Updated Oct. 11, 2020
I always joke that I wasn’t born with the logic gene. I tell people that, regardless of my obvious intelligence (insert wry grin here), logic is something I’ve had to learn over the years.
Besides dealing with my uncanny ability to get lost in a paper bag, my other big challenge is getting and keeping my time organized. Like many right-brained people, I tend to get easily distracted.
It could be that the daydreams still take over occasionally. Or maybe it’s the fact that I’m always trying to do fifteen things at once…or it could be that I happen to have the luxury of working from home (and that I happen to have very loud and demanding children for whom I’m very grateful.) Or maybe it’s the fact that Facebook calls my name when I get bored. 😉
I’m not sure–but whatever it is, time management is something that I’ve always had to intentionally implement in my life.
Why do I care? I mean, shouldn’t I just let myself wander through life, being creative at my every whim? Isn’t time management going against my true divine desires? Do I have to become a slave to the clock?
Nope. Time management is one of those things that some consider a necessary evil.
I, on the other hand, consider it a true gift–because, without it, I couldn’t be who I want to be. Because my pursuit of fulfillment involves more than one focus, and because there are many areas in which I’d like to rock, obviously. 😉
So how can a creative soul manage time effectively? And does it have to suck?
How do you spend your time?
Where is your time going? Do you really know? The first step to organizing your time is to get a clear idea of exactly what you’re doing.
Get a small notebook and sketch a little time table. Divide it into three segments: morning, afternoon, and evening. For five days, carry the notebook with you. (*2020 update: Just use a time-management app on your phone!)
At the end of each time segment, record your activities and the amount of time spent on each. For example, a morning segment might begin like this: Sleeping in, 30 minutes. Shower, 15 minutes. Grooming, 45 minutes. Getting kids ready, 30 minutes. Breakfast, 10 minutes. Commuting, 45 minutes…and so on.
At the end of five days, take a serious look at how your time is spent. Could you be doing more, or are you doing too much? You might be surprised to find that you spend more time procrastinating and preparing to get things done than actually doing them.
And before you say it–yeah, I know this doesn’t come naturally to creative minds. Just do it anyway. It won’t kill you–in fact, I’d be willing to bet it helps you figure all this stuff out.
Set Your Priorities
What are your priorities? The next step is to determine exactly what you need (and want) to accomplish. Take a few minutes to list your day to day responsibilities and goals. Give each a rating from one to three, three being most significant. Use this rating to determine what’s worth your time and what isn’t.
You may find that some of the things you thought were priorities actually aren’t all that important. Don’t be afraid to say “no” once in awhile. You’re not the only one who can organize that committee or host that party. When it comes to your home and family, you are allowed to ask for help. Delegate chores to your children or spouse, or even hire outside help if necessary.
Check out the Writing Your Own Story series for more ideas on figuring out what really matters to you.
Make a List
Yeah, I said it. Even creative souls can benefit from making lists. According to J. Robin Powell, PH.D., author of The Working Woman’s Guide to Managing Stress, list-making alone can reduce stress levels.
Each night before you go to bed, make a simple list of what you plan to accomplish the next day. Don’t go overboard. It’s important that it is actually possible to accomplish your goals.
You can also keep a working list of more time-consuming (and less immediate) projects, like painting your office or rebuilding your website. Make a point of completing one project from this list each week, and be sure to update it often.
You’ll sleep like a baby knowing that you’re already organized for the next day.
Commit to a Plan
I know it sucks, but planning is absolutely necessary. Get an appointment book or use your cell phone to record daily, weekly, and monthly activities. I like to use my Outlook calendar and a plain old list on a Word document (since I work in front of a computer all day.)
For your day to day matters, plan like activities together. For example, plan to run all of your errands in one afternoon. This will help you to avoid running in circles (thus, saving time.)
But remember, flexibility counts! Expect unplanned interruptions or events, and be willing to change your schedule if necessary to focus on what’s important.
Have a backup plan.
And speaking of focus, try to avoid dividing your attention. You’ll just end up with a bunch of unfinished masterpieces–which, in layman’s terms, means you’ll end up with nothing done.
I know that multitasking is necessary these days. But when it’s important, turn off your phone and focus on one thing at a time. You’ll get more done, and you’ll feel less stressed. (And feeling good is what it’s all about!)
Organize Your Stuff
Creative types are notoriously disorganized. But here’s the deal…you don’t have to measure your level of organization by anyone else’s standards. Just know where everything is, and be able to access it easily.
Like my mom used to say, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.”
Be sure your home, your car, and your office are as orderly as possible. The organization promotes a sense of well being and helps you to feel more in control. And remember, it takes time to make time. Time spent organizing is an investment in yourself. If you find that things are already out of control, schedule several evenings or a weekend to do a good once-over to put everything in order.
Throw out or give away what you don’t want or need, then organize the rest. After that, do a little each day to keep it together. If you’re having trouble getting started, Flylady.net offers a free home management system that is ideal for the logically challenged.
Aside from taking necessary inspired action, you gotta keep your head in the right place. Focus on staying positive and owning your desires.
Give It a Shot
So are you in? Can you do it? My challenge to you today is to take one step toward managing your time more effectively. Even a tiny step can be the beginning of significant positive change in your life. What do you think?
*Oct. 11, 2020 Update: I was always writing for narcissistic abuse survivors, but I didn’t always know it. This article was originally published on December 18, 2009, before I fully understood what I was dealing with. When I described what I now understand were symptoms, I romanticized them a little and wanted to see them as just part of being a creative person. After a lot of research and personal growth, I now understand that what I was dealing with was most likely complex post-traumatic stress disorder related to narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships.