Getting organized, staying focused, and managing time are challenging for every gigging artist and entrepreneur. The work-life balance, the time to create and develop, or the bandwidth to grow your brand or business requires time and energy beyond the daily grind and it seems like there are not enough hours in the day.
With the right tools and system, you can manage your limited time and maximize your productivity. These three critical steps from our team will help you master your calendar and get stuff done.
1. Create a schedule
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Planning your day allows you to prioritize what needs to get done and sets the time to do it. The ability to be productive starts with a plan that is easily accomplished. Kevin Kruse, the author of 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management, said this in a Forbes.com post:
That which gets scheduled, actually gets done.
Mission-critical thinking is an invaluable skill in managing time and productivity. Thinking “mission-critical” means defining your values and goals and focusing your time and energy on accomplishing those. It provides you the boundaries to know when to say yes to certain tasks and when to say to no to others. By focusing on your business’ mission (for example, booking 200 gigs in 2020), you make time-and-effort decisions based on that singular goal. You’re free to say no to anything that doesn’t move that mission forward.
Tackle the biggest projects first
Accomplishment is its own reward. Often, when we look at our daily schedule, we are tempted to focus on small tasks that are easily checked off the list. Instead, look at the projects or tasks that can create the most momentum for your business or those items that are the greatest hindrance to your service and create a plan to tackle those. You may not finish the whole project, but even taking steps to move that forward delivers a feeling of progress and the motivation to move forward.
2. Create a routine
Now that you have a plan of what needs to get done, establish the routines and rhythms that foster productivity. This should be a fluid approach that recognizes your personal and business life, as well as times of the day where you are more productive or creative. For example, if you find that early morning is when you have the most energy and focus, schedule that time to pay bills, answer emails, and order supplies. If you’re most creative in the evening, block out spaces in your day to write, compose, rehearse, or personally develop.
Set up your day (the night before)
Taking time each night to map your next day means that you are attacking your day rather than reacting to it. In a post for Fast Company, Interview Success Formula founder Alan Carinol lays out four strategies to get your day planned and focused. This includes blocking out segments of time for getting tasks done, routines to conserve brainpower, breaking down deadlines and due dates into smaller events, and getting to bed on time.
Even as you’re reading this, you’re surrounded by 24-hours’ access to smart devices, wireless connections, and the internet. The average person gets between 65-80 smartphone alerts a day. Taking into account that it can take up to 25 minutes to get back on track, that means you’re rarely focused on the work you need to get done. Utilizing focus software and platforms such as Focus Booster and Rescue Time helps you see where your time is going and stay directed towards moving your business forward.
Work in short segments
Many of us procrastinate because we find long periods of work intimidating. Breaking your tasks into shorter segments with planned breaks frees you up to ignore distractions and stay mentally fresh. The Pomodoro technique of 25 minutes on with 5 minutes off is a great way to keep your brain dialed in.
Make your bed
One nearly universal habit of productive people? Making their bed every morning. This simple act of accomplishment means that you’ve already been productive that day and your brain is motivated to get more done.
3. Set reminders
No matter how methodical your planning or precise your schedule, you will forget something. Art Markman, author of Smart Thinking: Three Essential Keys to Solve Problems, Innovate, and Get Things Done reminds us that, “The cognitive system is designed as much as possible not to think.” Your brain prioritizes and categorizes the information designed for survival.
All of us need systems that will bring tasks and meetings to our memory in order to get them done.
Use your calendar instead of to-do lists
Many people thrive on lists, but many to-do lists are never-got-done lists because there is no deadline or due date attached. One way to push through this dynamic is to create calendar appointments for your tasks rather than a checklist. So instead of “Check in on GigSalad bookings” as a to-do item, schedule it as your 9:30 am appointment every day. Even creating an appointment for checking your to-do list is enough to drive accountability.
Use your smart devices to your advantage
We’ve already established how our smart devices provide a constant distraction. By utilizing great apps and platforms, however, they can become powerful tools for managing your time and directing your focus. Here are just a few project and task management tools we love:
Remember, you have the same amount of hours in your day as your idols and icons as well as your competitors and doubters. The biggest difference between your dreams and your reality is not in how much time you have, but in the manner you use it!