Who else dreams of having more time? 28 hours instead of 24? Raise your hand. Well it is possible to achieve flow in your work and still have time for a little fun and exploration.
Concentration is essential for creative work – certain stages of the creative process require single-minded focus on the task in hand. When we’re really in the zone, we experience ‘creative flow’ – the ‘almost automatic, effortless, yet highly focused state of consciousness’ that psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has identified as characteristic of high level creative performance. Interruptions, multi-tasking and the anxiety that comes from trying to juggle multiple commitments – these are in danger of eroding the focused concentration that is vital for your creativity.
Here are 8 time management hacks that will allow you to spend more time doing what you want and less time doing what you don’t.
Time management Hack #1 Throw your To Do List
Take a page from Ari Meisel’s playbook and throw your to-do list away. Yeap, that’s right. Go crazy! Draw lines all over it. Rip it up and slam-dunk that baby. Score! Now, scroll on over to your Google calendar and schedule everything you need to do. Yes, it’s that simple. Not really sure when you can schedule this task? Use your email to manage and schedule tasks for later with Boomerang for Gmail or Hassleme.co.uk. Adjust as needed and whoa-la, your to-do list is officially dead—useless I tell ya.
Time management Hack #2 Prioritize the Important
In his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey classifies work tasks according to whether they are important or urgent. Covey points out that many of us spend too much time on tasks that are urgent and important (the red square in the diagram) – in other words, staving off emergencies by rushing around to solve problems or responding to others’ demands at short notice.
Sometimes this is unavoidable – ‘deadline magic’ can spur us on to feats of creative production we wouldn’t otherwise attempt. This can be an exciting and productive experience – but it’s up to you whether you want to work like this most of the time. The example of the computer games industry – where extended ‘crunch’ times can mean endless overtime to meet a deadline – suggests that prolonged deadline magic can turn into deadline misery, with a significant impact on morale and efficiency.
Covey’s solution is to prioritize work that is important but not urgent (the blue square in the diagram). Though this is hard to do on any given day, it is the only way to ensure you are making progress towards your own goals and dreams, instead of merely reacting to what other people throw at you.
And over time, the more you are dealing with important things before they become urgent, the fewer ‘urgent and important’ tasks you will have to deal with. The most obvious way to do this is to work on your own projects first every day, even if it’s only for half an hour. Whatever interruptions come along later, you will at least have the satisfaction of having made some progress towards your own goals.
Time Management Hack #3: Automate your Money
Automate your money like Ramit Sethi. Ramit reminds us that saving money and knowing where your money is going isn’t just about willpower. It’s making what you do with your money automatic so you don’t have to think about it. This, I Will Teach You to Be Rich, author says you should setup how much money goes where and when each month so you know all your bills are covered and you’ve got a little savings in the bank to play with. Want a more step-by-step how to on automating your bills?
Time Management Hack #4: Delegate the unimportant
Stop trying to hold yourself accountable and get someone else to do it, like Leo Babauta. Yes, you can throw in the towel on aiming for perfection. Set clear goals and get someone to help you keep them instead. Babauta does warn that friends and family aren’t always the best at keeping you accountable. Instead, choose someone who is focused, supportive, and has similar goals. Then, get to work. Make your time work for you and stay committed to the process.
Time Management Hack #5: Clarity with Consistency
Get clear, then get consistent like Corbett Barr does. Barr says getting clear and repeating the same actions will get you closer to your time goals. He states, “Once you have a direction, it’s all about execution.” So stop being wishy-washy, stop saying ‘maybe if’ or ‘only when’. Instead, say ‘this is what I want’ and go for it. Corbett, who’s clearly done something right, in 18 months he started 2 blogs and earns 6 figures, confirms we need to act, not just plan or think about it.
Time Management Hack #6: Manage Wise
Stop trying to manage your time. Make it your friend and create systems like Kelly Azevedo instead. That’s right, back to scheduling. However, Kelly shows you how to setup a reoccurring system for just about everything and helps you free time so you can work on the more important stuff. She explains that while a schedule is important, the foundation of having one that works comes from creating the right system to do it.
Time Management Hack #7: Review your Commitments
So you’re ring-fencing your creativity, avoiding the endless to-do lists and getting all your commitments off your mind and into buckets. So what happens next? Obviously, there’s no point capturing all those to-do items unless you’re going to do something about them. Which means regularly ‘emptying the buckets’, reviewing your commitments and deciding what to do.
First, and most obviously, review your commitments to make sure you actually do the tasks on your to-do lists! If you don’t review the lists regularly, you’ll soon stop trusting them and won’t be able to use them to get things off your mind. You review commitments to think about how you’re going to approach your work. It’s tempting to ‘get going’ first thing in the morning, so you feel like you’re getting things done. Reviewing also helps you step back and see the ‘big picture’ of your work, weigh up priorities and make decisions about your next steps.
Time Management Hack #8: Reclaim your Mind
So you’re sitting at your desk, trying to focus on a piece of creative work – but it’s hard to concentrate, there’s something nagging at your attention. Suddenly it pops into your mind – you’ve forgotten something urgent! Or even worse, you get a phone call or an e-mail out of the blue demanding to know why you haven’t delivered on a promise. Or you notice a post-it on the floor, which has fallen off your monitor, containing a reminder to DO SOMETHING VERY IMPORTANT… by yesterday
But what if you could dedicate fully 100 percent of your attention to whatever was at hand, at your own choosing, with no distraction? It’s a condition of working, doing, and being in which the mind is clear… Most people give either more or less attention to things than they deserve, simply because they don’t operate with a “mind like water”. It’s not an ancient Zen text – these words are lifted from David Allen’s best-selling book on productivity, Getting Things Done.
That’s it peeps. 5 ways you can hack time and go do more stuff you love. I know for sure that you have some resources and tools on hacking time. Help me rock this topic by sharing your tips in the comments!