June 2016 Tasks

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 8.48.02 AMSummer has arrived, in spirit if not in actuality, and this month, our clocks slow down as the mercury rises. We’re slowly approaching the longest day of the year, and yet, there never seem to be enough hours of daylight to accomplish all we want to do. Especially if all we want to do is sip something cool and enjoy the breeze.

 

Conundrum.

 

Last month, we talked all about pricing* and this month we’ll focus on time, especially since the longer daylight hours trick our bodies into thinking we have more of it. (Psst… We don’t.)

 

Why not use this month to track your time? I’ve been playing around with different methods of time tracking lately trying to decide which one I like the best. (I haven’t decided.) The Passion Planner connects lots of ideas I love (taking time to focus, setting goals) to time management, but its teeny tiny spaces don’t give me nearly enough room to summarize my time. (That could be my own editing problem, though.) My tried-and-true Excel method still works best for me, but during the summer months I’m less and less motivated to use a computer, and more and more motivated to use pen and paper instead.

 

Toggl and Timely are both apps that come highly recommended, but I always find it feels a little silly to track personal time on an app. Applying a professional tool to my personal life feels counterintuitive, if not a little silly.

 

But what do I know? The definition of “professional” is fluid at best, especially in creative professions where the use of time and the use of brains for creative purposes never cease. So as we’re tracking our time this month, let’s not forget to set aside hours for “nothing.” Hours to think, hours to ponder, hours to read, or hours to wander. And let’s forgive ourselves for tracking that time. We track things we value, and we should value nothing more than our creative time. Even if there isn’t a default category for “thinking time.”

 

Just like with our time tracking systems, we’ll never know what feels right without trying a few things that feel wrong. (And believe me, I’ve found plenty that feel wrong to me.) The endless hours of June give us a perfect excuse to try something new, without any pressure or expectations.

 

We can save those pressures and expectations for September, when the real work begins again. This month, let’s think about our time. Let’s use it well. And let’s embrace exploration, both in our business models and in our creativity.

 

*Did you miss all our pricing notes from last month? Start with “More Than Math” and go from there…

 

January 2016 Tasks

To Do This Month: Get Organized

 

business-art-tipsWe start each new calendar year with the best of intentions, don’t we? We swear we’ll drink more water and eat more kale. We promise to take more steps and snooze our alarms fewer times. (Or maybe that’s just me.)

 

This month, harness that “fresh start” enthusiasm—even if it is the life-planning equivalent to the placebo effect—and make it work for you.

 

Schedule Admin Time

Think about when you do your best creative work… Is it first thing each day? Late at night? Once you hit your afternoon stride?

 

Maybe your best creative time is first thing in the morning. If so, the morning hours would be awful times to tackle administrative tasks like following up via email, updating your expense log, or scheduling social media posts. Don’t interrupt your peak creative time with administrative tasks.

 

Schedule administrative time each week for any time that isn’t your creative peak.

 

Maybe instead your creative practice hits its stride in the afternoon. If so, then the first hour or so of each day (while you are still waking up) is a great time for non-creative work. Prioritize creative time—dedicated creative time that isn’t subject to interruptions—when you work best. Schedule administrative tasks during other (predictable, planned) hours.

 

The hours don’t have to be predictable and planned, but they work best that way. Planning time for administrative tasks enables your brain to relax while you are working creatively. You don’t have to feel guilty about neglecting administrative tasks. You’ll conquer them during your planned administrative time each week.

 

Pro Tip: Use Two Desks and a Timer to Revolutionize Your Business Practice
Scheduling administrative time removes your procrastination excuse as well.Do you find yourself postponing creative time because you simply must update your website? Or post to social media? Or read that article everyone is talking about? Complete those tasks only during your scheduled administrative time. And set a timer, so you know when it ends.

 

Perhaps instead you distract yourself from creative work by addressing personal to-do items. Paying your utility bill, making a grocery list, and cleaning out the cabinets are great tasks to keep you from our studio. Having two desks—one for personal tasks and one for administrative tasks related to your creative business—helps solve that problem.

 

Find a System

Once you have your administrative time scheduled each week, spend some time figuring out what to do during those hours.

 

Whether you use Excel, Quick Books, You Need a Budget, Mint, or something else entirely, find a system that works for you for 2016. We’re partial to Excel because you probably already have it on your computer (so the price is right), it is incredibly customizable (so you can make it do what you want), and you can share the data as you wish (so your accountant will thank you).

 

Pro Tip: Use charts and graphs to distinguish your funding applications
Using a system that has communication capabilities (think: charts and graphs) can help your funding applications too. Master using charts and graphs to communicate financial messages and use them to complement your budget, your grant applications, and your monthly financial reporting. Even if it is just for you. Making your system pretty to look at will make it much more enjoyable to update. Trust us.

 

Commit to maintaining your system—whichever one you choose—throughout the year, and remember to forgive yourself if your best efforts fall short before the year ends. You can always return to the proverbial administrative wagon. Excel works just as well

 

Recap

Start 2016 strong by getting organized.

  • Schedule time each week for administrative tasks based on your own ideal schedule.
  • Set up a system that will work for you for the year. (Our January online course, XLS Basics can help if Excel is the system of your choice.)
  • Commit to ongoing maintenance (especially if maintaining your system involves forgiving yourself for falling short now and then).