Creativity and productivity don’t always feel like two words you’d associate with each other. After all, there’s the discussion about whether or not we can really force out great creative work in traditional 9 to 5 settings, or if creativity really does strike like a lightning bolt.
Either way, if you wait for inspiration to strike every time, chances are you won’t get anything done…probably ever. As a fellow creative, I know how it feels.
But I’ve always been on the hunt for the best tips and strategies dedicated to helping us live our best lives, and productivity in our work is a vital aspect of this. Wondering what I’ve dug up after years of experimenting and research? Check out these 9 actionable tips any creative soul can use to manage time better.
Deadlines are perhaps one of the most, if not the most, important things for better time management. And I know we can’t always force ourselves to come up with amazing work on a deadline, but that’s just it.
Trying to wait for the “perfect moment” before trying to get anything done is a surefire way to make sure nothing gets done.
Having no deadline is essentially the same thing.
As one of my favorite authors Gretchen Rubin likes to remind her readers, “If it’s not on your calendar, then it doesn’t exist.”
Batch tasks together
The creative process isn’t called a process for nothing. We often need to do different tasks to complete one whole project – for example, a freelance writer may have to do keyword research, headline optimization, outlining, writing, and proofreading all with the goal to finish just one article.
To make the most of your time, batch the same tasks and work on them together for a certain period of time. Then stick to that general task until every project is covered.
So if you’re a graphic designer with five projects due, you might want to batch together hunting for pegs or inspiration for all your projects for the first hour, then brainstorming designs for the next, and so on.
Want to see how I batch tasks for my blog? Check out my Instagram post!
Get an accountability partner or group
If you’re a creative in a service-based industry like freelancing or advertising, you have accountability to finish your work in the form of your clients expecting timely submissions.
But when you’re doing creative work as a passion project? Not so much.
If you’re always procrastinating on your own creative work (you know, for your personal blog, portfolio, or any other passion project), then you might want to consider getting some external accountability. This can be in form of an accountability partner or accountability group.
Pro-tip: It’s best if your accountability partner isn’t someone you’re incredibly close to. Normally, it’s easier to blow off accountability for things when the person holding us accountable is someone we know very well and vice versa. Why do you think people hire fitness coaches, for example?
One easy way to start your own accountability group is looking in your own network. Who do you know is out there doing their own passion project? Slide into their DMs and offer to keep each other accountable each week!
Work without distractions
Contrary to what you might read from clickbait “productivity hacks,” multitasking just doesn’t work.
And working in an environment that allows all kinds of distractions, especially notifications from your phone or other apps, is a lot like multitasking.
When you attempt to multitask, you’re fooling yourself into thinking that you’re getting more stuff done in less time. Same with paying attention to notifications: you’re replying to every customer, fan, or friend a minute after they send a message; you’re checking your feed constantly for news, Stories, and updates…
Ditch the distractions and work in the most Zen environment you’re comfortable. Start with closing tabs and apps you don’t need. Work in Do Not Disturb mode. Maybe turn off the WiFi if you don’t really need it?
You want to avoid the distractions to make sure you can completely focus on the tasks in front of you. Focus is important for the brain – it’s an exercise that lets you get better at it the more you give it a go. That’s why things like the Pomodoro technique work so well to help people stay productive and improve their deep focus skills.
And, trust me, you can’t work on improving your focus when you never focus to begin with.
Maybe all you need is a change in scenery! I’m often one to pack up my things and take my work elsewhere, either in a coworking space or nearby café.
On another note, want to know the science behind why we’re more productive in coffee shops? Read up on the research, plus additional tips to make your café stay even more productive, here.
Set task triggers
Have you ever completed one task, no matter how big or small, then found yourself thinking, “…What do I do now?”
When you’re worried that you’re spending too much time wondering how to spend your time, one way to take away the anxiety is setting task triggers.
As the name implies, task triggers help you move on from one task to the next. Essentially, you’re saying, “After I do X, I will do Y.”
One way I’ve integrated task triggers is helping me keep healthy habits that keep me creative every day. As an example, being able to write every day is a big personal goal of mine. So to make sure I really get this done, I do all my writing after my evening shower, right before bed. And immediately after writing, I begin journaling about my day.
People have used task triggers to help them keep New Years Resolutions more easily or really just any habit they want to incorporate more in their lives. You might make it a trigger where, the moment you get home from work, you put on your training shoes and start a short home workout (I did this for a solid few months and can attest that it works).
I advocate sleep probably more than any other habit out there. That’s because I believe sleep is the one thing we can control that can help us be happier and healthier.
After all, with enough sleep, we’ll have enough energy to stick to a fitness regimen and enough self-control to will away bad habits. Sleep is the foundation for living a better life, no matter how much the hustle era tells us otherwise.
To know by when you ought to be going to bed to get those 7-8 hours, set an alarm for when you want to be up every morning then work backwards to find out the time you should be in bed. If you need an extra push, there are apps that can help you get better sleep each night.
Need a few more ideas to incorporate happier, healthier habits? Check out this Self-Care A-Z Guide.
Related: Your Self-Care A-Z Guide
If you ask anybody about how to manage time better, the first thing they’ll probably tell you is learn to prioritize. How exactly do you do this?
One popular method is using the Eisenhower Matrix, the involves categorizing your tasks according to importance and urgency. The goal, of course, is to make sure you keep most everything in the Important but Not Urgent quadrant and to avoid hitting the Important and Urgent quadrant.
Are you spreading yourself too thin with too many projects? As a fellow creative, I get it. So when you’re having a little bit of trouble finding just one big focus (because we all know you’re a multi-passionate unicorn), check out the 3 techniques you can use to better prioritize your goals and passion projects.
Create a checklist
Checklists play a vital role in keeping us productive. Not only do they help you manage your tasks better by breaking them down into simpler sub-tasks, but they also have a momentum-spurring effect on the brain.
The act of ticking a box off your checklist can be a pretty powerful boost of dopamine, a known chemical in the brain proven to make us happier and, where tasks and projects are involved, more productive.
Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, start a checklist. Need ideas? I’ve got a few lists you can start writing over here.
Leave a comment!
What’s your biggest struggle when managing your time? Let me know what tip you’re going to follow to manage time better!