In my last article, I talked a lot about ways to create a clear vision for your project so you could continue to the end and finish it. Since posting it, I have received a lot of messages about one area specifically mentioned – building a routine for success. I’m going to elaborate on that idea a little further in this article. This will apply to all disciplines, not just creatives. If you’d like to read the last article, check it out here.
My diverse experience
“Tony, what makes you qualified to give this advice? What do you know that others are struggling with?” Great question! I first started into a life of being a creative, when I was in 2nd grade and I started learning piano. I participated in Young Authors, and started writing at a very young age as well. Most of my school age endeavors were in the arts. I learned multiple instruments, wrote songs, poetry, short stories and blogging. However, in my career life, I quickly moved into the management of restaurants. In the foodservice world, everything is on a short timeline. If the food isn’t great, and out within 12 minutes, you start to run into problems. Experience with the management of 100’s of employees, opening my own business, and promotions into more responsibility and accountability, tempered by starting a family has taught me one of the most important skills any of us can possess, time management. If you want to finish that project, you’re going to have to learn time management.
What do I do, just stop these little gears?
Time management is a lie
In my last article – here in case you missed it – I talked a little bit about getting into flow. That place where you are so diligently working on your project that you forget the world around you. The words are flowing, the paint is flying, the music is grooving, or magic is happening in whatever your craft may be. Most of us have been there, and we want to be there. What happens after that? Do you get burned out? Do you have a hard time getting started again? Do you have to go back and pick up the pieces of what you ignored during your creative streak? I know... maybe you feel a little guilty for neglecting everything else, so it is hard to get back on track? But, you could get back on track. This is where you have to come to realize, it’s not about time management, it’s about self-management. So many think that if they just create the perfect schedule, then they will be on track to do everything they want. Many who have ever tried this know that it hardly ever works out this way, because we fail to take into account that so many things pull us in different directions. Our emotional management will decide on how well we stick to our “perfect schedule”.
Let's make winning easier, shall we?
Emotional Management for all
Now that we have really given the honest answer for not keeping to your routine, let’s look at some ways to handle the emotional aspect of self (time) management.
- Start with the most important things first in the morning.
I see why it's so nice to work on things in the morning...
Have you ever gotten home and scheduled a block of time to work on your project, but just were so drained from everything else that happened in the day that you couldn’t get started? I highly recommend waking up early, and working on your project before anything else in the day. You are the most disciplined, the most mentally “fresh” and least emotionally drained, first thing in the morning. If you give yourself a little extra time in the morning to do your work, it not only improves your progress, but also improves your feelings of accomplishment and happiness throughout the day because you are doing what you love, daily! This is a great practice to start. It will take a little adjustment in the bedtime routine to get used to, but it is well worth it. As almost every successful person can attest, a solid morning routine is crucial.
- Build a routine when you are not emotional.
You know what you have to do. Now, how do you fit it all in? Schedule work time, schedule time for the gym and health, but build in time for your other needs that are social and emotional as well. If we all really know what we should be doing, why aren't we doing it? Be smart and create a routine when you aren't feeling hungry, sad, guilty, etc. That way you can do what is best for you in the long run, instead of being pulled by your emotions. What a great practice to be able to tell your kids, every Friday night, we are going to have movie night at 6 pm. This is a practice I have used with my daughter for years. Maybe we trade out movie night for playing a game, or going shopping, but she knows that if dad is busy during the week, she will be able to count on Friday night. This works great for many other areas of your life to “balance” your priorities. Do you have a date night with your spouse? Schedule it. There isn’t a better thing you can do for your relationship then to set aside some time to be together, and be yourself. Usually, we all know the things we should be doing – eat right, sleep right, have great relationships, work on our goals, exercise, etc. We have a hard time fitting them all in because we are constantly pulled by our other impulses. Create a realistic schedule, then carry on to the next step.
Do it. She loves it, you love it. Then when you schedule it, you can stop feeling guilty working on your project.
- Help get others to understand and support your decisions
When we were making plans for kid’s night, date night, and lunch with mom, be sure you discuss with them that you want to be able to work on your project, and still spend quality time with them. There has to be an emphasis on quality time, and not just sitting on the couch next to each other browsing social media. When you communicate and come to an agreement on your plan, it makes it extremely easy to not feel any guilt when you do work on your project. Now you have a clear mind, and a sustainable routine that you can stick to.
- Give yourself permission to get lost in your work.
Now that you have kids night, date night, exercise, book writing time, coffee with your siblings, lunch with your mom and band practice all scheduled, give yourself permission to take that 4 hour block and just get lost in your craft. You have just spent quality time with all of those people who are important. You took care of all of the things you are supposed to do – now do YOU. Worry about your goals, your work, your project. Get lost in it. Be unavailable. Phone off. Leave the house - leave the city if you need to! Get yourself the time and space to be able to dive deep into your work and put out the best material possible. Give yourself permission to ignore everything else.
Urgent for them, or urgent for you?
- Teach others around you to handle what is needed when you aren’t available.
In my experience in business, blocking off that time and expecting the operations to still run without you is the toughest part of time management as a leader. Everyone comes to you for all sorts of requests and guidance in all levels of urgency. It is important to handle two aspects of this. They need to first understand when you are on time that isn’t to be interrupted unless there is an emergency, and they need to know what an emergency actually looks like. Part of this is you have to decide what items that you and ONLY you can handle. Can another leader be taught how to handle something in your absence? If so, teach them to handle it. Then, follow up after your block of time you have created to ensure they are informing you of what has happened, and that it was handled correctly. This actually will create a level of engagement, ownership and leadership in others that is invaluable to your company’s success. Developing others is one of the best ways to create more loyal team members and engage them so they are more productive and happy at work.
- Know thyself
As mentioned throughout this post, this is a game of emotional management. You have to know thyself! Use all aspects of self-management to get yourself to do what you know you are supposed to. Do you work better with music? Give yourself the permission to get the great headphones that allow you to work better. Do you work better with rewards? Maybe working at a coffee shop and getting a dessert and coffee treat for while you are working will keep you consistent at going to work on your project. What ways can you make it an easy habit to work on what you are supposed to?
I could get used to this everyday...
Once you understand that emotional management is really the goal then we can find easy ways to be more consistent in working on your project and creating balance in your work and life. Use what you know about yourself and find ways to give yourself permission to not feel guilty, or be too tired, or be too scattered to ever get into a good flow of work. Only then, will the rest of the world ever get to see the great work you can put out. I’m looking forward to what you can create. Comment below if you’d like to discuss what works for you. Best of luck!