Grow Your DIY Business: Creative Time Management
By Eleanor Whitney
*editor’s note: we’re so happy to have eleanor as a regular contributor to dear handmade life with here bi-weekly friday ‘grow your diy business’ column. we’re also beyond stoked that she’s a presenter at craftcation 2014. you can read more about managing your time and life/work balance in our posts on the benefits of taking a break and how to let go of busyness.
When I was traveling this summer promoting my book Grow in every corner of the country I heard the same question, “How do I make time for my project? How do I find time to create?”
It was comforting to know that time management is not just a challenge for busy New Yorkers like me. Handmade business owners everywhere are juggling multiple responsibilities: jobs, school, family, social obligations, taking care of their health, and all the other commitments that make our lives full, messy and worthwhile. In addition, handmade business owners often have to serve as their company’s bookkeeper, marketing department, community manager, and project manager as well as produce and develop new products. It can feel overwhelming.
Before we talk about techniques for taming your calendar take a deep breath and reflect by considering these questions:
- What is it that I really love to do? What part of my project or business doesn’t feel like “work” and while doing it I find myself having what cognitive researcher Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi calls a “flow experience?”
- What are the tasks and projects I need to work on in order to grow my business that I put off or avoid?
- Outside of my handmade business, what are the biggest distractions and drains on my time? Are there things that I do just because I think I “should?”
- What are the obligations that I cannot change?
Managing time is essentially managing your priorities. To achieve effective time management you must think about what you actually need to do and be realistic about how long those tasks will take. Here are a few ideas to help you refresh your calendar and make more time for your business and for the things that you love.
Know the time of the day you work best: Save this time for your most focused, creative tasks. For me, this time is early morning. That is when I focus on writing and planning. During this time I don’t check my email (unless I need to write a really important one). I also don’t go on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
Block out time on your calendar for specific tasks: This will hold you accountable and help you avoid procrastinating as well as assist you in taking the projects you need to work on seriously.
Prioritize and learn how to say “No.” Think of time like a budget. If you have limited time, how do want to spend it so you get the most value for your business in return? For example, in New York it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by social obligations. Someone is always playing a show, having an art opening or birthday drinks at a bar. These are All great things, but these can eat into my time budget (and my wallet)! I’ve learned to identify the events that are the most important for me and I’m the most excited about attending and politely decline the others. I’ve also learned to prioritize tasks around the house because I found that I was using housework to procrastinate on my creative work. Now I ask myself questions like, “Do I really need to be doing the dishes instead of working on a new writing project?” and readjust accordingly.
Set boundaries. Are there people who are always interrupting you? Even the people you love, like your partner, kids, or best friend, can distract you from your business. Explain to them when you’ve set aside time to work on your project and when you are available to them. That way you can feel comfortable that you are getting the time you need for your project without neglecting important people in your life.
Negotiate: what tasks can be flexible? If you have a day job, explore working flextime or rearranging your hours to better suit your project or business. If you have a business or life partner are there some tasks or obligations that you can share thereby open up more time to be creative? Remember, your time is yours and its up to you to make the most of it.
Get off Facebook and turn off the TV. Identify time wasters that are not serving you and eliminate them or limit yourself to a certain amount of time per day.
Be kind to yourself. Remember, you are a busy, complex person and life and creativity is, by nature, unpredictable. If you hit a roadblock, get tired, or need to shift your priorities, you must accept that your project may take longer than you expected. Recognize and celebrate what you have accomplished and readjust your schedule accordingly.
Time management for creative people is highly personal. Everyone works differently and priorities for your business and your life will shift and change. It may take some time to re-imagine your schedule to find the perfect balance, but when you do, you will be confident that you are spending the time you need to move your business forward. Time well spent is an investment in your business and yourself.
What are your time management tips and techniques?
Eleanor Callott Whitney is a writer, rock musician, educator, and arts administrator raised in Maine and living in Brooklyn. She finds joy in bringing order to the chaos of creativity, empowering artists with the tools they need to think of themselves as entrepreneurs and in managing and facilitating creative projects with panache. She is the author of Grow: How to take your DIY project and passion to the next level and quit your job! and writes extensively about art, culture and nonprofit management. She published the personal, art zine Indulgence for 15 years, as well as co-founded the Portland Zine Symposium and has worked for the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Brooklyn Museum, and P.O.V./American Documentary. She is the proud recipient of a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Baruch College where she learned to stop worrying and love statistical and budgetary analysis.