Thursday, September 8, 2011

Time Management for Creatives, Part 2

Today I continue my summary and critique of Mark McGuinness's ebook Time Management for Creatives with his third suggestion, which is to avoid the "Sisyphus effect" of endless to-do lists. For those of you who don't recall Sisyphus from your lessons in Greek mythology, he was the unlucky chap who was imprisoned in the underworld and forced to roll a gigantic rock uphill for eternity as punishment for earthly crimes. Sounds pretty grim and definitely something I personally would like to avoid!
McGuinness likens a typical day with its interruptions of email, phone calls, texts and the demands of bosses to Sisyphus's punishment--we are allowing ourselves to push the boulder of other's requests up the hill to keep us from engaging in our own creativity. By constantly reacting to the inflow of requests coming our way we are allowing our concentration to be broken repeatedly, and as the author illustrates nothing is more detrimental to the state of creative flow. On this point I wholeheartedly agree! But what McGuinness suggests next is that we follow the advice of Mark Forster in his book Do It Tomorrow by, you guessed it, doing it all tomorrow. A google search revealed that not only has Mr. Forster written a book by that title, but you can also purchase software or download free apps for your iPhone or Droid to help you live the Do It Tomorrow lifestyle. What's next? A line of "Procrastinators Unite" products?

I do agree that we need to "install a buffer between others demands and your response" (p. 16) but that's where my agreement ends. McGuinness's fifth point focuses on how to "get things done by putting them off till tomorrow" (p. 17), but having a system in place for prioritizing seems a much better way to approach this problem and here's how I intend to go about it.
  • In regards to email, create two folders entitled Action and Read. Anything that simply CANNOT wait is addressed immediately and not moved to a folder. Anything that requires action, but not immediate action, is moved to the folder of that title and addressed within the week. Those items that are educational or entertaining in nature go into the Read folder and I set aside 30 minutes a day to go through the materials in it. Any item in the folder not read within a week is deleted. All spam is deleted, but only after I have gone through the process of unsubscribing from whatever source sent it to me. This entire email process will be given 1 hour/day or less.
  • In regards to phone calls, I cannot simply let every call go to voicemail. I have 3 children at various schools and am often enough waiting to hear back about scheduling apts. for them, etc. These calls must be answered, as must any calls from clients who make my creative business possible. All other calls will be allowed to roll over to voicemail or answered briefly with a promise of a return call during non-work hours. Creative time IS work time!
  • Utilize my ListPro app to capture and prioritize tasks to be completed. This is a great little app that I got for my iPad that allows me to keep all my lists in one place (I don't know about you, but I tended to lose those little slips of paper I used to write lists on). It allows me to rank action items according to priority and date to be accomplished by. There are many tools out there that help you do this, so find one that works for you!
I hope you've found something in this post that can be of use to you! Perhaps for some, Mr. McGuinness's approach of organized procrastination would work, and if so I encourage you to head over to his ebook and read more.

What have you found to be effective tools in managing your time and tasks?


  1. Ugh, I don't like the sound of that "do it tomorrow" lifestyle. If you put everything off until tomorrow, nothing will get done!

    I do a similar thing my emails. I color-code them based on category and importance. It helps a ton. :-)

  2. I try to focus my efforts the way Stephen Covey taught in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People in habit 3. Bottom line - if you spend most of your time on tasks that are important but not urgent, you are doing well.

  3. This is SO me - procrastinator extraordinaire!!! I make lists of lists of lists, and then lose them, LOL! Thanks for sharing these tips :)