Do you still use your “to-do” list and prioritize all the items on it? According to a recent article in Forbes Magazine by Kevin Kruse, millionaires do not make to-do lists. What they do instead is live by the calendar.
What is the problem with making a to-do list? According to what Kruse discovered after talking with more than 200 successful people, the to-do list does not consider the time involved in completing the tasks, so you do not complete what is on the list; it does not let you distinguish between the urgent and important; and not completing items adds to your stress.
If successful people do not make to-do lists, what do they do? They live and work from their calendars. Yes, they may make a list, but they schedule the time to complete the specific item on their calendar and adhere to it.
One of the most successful approaches to this is to use time blocking. This is something that I do and that most of my private clients do. Time blocking is a method of allocating or pre-assigning time for specific activities throughout your day. It helps me keep my day and life more balanced. I accomplish more because I have structure to my day, I can focus on a specific task with a high value, and I am able to manage interruptions. I am the one in charge of my day. Here is how to do this:
1. Review your daily and weekly activities.
- Can you determine how much time you spend on specific tasks? It might be helpful to track your time for a few days so you can see how much time you do spend on those activities. For example, do you check your e-mail every couple of hours and find that you spend at least 15 minutes each time answering them?
- Do you have like tasks that are spread through out the week, e.g., teaching every day, working with new clients, or taking in new quilts to longarm? Can these tasks be handled on one or two days, so your energy focuses on one activity?
- Do you have tasks that need attention that do not seem to get any? For example, dedicated marketing time is key for any business. Artists want to spend their time creating and often have trouble reconciling the need to spend so much time marketing. This task is often relegated to the leftover time when it needs to move to the front burner.
- Do you have uninterrupted time for creative work? Even though we run creative-based businesses, the time should still be dedicated to the task.
2. Consider your short- and long-term goals.
- Do you have a big project that needs to be completed? Start with a list of the tasks involved to complete it and estimate how much time is involved for each.
3. Consider your own personal work habits. When are you most effective? I’m a morning person, and I know I am more productive in the morning. For me this translates into activities that require brain-power earlier in the day.
4. Consider your life values and block time for them first. If you do not block time for your vacation, for your family, or exercise if these are important to you, they will get short shrift.
5. Armed with answers to those questions, get out your calendar and begin to block off time for your activities. What most of us do is set appointments with others and that’s what is on our calendar. We then fill our time with items on our goals or to-do list. This system lets you set an appointment with yourself for your work. Once you have shifted to an “appointment” mindset, it is often easier to accomplish tasks on your list. I like to start with the time that has to do with my life values and block that first. With your goals in mind, then put the important tasks first so you will accomplish them. If I do not block time for the key tasks, I can easily spend lots of time on simple tasks, like straightening art supplies or reading the latest quilt or art magazine or checking Facebook or Pinterest. These items don’t move my business forward in a significant way.
Here are some things you might like to time-block:
- Quilt intake time on one or two afternoons or evenings a week, rather than spread out at odd times.
- Time dedicated to longarm or production work
- Creative time to design
- Marketing time
- Bookkeeping, if you don’t have outside help
- Order fulfillment, if you don’t have outside help
- Learning time
- Time to work on blog posts and your communications with clients
- Writing time if you are working on a book
- Time to complete samples
- Time to read and respond to emails (I know you will have times when you need to check for something particular. When that happens, just handle that one item and save the rest for the blocked time.)
- Time to develop new classes
- Breaks in your day (This can be crucial if you are standing or sitting at a machine most of your day.)
To give you an idea of how I time block my week, I have our ICAP member calls and coaching calls on Tuesdays rather than spaced throughout the week. I block Monday afternoons for work with my mastermind clients. I allot one block of several hours during the week on one day to work on my blog and ezine articles. When I am working on a new program, I block time during each day to work on that. It is a goal with many smaller tasks that need to be completed. I also block out time twice a day for e-mail, so I am not checking constantly. I have an hour each day blocked out for reading or learning something new I can apply to the business. I block out Wednesday afternoons for errands. Because I know that is the day for errands, I try to schedule doctor appointments during that time, and I have already scheduled my hair appointments through the end of the year. And, I block out time for family and self-care first so they do not get lost.
I am not rigid with the time blocking, and, of course, I have other appointments to put in. I may have a networking meeting that comes up or the opportunity to go to a gallery opening. Because I accomplish more by time blocking, I am freer to make adjustments.
In the end the reason I think this works is because when you pre-assign the time for a specific activity, you are more focused on getting it done. In a sense, you created a deadline for yourself. And by batching like tasks together in the same block (like the quilt intake sessions), you work more efficiently.
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Morna McEver is the founder and CEO of the International Association of Creative Arts Professionals where creative arts entrepreneurs craft business success. Her weekly e-zine offers tips, techniques and inspiration to help you craft business success from your creative arts passion. You can sign up for a FREE subscription at http://www.creativeartsprofessional.com.
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