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Time management for creatives

WEB DESIGN

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There’s a meme that does the rounds from time to time that goes like this: You have as many hours in a day as Beyoncé.


It’s supposed to be inspirational-motivating, even-but the problem is, it simply isn’t true. The singer/songwriter/designer/actress/filmmaker has 24 hours in a day, but she also has the support-and therefore time-of a whole lot of staff.

AUTHOR

Renae Turner

Co-founder @ Pixel Together


Wednesday 18th August 2021

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'Writing in Vogue a few years back, Beyoncé revealed that she ‘doesn’t like too much structure’, preferring to plan her day out in loose blocks'

You probably don’t have the luxury of a personal trainer, nanny, nutritionist, stylist, hair and make-up artist, dance coach etc. If you’re like most of us, in fact, you’re probably juggling a lot, feeling increasingly time-poor as deadlines mount up, and worrying about lost productivity during a very difficult few years.

It’s hard to imagine even Beyoncé having as many hours as Beyoncé at the moment. But it is possible to take a cue, not from her prolific output, but from her approach to work, which incorporates a good amount of creative and personal freedom.

Writing in Vogue a few years back, Beyoncé revealed that she ‘doesn’t like too much structure’, preferring to plan her day out in loose blocks. According to this deep-dive on her schedule, she wakes early, spends time meditating, works out, and then blocks off the afternoon for creative work (and dreaming).

Recent research suggests that the 8-hour workday has become obsolete, with most work accomplishable within three hours of deep, focussed concentration. Of course, sustained concentration can be hard to come by. Freelance and creative work often means switching between tasks in an instant, as an email about invoicing disrupts the flow of a CMS upload, or a child who needs a snack takes priority over a podcast that needs editing.

If your days are beginning to feel a little too unstructured, these five techniques can help you manage your time, giving you more space to simply make and do.

Image Credit: Josh Calabrese

Work in sprints

The simple, but wildly popular Pomodoro Technique encourages you to work for 25 minutes without interruption, then take a short break to clear your head. This approach was developed by Francesco Crillo in the 80s, but really seems to have taken off in the past few years, with an app now available and structured courses in how to maximise your time. ‘Pomodoro’ simply means ‘tomato’, after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer Crillo used as a university student; a digital timer, or any other novelty kitchen timer, works just as well.

Some people move easily in and out of the concentration required by the Pomodoro technique; for others, focussing on a single task is like herding cats. Beyoncé’s father and former manager famously made the members of Destiny’s Child sing while running (with a persistent rumour that he made them run, on treadmills, in heels), but you don’t need to go to extremes; it’s enough to empty the dishwasher while listening to a podcast for market research, or lie on the floor doing yoga while mentally revising a contract. If focus doesn’t come naturally, augment it with another task.

Pull double duty

'Lockdown means that physical meet-ups are difficult, but setting a time to work with a friend via Zoom can be surprisingly effective.'

There’s something invigorating about the university-library feeling of working with a friend. Lockdown means that physical meet-ups are difficult, but setting a time to work with a friend via Zoom can be surprisingly effective. The benefit is two-fold; you get an accountability buddy, and you can chat as you work through less intensely-focussed tasks.

Work with a friend

Image Credit: Hector Bermudez

Remember the four Ds

If your work load feels especially overwhelming, take stock by sorting your tasks into four different piles: Do, Defer (or Delay), Delegate, and Delete (Drop).

In the Do pile, put the small, immediate tasks that take five or ten minutes at a time.
In the Defer pile, put the things that need doing, but don’t need immediate attention.
In the Delegate pile, see what you can offload to somebody else for the moment. Are you really the best person for the job, or could someone else as easily do it…?
In the Delete pile, put anything that essentially amounts to faffing around, and then mentally bin it.

'Visually tracking your time can help you recognise patterns, which allows you to see where you really are productive'

Colour-code it

Finally, if you’re still feeling swamped, try visually keeping track of your day. Write your tasks on different coloured sticky notes and put them around your computer screen, or streamline things using a productivity app. Tiimo, which is elegant and simple, is especially designed for people with ADHD and other neurodivergence, as impaired executive function can make time management feel impossible.


Visually tracking your time can help you recognise patterns, which allows you to see where you really are productive—whether it’s in the afternoon, like Queen Bey, or early morning—whether you work best when your day is broken up into sprints, or if unimpeded late-night work is more your style. Getting in touch with your own way of doing things might not help you run the world—but it might help you more effectively run your work life.

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AUTHOR

Published: 

Wednesday 18th August 2021

Co-founder @ Pixel Together

Renae Turner

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