Ever feel there isn’t enough time to
do everything you want? Do you end
the day or fi nish the week with a list of
things to do? If you answered yes, you’re
suffering from the all-too-common creative
professional’s syndrome: “too much to do and
too little time to do it.” You probably can’t get rid
of the work, but you can make more time—it’s just
hidden away right now.
This syndrome really hit home for me when
I began teaching my “Managing Creative Services”
class for Dynamic Graphics Training. Everyone
is pressed and stressed, and needs basic tools and
techniques for managing time. The techniques I
discuss here and in the class may seem simple, but
they’re not easy. Finding the hidden time in your life
requires strong will and discipline.
Work vs. job
Accept that you have both work to do and a job to
accomplish. They are two very different things. Your
work is the creative work you are paid to do—ads,
brochures, websites, illustrations, logos. Your job
is to manage the work—project management, estimates,
budgets, even self-promotion and career
management—and get it done.
Put the job first
Most people put their work fi rst and get their job
done when they get around to it. This is backwards
and destructive to time management. You’ll never
get around to it. The creative—your work—will
take all the time you give it. Knowing this, you
must reverse your priorities and put your job fi rst.
To start, identify all the job tasks you must
accomplish by the end of the day, week, and month.
These are all the things you must do in both your
personal and professional life. They will range from
the everyday, such as opening mail and reading trade
magazines, to the periodic, such as updating your
resumé and yearly marketing plan. I call these tasks
your “givens,” as it’s a must that they get done … or
you will end up losing something very important.
Once you have identified all the job items, take
your personal planner or calendar and schedule all
of these tasks as daily, weekly, and monthly dates.
Schedule everything. You may be thinking, “Why
bother scheduling such mundane tasks as picking up
dry cleaning or daily exercise?” Two good reasons:
One, if it is not on your calendar, chances are pretty
good it won’t get done; and two, keeping lists of
“things to do” in your head is not a very good use of
your brainpower. In fact, you can better focus and
concentrate on your work (the creative) when you are
not distracted by your job (managing the work).
Work on your work
Next, take a look at time for the work that comes
in the door. I call this the “incoming.” Include all
the creative, even rush jobs and last-minute client
requests—the clients, deadlines, budgets, and projects
that march in the door and sweep away anything
else you had planned for that moment (sound
familiar?). Work tasks (incoming) will displace job
tasks (givens) any time. The good news is that the
givens are not gone and forgotten, just rescheduled!
An important key to fi nding more time is to
touch everything only once. Eliminate piles to shuffle
and lists to pore over. When you face a given or an
incoming task, deal with it immediately or schedule
dealing with it at a later time. Do not dump things
into piles or make lists—they do not have any date
or time context and are too often left at the end of
the day still undone.
Love your calendar
In short, to find the time for finishing your work
and your job tasks, you will have to work more
closely with your calendar. Scheduling yourself
may feel restricting but it will actually free you. In
Ed Gold’s wonderful book The Business of Graphic
Design: A Sensible Approach, he says, “Being successful
in a graphic design business does not require one
to make a choice between control and creativity. ...
Creativity’s dirty little secret is that control is not
the enemy; control is a necessary ingredient that
makes creativity possible.”
By taking control you will always have something
on your calendar to keep you moving toward
business and career success and, more to the point,
getting all your work done. Make your time work for
you, not against you.
About the author
started her business
as a creative services
consultant and art/
photo rep in 1978.
She teaches classes
for creative professionals,
is an instructor with
Training, and writes
for several industry
fi fth book, The Graphic
to Marketing and
Promotion, is available
at Allworth Press