Time management for creatives might seem like a strange concept at first.
After all, isn’t management a sterile concept that opposes creativity?
Traditional ideas of management can be stifling and limiting.
However, time management really isn’t a monolithic concept.
Just as there are many ways we can spend our time, there are many ways we can manage it.
Do you believe that time is our most precious resource?
After all, we can always make and lose money. Even our health can be improved.
Once a minute of your life has gone, you’re never getting it back!
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the ways creative people can manage time in a way that feels helpful and conducive to creativity.
What Is Time Management?
Before delving into time management from a creative perspective, let’s first consider a few definitions of time management.
“Time management is the coordination of tasks and activities to maximize the effectiveness of an individual’s efforts.” – Tech Target
“Time management is the process of organizing and planning how to divide your time between specific activities.” – Mind Tools
“Time management refers to managing time effectively so that the right time is allocated to the right activity.” – Management Study Guide
You could probably boil down all of the above to the core concept of ‘effective personal planning’, right?
Although the above definitions all capture the essence of time management, they come across as a little stale from a creative perspective.
The Destroy The Fear definition of time management for creatives is:
“Making the most of the precious gift of time to create a meaningful life.”
This definition recognizes both the value and scarcity of time. It also emphasizes the agency of each and every individual to use time to create their own personal version of a meaningful life.
That core definition will serve as the foundation for the rest of this guide.
What Is The Aim Of Time Management?
Traditionally, time management was used to maximize the output of workers.
Have you heard of Taylorism?
Basically, it involves stripping tasks down to their component parts, and then ensuring each task is atomized and carried out as efficiently as possible.
Do you think this served the interests of the people carrying out the tasks, or the people they were carrying them out on behalf of?
When humans are treated as machines, things go wrong. People’s happiness suffers. Their mental health suffers. They can even suffer physical repercussions.
So instead of seeing time management is a means to an end, Destroy The Fear advocates seeing the mindful allocation of your time as a meaningful pursuit in and of itself.
We could probably rant all day the ultimate, deep aims of time management for creatives. However, that would waste your time!
Instead, consider these few aims of time management from a creative standpoint:
- Freedom. When we wrap our minds around the fact we have full control and agency over the 24 hours given to us each day, we feel free. The mindset shift from “I have to” to “I have chosen to” is profound.
- Deep Satisfaction. Why do people have regrets about their life? Ultimately, the reasons boil down to wishing they had spent their time in a different way. By taking charge over the time we have, we safeguard against regret in later life and the misery that comes with it.
- Balance. Too many people live in a state of reaction. Their days are spent running around putting out fires. They are like a small sailing boat being blown about by the wind, rather than a strong, stable ship plotting its own course. By making a mindful decision to manage your own time, you ensure your life has room to balance everything that matters to you.
Doesn’t a life of freedom, deep satisfaction, and balance sound wonderful?
So how do we actually take steps to achieve a life like that?
How Can Creative People Manage Their Time?
It’s kind of a generalization, but many creative people resist being told what to do, when to do it, or how to do it.
Does that sound like you?
If so, it’s essential you manage your own time before somebody else does.
Unless we take proactive charge of our own time, it ends up being managed for us by someone or something else. A boss. A spouse. Societal trends.
If you want to retain true agency over your own life, it’s vital you make a firm decision to manage your own time, and do so without delay.
But what are the practical, actionable steps you can take to manage your time in a way which harmonizes with your creative nature?
- Begin by visualizing your ultimate aim. This could be something tangible, like living in a certain place. It could also be intangible, such as being in a state of good health and satisfaction. Plotting a course is a lot easier if you have an intended destination!
- Work backwards from your ultimate goal. Where do I need to be in ten years to reach my objective? How about five years? One year? This month? This week? Tomorrow? You can be flexible with the timescale of your goal. Just have one, and work backwards from the end in stages.
- By this stage, you should have a destination, and a series of steps that will get you there. You can now approach each steps in one of two ways. Either 1) Small chunk each stage. Break each task down into the smallest steps possible, and then order the steps in the most sensible sequence. This is good if you struggle to stay motivated and focused, as it’s literally like following a recipe. Alternatively 2) Give yourself the freedom to approach each step in the way and sequence you prefer, but set a deadline to do so.
- Review your progress. You could do this on your own, such as through keeping a journal. Or you could involve others. This could be an informal accountability partner, or a paid helper such as a mindset coach.
- Adjust. Inevitably, life changes, and it doesn’t make sense to stay stuck in our ways. From time to time, review both your ultimate aims as well as the path you are taking to reach them. Do you still want the same things in life? Are you still approaching them in the most efficient way possible?
If you’ve carried out the above process, you will have a clear aim, as well as the stages needed to get you there.
So how do you map out your aims and stages to the hours in the day?
- Start with non-negotiables. These should include at least six hours sleep at a time of your choosing. There is a romanticism to someone going ‘all out’ and pulling all-nighters gripped by a kind of creative mania, but in reality, it’s a recipe for burnout.
- Allow yourself conscious, mindful leisure time. Too many people take the approach to leisure of ‘watch something on Netflix and then thoughtlessly watch more until sleep kicks in’. Instead, give yourself permission to enjoy the things you love, but in moderate amounts. If you love watching sports, watch them. Just not all day every day!
- Build in flexibility. As much as we might like to think we are masters of our own destiny, we aren’t fully. Life happens. If you build some breathing room into your schedule, you avoid being over-ambitious.
- Schedule according to what works, rather than what “should” work. Perhaps you do your best work at night, but feel some kind of social pressure to be an ‘early riser’. Avoid it! Ultimately, your life is yours. Live it in the way which works best for you, not society.
As strange as this may sound, also avoid taking time management too seriously!
To use an analogy, consider a person’s diet. Often, if a person is trying to eat a healthy diet, they put so much importance and stress on it. As a result, if they screw up, they experience a massive amount of negative emotion and guilt.
This guilt then stops a person getting back on track, and they end up getting stuck in bad habits, and feeling awful about it.
Time is the exact same! If you screw up one day, have a laugh about it!
Be gentle with yourself, and get back on track the next day. As long as the overall trend of your time management is moving in the right direction, allow yourself to be human along the way.
Are There Tools To Assist With Time Management?
To bring back a phrase you probably never wished to hear again, there is an app for that!
All jokes aside, there are a range of awesome tools and techniques that help you manage your time in a beautiful way that enhances your creative life.
We might look at some of these in more depth in the future, but as a starting point, consider the following:
Time Management Apps For Creatives
Trello. We’re big fans of Trello because of its combination of functionality and ease of use. It also integrates well with other tools such as Google Drive. It’s also easy to share project and time management through Trello with your creative collaborators.
Wunderlist. Wunderlist is a great option for time management and personal project management. It lets you create lists, and lists within lists! If you have a mind which tends to wander, Wunderlist will keep it on track.
Voice Assistants. Have you ever tried Siri, Google Assistant, or Bixby? They are actually pretty cool. It’s sometimes easier to say “hey Google, remind me to do this” than it is to go into an app and write it down. Something to explore if you haven’t already.
Old-School Time Management Techniques For Creatives
Written to-do lists. There is something super satisfying about physically crossing an item off a list. It’s also a lot harder to hide from a list pinned to your fridge than an app on your phone.
Journals. There are tons of specialist journals which combine recording your thoughts and feelings with time management. If you prefer a physical, tangible product, this could work better for you than an app. Just don’t lose it!
How People Can Help With Your Time Management
Accountability partners. If you have someone who is motivated and on a similar path to you, consider forming an accountability partnership. Studies have shown that other people can be helpful in keeping us on track and using our time well.
Coaches. If you have the financial resources, a coach can be a worthwhile investment to help you keep on track with your time and to serve your wider goals.
Online. Although a lot of social media can be negative and even outright toxic, there are diamonds in the rough. If you can find an online group which is focused on positivity and mutual support, it can serve you well in keeping your time on track. Just remember to give as much as you get!
What’s Your Take On Time Management For Creatives?
Destroy The Fear is NOT about saying ‘our way or the highway’.
This is our best understanding of the topic.
However, we genuinely want to learn and grow. Preferably with you!
If you have any thoughts about time management from a creative’s perspective, please leave a comment!
If our ideas are stupid, let us know!
Thanks for choosing to spend your time on this article. We truly hope it served you.