Archive for the ‘time management’ Category

Actually, more than a few. And they’re not so much about time management as about clutter control. The time headline was just an excuse to highlight that beautiful image of the Antique Gold Alpine Pocket Watch Steampunk Pendant. It’s from fellow etsian TimeandPlace, and if you like inspired, one-of-a-kind jewelry, click on either link to see the rest of an outstanding collection. In fact, you should do that first, and then come back and read this. I can wait …

Back? Okay, good. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to use time more effectively and figured out a few things that might be helpful to other people who create for a living. So along with the usual “here’s what I’m making now” posts, during the next few days, there are going to be some short pieces on time-related subjects. (Note: This is not one of the short ones, because there’s backstory … I promise the rest will be snippets compared to this.)

First, I’m thinking that creative people need a creative approach to time. I’ve read more books on the subject than I care to admit and have tried to follow the suggestions. While they all sound great on paper, very few worked for me. That’s not intended as criticism of the books or authors. It’s just that they’re about things like dealing with 79 folders or delegating tasks (delegate to whom? So far, the dogs haven’t expressed any interest in doing the things I need done) or putting up with the other corporate nonsense that so many of us are thrilled to avoid.

In other words, a lot of time management programs tend to use a one-size-fits-all approach involving linear thinking. Personally, I don’t know if I’m capable of linear thinking, and most creative people I know are the same way. We don’t go from A to B to C, but more like A to LMNOP to ‘oh, what if I turn this whole thing upside down — that might be interesting.’

My own thought processes — using the term very loosely here — are all over the place, especially when I’m making something. I might be thinking ‘maybe some kind of buttons would look good, and what if I cut off the bottom, but then I need the measuring tape, where’d I leave it, only wait, first I have to start the laundry and those bananas needed to be made into banana bread or frozen like yesterday, and I should check the Hollywood Bowl schedule and see if anyone interesting is coming up and is the credit card payment due but where’s that piece of paper with my new password, and maybe some embroidered silk would work here, except where did those good scissors go’ and like that.

For years I thought I just needed to be more disciplined, which led to reading a lot of time management books, which was quickly followed by major fails in implementing the ideas. Then one day it dawned on me that the scattershot thought processes are me, that’s who I am. Rein them in, and I might as well be an accountant or sell life insurance (no offense intended to accountants or life insurance salespeople). The real issue is not how to change my thinking, but how to change the way I think about it. Resistance is futile, you might say, so what are the other options?

Since organizing my thoughts was not a realistic goal, it seemed like organizing my environment could work, because a lot of the random thinking was related to the chaos surrounding me. I had been wasting untold hours looking for things in piles and boxes, and ending up frustrated and angry. If my insignificant other dared to suggest organizing my stuff a little better, I could provide him with plenty of reasons why that wouldn’t work — I knew where everything was (oh, really?), this is just the way I work, creative people can’t live that way, I don’t have time and on and on.

Finally, in the midst of a major teeth-gnashing, “where the eff did I put that” episode, I noticed that some of the paperwork I was searching through was from 2007. Why did I have stuff that was nearly 4 years old sitting on my desk like I might need it at any second? And that pile of yarn and the stack of fabric, those should be in boxes and stored away. Everywhere I looked, there was more of the same: half-finished projects, books and magazines I planned to read “some day,” mail that was sort of important but not really life or death and was now stuck in the postal equivalent of limbo. I suddenly felt like a future candidate for that tv show on hoarders, and the way things were going, the future wasn’t that far off.

So … I decided to use a trick that had worked before. Here’s how it goes: I wanted a serger in the worst way. My sewing machine just wasn’t capable of doing what I needed, but a serger was. So I made a deal. I would get the serger, but I could not use it until my room was reasonably organized, the sewing table cleared off and I could actually see what color the top of my desk was.

Okay, it was a cheap trick, but it worked. The magazines and books are gone, either shelved or donated, the fabric and yarn are stored in boxes according to colors, the unfinished projects are in their own box in a place where I can’t see it, so it no longer triggers thoughts about what’s still needed for this or that and why don’t I ever finish anything and blah blah blah. The sewing table is cleared of everything except what should be there (tape measures, needles, scissors, etc.), the top of my desk is white — and the serger is awesome!

But what’s even more awesome is that now when I walk into the room, there’s no sense of dread from the defeat all that clutter represented. Meanwhile, I get more done, because I’ve eliminated a lot of the distractions that interrupted really focusing on anything.

In other words, clearing the clutter created more time to be productive.

Don’t take my word for it. Here’s a good companion piece on getting organized from Flying Solo, an Australian website devoted to small business and entrepreneurs in the world of microfinance. At the moment, that term sums up my business perfectly!

Have you found a time wrangling trick that works for you? I’d love to hear about it, because there’s a lot more to this process than putting stuff away. Come on — tell!