How do I get the sh*t done?

April 25, 2013


I am currently experiencing self-employment adolescence: I'm not fully self-employed (I work at a restaurant about 20 hours a week), but I'm steadily moving in this direction. My self-employment hat includes a variety of projects. I have my own art-making and grant writing (right now I'm rehearsing twice a week with dancers, plus putting in my own time pretty much daily to prepare for these rehearsals). I'm also working as a movement director for a couple of other projects, and will be doing a little teaching throughout the summer. My work for McGinley Motion includes client consulting work and plotting out video projects with Ben, but my role in the business focuses on a lot of other things, too: writing, long-term planning, our accounting, devising better methods for working with clients. I also am trying to eat good food, see other people's art, and, you know, rest and avoid playing the 'busy' card.

So, I've been thinking a lot about time management. It was a big topic of conversation at our last small business meeting, and I think it's a major concern for most freelancers and small business owners. I wrote a post about it (complete with nearly illegible graphics!), deciding that the answer to getting things done was accomplishing the big, important work during your peak productivity window (for me, this is between 10 and 2). And that is helpful. But I'm discovering that I'm not always free to sit down and do my most important work during this peak time, and that even when I do, my time often gets lost to other things. I really want to feel like I'm getting better at getting the shit done! Have a constantly growing list just leads to anxiety, when I'm really very excited about the work I've been doing.
I've been thinking about these questions: 

  • What does a full work week (including all of my various projects) look like?
  • What makes me feel productive (because feeling like I'm productive causes me to be even more productive)?
  • How do I get efficient about the small stuff (emails, scheduling, accounting)?
  • How do I create a work week that gives me a feeling of spaciousness and creativity (rather than pressure, and a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach)?
  • Where is my time going, and do I want it to go there?
I did two things that have helped me start to figure this stuff out.

#1 At the end of my work week (Saturday usually) I make a list for the upcoming week. I separate tasks into four columns: Small tasks (things that can get done in 15-30 minutes, like emails), big tasks (project planning, writing, rehearsal work that need a significant chunk of time), personal/family things (laundry, errands, socializing, shows, etc...), and future things that I need to plan for. The list helps me keep track of things so I can focus on the big tasks, and avoid getting sucked into the small stuff.

#2 I've been keeping track of where my time goes. I write down what I get done in a day and how long it takes me. At the end of the first week I could clearly see that I was overwhelmed because I was trying to do too much. I could also see that what made me feel productive was getting the larger stuff done, without interruptions. This has caused me to cut back on meetings, daily friend dates, and my twitter feed.

I have been reminded that I'm only 1 person. The juggling of multiple jobs means that I need to be extra patient. Surprise, surprise: I can't do it all.

How do you feel productive, but still find space in your schedule to breath, be creative, and enjoy the work?

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