For every creative entrepreneur, learning how to stay focused and hone our time management skills is vital to our success. In a world where emails, texts, social media tags and shares are popping up every few seconds, it can be incredibly hard to just focus. For me, it's still a struggle and by far the topic I hear discussed most by other creatives. Through the years, I've gathered some favorite ways to stay focused and on task. Some came from trial and error while others came after hearing how well they worked for other creatives. I'm sharing them all with you below and would love to hear your favorite ways to stay on task as well.
1 - Manage your energy. Because energy = creativity! For this to work, you'll have to pay attention to both having energy and using it when you need it most. To have energy, you'll need to take care of yourself. Exercise, eat well and sleep well. Short term fixes like coffee can give you a boost if you need it, too. Now that you have energy, you need to use it where it's needed most. Do you highest level tasks when you have the most energy, and do the lowest energy tasks when you have the least. For example, you'll probably need the most energy when you're actually creating whatever it is you create. Then you can use your lower energy times for mundane tasks like cleaning up your studio, answering non-urgent emails and other 'house keeping' tasks.
2 - Be a sponge. At least once a week (maybe for an hour or even an entire day), do nothing but learn. Work your way through an online course, read an inspiring / educational book or catch up on some articles that pertain to your work. It's incredibly easy (for me, at least) to get caught up in creating work and being 'too busy' to learn anything new. But the learning is what inspired me in the first place! Austin Kleon says our creative life should be a constant revolving wheel of learn >> teach >> learn >> teach. Even when you don't feel that you have the time, force yourself to learn. It will renew your spirit and inspire you in ways you can't imagine!
3 - Give back. Having a great purpose with your work is the ultimate motivator. If you just create something to sell and that's all, it will be hard to grow an audience truly dedicated to you and your work. Giving back could be anything from literally giving proceeds or products to a non-profit, or something simpler like writing inspiring blog posts, teaching what you love or helping others in your field. Defining your greater purpose will help you stay focused and motivated.
4 - Keep track of your time. Time passes all too quickly and oftentimes gets sucked in to non-productive activities. Social media (though important as it is) can be the biggest culprit. Keeping track of your time can be a great way to stay on task and get notified when it's time to move on. Give yourself 15 minutes on Pinterest to unwind and get inspired, then move on. I know many people who simply set an alarm, and several apps that will do the trick as well.
5 - Toggle emails on and off. If you're like me, e-mails are your biggest buzz kill. Administrative stuff is essential but just no fun in the world of creativity. The best way I have found to manage them is to dedicate 20-30 minutes each day of taking care of the urgent ones, then dedicating one entire day to cleaning the entire inbox once a week. Once my 20-30 minutes are up on average day, I turn them off and forget about them.
6 - Work when you most inspired or motivated. Somewhat related to working according to your energy levels is working according to your inspiration. One of the greatest perks to being a creative entrepreneur is that you get to set your own hours. If you're a morning person, wake up at 5am and get finished early. If you're a night owl, you can work into the night and sleep in until whenever you like. The most important thing is to work when you feel most motivated.
7 - Save the most fun tasks for last. If possible, hammer out the most difficult tasks first. Saving something fun for last will give you something to look forward to, a reward. Cleaning your plate of the heaviest items first will clear your mind and give you a sense of accomplishment for the rest of the day!
8 - End each day with a To-Do list. This is my favorite! I always end my work day with a to-do list for the next morning. This gets all those loose ends out of my mind and on to paper, so I can forget about them and sleep well (otherwise I'll think about them all night). The next morning I won't have to try to remember where I left off, because it's all ready and waiting for me!
9 - Get off the grid. When you need a break, take a real break. Leave technology behind, even if it's only for 15 minutes. Get off the grid, silence your incoming alerts and just get out of your head for a bit. Come back feeling refreshed and focused.
10 - Just start. Procrastination is our worst enemy. Dedicate a specified amount of time every single day to just starting whatever it is you're putting off. Don't fret about what you'll be doing the next week, month or even year. If you dig deep into TODAY, the answers will come. You will always know your next step!
You're turn! What are your favorites ways to stay focused and fine tune your time management?
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