping off promotion material at the venue.
Record Appointments Immediately
Don’t wait to record an appointment. Waiting increases the odds that you’ll forget a key detail about the appointment or forget to record the information altogether.
Schedule Work Time Too
Sometimes, you simply have to pencil in time to get your work done. Otherwise, you may get lost in your creative world with little time left over to work on the business of your art. Pencil in blocks of time each day to focus on work (take advantage of peak energy time for work and utilize lower energy time for meetings whenever possible so your best hours aren’t wasted).
Make Your Calendar Public
When others on your team see what hours you have blocked off for productive work and the hours you have available or “free” for appointments, there will be fewer conflicting events.
Sometimes, a tool as simple as a calendar can help you establish boundaries, keep your schedule in check, and boost personal productivity and job performance.
Exercise: Which calendar is your perfect match?
Find Your Perfect Calendar…that You will USE!
- Do you prefer paper + pen or digital?
- Are you a Visual Learner who needs to SEE their day laid out in front of them?
- Are you detail-oriented and need a lot of room for jotting notes or writing down goals?
- Do you need to see the next steps of an action plan or a sequential list to prevent getting distracted from your task?
- Are you a Critical Thinker who doesn’t care about decorations and details? You just need a list of what needs to be done?
Step FIVE: Batch Your Tasks, Theme Your Weeks
Time-management masters know that to be truly efficient, batching is where it’s at. Videos on Mondays, writing on Tuesdays, client calls on Wednesdays. You get the idea. But, did you know that you make one giant leap forward by adding themes to your week?
Benefits of Batching Tasks
Batching tasks allows you to focus all your attention on one specific task for the day. When you have a permanent rotation of tasks to accomplish within the workweek you’ll find that you become quite efficient at each task in a day because you’re not distracted by countless other tasks that must be done as well.
Combine this with the Pomodoro technique discussed in step three and you’ll be zooming through your day getting more accomplished than you could have imagined just a few short steps ago.
What does it Mean to Add a Theme to Your Week?
Once you have a general productivity flow where you manage various aspects of your business in batches, you can take things forward another major step for focusing the time you’re not devoting to the batched tasks for the day, each day of the week, to working toward the goals your theme identifies for you.
Possible themes vary according to the business you’re in and the specific goals you’re attempting to accomplish, but may include the following themes in your future:
- Marketing plan
- Booking shows, tours, auditions
- Developing new sources of revenue
- Blog planning and maintenance
- Social media marketing
- Brand building
- Creating new products
- Refining and improving your craft
- Education and research
Each of these themes is important for the sake of your business and can help you get a better return on investment by focusing your attention on one theme at a time rather than trying to work in countless small projects with many falling through the cracks.
Once you find a group of themes that benefit your career, you might be wise to create a permanent rotation of themes to see how quickly this focus helps you improve your sales or bookings and grow your income.
Productivity is something all professionals strive for along with balance. Batching your tasks and theming your weeks helps you find balance in your work while boosting your productivity.
Use your calendar to manage your rotation and keep you on track throughout the week as well.
Step SIX: Schedule Your Down Time
Burnout is a very real problem in every profession. No one can work efficiently if she’s consistently overworked. Taking regular downtime is essential for keeping pace with a productive schedule and maintaining your creativity and passion for your business.
Down Time Restores Your Passion
It’s hard to be passionate about anything when all you feel is exhausted. No matter how much pride you take in watching your business grow, that excitement can quickly wane when you’re having a hard time putting one foot in front of the other.
Scheduling downtime helps you keep your focus on the reason you chose to create for a living in the first place. Some professionals give 180 percent to building their businesses only to lose sight of why they started their businesses in the first place.
If you ask the average person why he or she went into business, the answer is often a search for freedom.
- Freedom to have more time with family.
- Financial freedom.
- Freedom from being chained to a desk eight or more hours every day.
- Freedom to pursue multiple passions
Whatever your reason, you probably never envisioned 10 to 12-hour days without taking breaks or having any downtime at all.
Why is Down Time Essential?
What you may not realize about downtime is that is the time that’s important for your brain to recover, regenerate, and reconnect with your inner creativity. The same creativity that is necessary to help your business grow. Without sufficient downtime in each day, you’re going to quickly become stagnate and your career will suffer as a result.
Most people understand the importance of vacations and time away from the office for helping you to recharge your batteries and get back to work. It’s more difficult for people to grasp the concept that it is equally necessary to have moments of reflection during the day. These moments come in the form of regular breaks.
Getting the Down Time You Require
It’s one way the Pomodoro technique, discussed in step three of this series, is so effective. Using the technique forces you to take micro-breaks every 25 minutes and longer breaks every two hours. Following the technique forces you to follow through and take regular breaks.
How do you plan to work downtime into your daily routine? Try it for a week and watch your business soar.
Step SEVEN: Review, Reconsider, Rework
Like any good system, the system you follow to improve productivity and time-management should constantly evolve as your needs change. It is essential that you take the time, at least once each year, to determine what is working for you and what is not.
Once you’ve made these key determinations, it is time for you to make changes designed to improve your time-management skills and boost personal and professional productivity.
Review Your Productivity Techniques
While most of the time it is best to focus on the road ahead of you, there are times when you see things more clearly in the rear-view mirror than when looking at what’s ahead of you. The time to review your techniques to see what is working is one of those times.
Consider all the steps and techniques learned in these lessons as well as the ones you’ve developed on your own to see which ones provide the most prolific results for you. Capitalize on the techniques that deliver results time and time again.
These techniques and productivity tactics will become the foundational cornerstones of your life.
Reconsider What Does Not Work
If it isn’t working for you, it’s time to consider shaking things up and making changes. However, you don’t have to abandon a technique that has not yet fully realized its potential for you on a professional level.
Examine it closely to see if, perhaps, it is not the best utilization of your resources. You may find there are other techniques for boosting productivity that matches your interests and personal style better. Those may be worth trying instead of something that isn’t currently delivering the desired results.
Rework Productivity Enhancements that aren’t Comfortable Yet
In some cases, you simply need to rework your approach and make subtle changes designed to boost its potential for enhancing your career. Your current efforts may not be there yet, but you still feel as though you’re getting somewhere.
Nothing works for every person, every time. You may need to tweak, twist, and turn the same techniques that appear to be working for everyone else to make them your own, so they work for you.
Make changes. Measure results. Don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board if necessary.
Boosting productivity is a lifelong effort for many people. As long as you keep working towards a more productive day, you will continue to see improvements.