This morning, I gave a presentation called “A relaxed mind is a creative mind” at the beautiful Hotel Winneshiek in Decorah, IA. It was the last presentation of a series of presentations related to digital marketing. I applaud the Winneshiek County Convention & Visitors Bureau for considering this topic amidst lots of SEO, social media, and QR codes.
Because how can we marketers create great content and come up with cool, new ideas if we are overstressed and have a never-ending to-do list running through our heads?
I divided my presentation up into two parts:
- Time Management (Five Tips)
- Wellness (Five More Tips)
Time management came first, because I believe it’s critical to have good time management skills in order to free up your mind for creative work (and to find time for wellness!).
Since I spent time coming up with what I consider to be the top five time management tips for creativity, I thought I’d share them with you. (You’ll have to visit my wellness blog, Simply Enough, to get the wellness tips.)
1. Most Important Tasks (MITs)
MITs are the most important things you have to get done in a given day. It might be only one thing (such as “write 1,000 words”) or it may be three things. And you do them before you do anything else (including checking email, Google+, etc)!
Here is what Leo has to say about why MITs (from his book, 52 Changes):
We often get caught up in small tasks, busywork that lets us feel productive while the most important tasks get pushed back later and later, until we don’t have time to do them anymore because of all the smaller “urgent” things that come up. This is a form of procrastination, or at least bad priorities.
On days when I stick to my MIT habit, life is just a whole lot better. I feel accomplished, and I’m not scrambling to wrap things up at the end of the workday.
2. Batch Email Processing
On my Simply Enough website, “turn off your email” is the one suggestion I provide specifically related to time management. Batch email processing is what enables turning off your email.
The idea here is to have set times throughout the day (or week) when you check your email and give yourself enough time to process it all. Until you have no emails in your inbox.
If you have hundreds or thousands of emails in your inbox, you’ll need to set aside more time initially to get through it all. But once you do it once, it’s not that hard to keep up.
Just archive emails you don’t have to take action on, reply briefly to emails requiring a response, and create to-dos for emails that require extensive action (then archive). It’s really (almost) that simple.
3. Declutter Your Office (& Brain!)
Creating a clean and functional workspace with minimal distractions will help you focus and be creative. Find time to clear everything off your desk that you don’t use on a daily/hourly basis. I have a phone, my laptop, a monitor, and a notebook and pen. That’s it!
Along the same lines, don’t keep your to-do list in your head – you won’t have space to be creative! Rather, keep to-dos in a place where you won’t forget about them. Whenever I think of something I have to do, I put it in Google Tasks (part of Google Calendar) or jot it down in my notebook (if I’m not by my computer). The notes eventually get transferred into Google Tasks unless it’s easier to just do it.
For many years, “Ability to multi-task” was an essential part of a good resume. (In fact, I still see this on resumes from time to time!)
However, more recently researchers have told us that multi-tasking (i.e. moving quickly from one task to the next) is not very effective. Single-tasking is the way to go.
Think about it. If you are constantly checking email or taking phone calls while you’re working on something else, you are losing valuable time switching from task to task.
It’s best to focus on one thing at a time, get it done, and move on. You’ll save a lot of time this way and also produce better quality work.
5. Productivity Day
I learned about the Productivity Day when I went through my Pragmatic Marketing training. Product managers are known for being overworked and pulled in a million different directions. Yet, we are expected to crank out requirements, release notes, and a plethora of documentation. Impossible!?!
The Productivity Day is the solution. It is a day when you do not go to the office. You stay away from distracting colleagues and emails. Perhaps you go to the library or a coffee shop. And you get real, meaningful work done.
Can’t convince your boss? Ask her to call me.
I know you have your own favorite time management tips. Feel free to share them here or on Google+.