Posts Tagged ‘time management’

If you read yesterday’s post, especially the part that deals with all I’ve been doing this last few weeks, you might get the idea that I have time management down to a science. If that’s the case, you give me far too much credit. No, truth be known, I waste far too much time. I have this habit of getting into the midst of a project and hitting one of those “stuck points”—you know when you hit the creative wall and you get frustrated. Yes folks, it happens to us all. There are quite a few times where I’ll jump over to check email or social media and end up passing entirely too much time looking at things that do nothing to advance my cause and more often than not, find something that will ruin my mood and get me even more blocked. Or sometimes I’ll jump to a game on my phone, and I’ll “Oh just one more level” myself into a wasted chunk of time. Please remember, I write a lot more posts that say “Yeah, I’m a mess too.” and a lot less posts that say “I’ve arrived.” When it comes to time management, I can be a real dummy. How about you?

So what can we do better:
1. Have a second project to jump to when the first one is stalled.

I usually try to work on two projects at once and I try to avoid more than four. That way when I get stuck, rather than jumping to something meaningless, I can continue moving the ball forward.
2. Have a constructive diversion.
I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I have a table in my studio, that always has a model car on it. I love to build models. It’s a creative diversion, but it is also very structured. I can only do a little at a time and it has to be done step by step, so I can’t really spend all day at it, just enough time to re-mesh my mental gears. My Creacher cartoons are another example of this.
3. Break your project into manageable steps.
Nothing is more intimidating than looking at a huge project in it’s entirety. More often than not, this will frustrate you and get you stuck, but what if instead, you had individual steps to complete. Each time you cross one off, you feel a little sense of accomplishment. Simple example of this: The text book for my latest master class came to my Kindle the other day and I had the reading progress set to “time left in book.” Imaging how intimidated I was when I opened the book and saw I had 88 hours left to read. I went right in and changed it to time left in chapter. I still have 88 hours of reading to do, but it sure feels more manageable in one hour chunks.
4. Stay off social media.
Yes, I know, this one is ironic as I write a post I hope a lot of people read on social media. Still the more we avoid social media, the more work we get done.
5. Look for wasted time.
Please read this one carefully, especially if you’re in my family. There are a lot of times in the evening, when the family is together, where we will spend considerable time around the TV. Now my family values my presence, and I value theirs, and family time is never wasted, but I’m not always all that interested in what we’re watching, and even if I am, I often don’t have see every moment of the show, so I’ve found several activities that I can do where I am still very present, but I can also get a little work done. Chief among these is drawing and creating graphics. I get a lot of cartoons drawn and a lot of powerpoint slides done while hanging out in front of the TV.
6. For goodness sake, rest.
In every creative project, there will come a time when you’re just fried and it’s time to pack it in and pick it up when you’re fresh. Trust someone who has done this a million times. If you push past your burnout point, you’re probably going to end up having to redo that work anyway. Better to lay it aside and start fresh later.

Well that’s just part of it. I’ll post more later, but for now, get back to work!

I will, too.

worthdoing Sooner or later every creative, even Christian creatives, will have ask themselves this question. It’s a cost benefit analysis of sorts.

This post was inspired by a recent ad I answered for writers for an online news source. I write a lot and they were offering a small amount of money for writing articles. My first thought was, “Well I am going to write anyway, so I might as well apply and see what happens.” I filled out the application, took their application test and waited. A day later, I received an email asking me to write a sample article based on a list of topics. As I looked at the list of topics, I knew nothing about any of them. Research would have to be done to move forward. About now, a thought began to form in my mind. “Is the project worth doing?”

It’s not that I am opposed to research, I do quite a bit of it, but the amount of money they were offering meant that I would have to be able to turn their articles around in a very limited amount of time. If I could not turn an article around in less than an hour, my time would probably be better spent doing something else. An article requiring research simply would not be worth my time.

Now I know what you may be thinking, “It’s not always about the money.” You’re right, it isn’t, but this is about more than just money. I do lots of things for free, to which the nearing 2500 posts on this blog will attest, but it is important to do the right things. We all only have 24 hours in a given day. Time is probably our single most important resource. It’s finite and needs to be used wisely. Here’s how I judge whether or not a project is worth pursuing:

I have a personal mission. To communicate the Gospel and to help the church to embrace and empower creatives and creativity. Whenever I look at a project, a job, etc., my first question is “Will this project help me to accomplish my mission?” There are two ways this can happen, directly and indirectly. The “directly” things are those where I am actually doing things involved in the mission, i.e. preaching, speaking, making art, designing, writing, creating directly related to my ministry. The article project would be an example of indirectly. It doesn’t relate directly to the mission, but if the pay was sufficient, it could help me finance my mission. I will sometimes take on these “just for the money” projects, but only if it is a. God honoring and b. clearly lucrative enough to make the project worth the time invested.

I only have 24 hours and some of those hours must be spent resting, spending time with family, and all those other things that make life worth living outside the on-mission stuff. In a busy life, any extra project will take time away from that time, which is really precious and must be guarded.

I can justify writing these blog posts for free because that is directly related to my mission but the articles simply would not be worth my time, even though they pay (pay very little, but something).

To stay on mission, and stay healthy, the best way is to ask, “Will the project be worth doing?”

You may have noticed that this post is showing up late. The truth is, I had something happen that doesn’t happen often. I missed two day of posts this week. I hate to do that, because I am trying to be really disciplined and faithful to the folks who read this blog.

The truth is I have been really, really busy. I have two presentations this week, both of which are new. One involved building a secret agent robot for a Goddard School in my area and the other is called Close Encounters with Jesus, which I will be presenting for the first time Sunday night (and for which I had to finish the writing and make all the presentation graphics. We are also only a week out from our church’s vacation Bible school and I just made a 15 foot map for that. Of course I also released the Pictures of Jesus Book this week and I had to make charts for the face painters at our church’s fourth of July community outreach.

All of this has been great fun to do, and I am really excited to have two new presentations to offer to churches, a new book and more, but it all takes time.

Managing our time and priorities is hugely important. I’m not always the best at it, but I am getting better. The best way to manage all of this stuff is to keep a running list of what ha to be done and when it has to be done. Once you have your deadline, work backwards dividing the work into manageable steps. Having multiple projects going can sometimes be a blessing because sometimes you get a little burned out on one thing and its good to have something else to jump to. Be careful with this though. Having too many things going at once can make it hard to get anything done. At the end of the day, what we start only matters if we finish it.

timevampThe reason I didn’t blog for two days is because I knew I had to spend a serious amount of focused time on getting all these things done. Getting online usually ends up with me bouncing over to social media and checking my email. Both of those things are major time vampires for me, so my online time was kept to a minimum.

Thanks for letting me play catch up today. I now return you to your regularly scheduled life already in progress.

atetheelephantI usually thank God before a big meal, but in this case I am thanking Him after it. That’s because it’s not really a meal but rather a big project. If you’re new to the blog, you may have missed my “How to Eat an Elephant?” post. The gist of it was “How Do You Eat an Elephant?” One bite at a time. My elephant was a huge animated video project that ended up being about 40 minutes long. There were numerous times when, I won’t lie, I felt like I bit off much more than I could chew. Tonight, I can say, with all glory to God that the elephant has been eaten. Barring a few minor corrections, the project is done. I worked hard, but God also came through big time!

Again the reason I posted the first post was because of all the people that I meet that say they have no time to create. What they mean is they don’t have big blocks of time to create. The truth is, most of the time none of us do. Instead projects done the same way elephant’s are eaten, one bite at a time. Over the last few months, I’ve created a 40 minute video. I lost track of my time but I am well over 100 hours. This simple animation project had several hundred drawings and manipulations of drawings. The drawings were drawn in my studio, on my recliner, in restaurants, indoors, outdoors, on a plane, in several airports, in my van, I was parked, in a Toastmasters meeting, a cabin in the woods, even a condo at the beach. They were drawn from the beach in Maryland to San Francisco, California with breaks in New Jersey, Idaho, and of course my home in PA. It was worked in around a full time job, many speaking engagements, meetings and life in general. The drawings were scanned in my studio, painted on my laptop and animated back in the studio. It was created early in the morning and in those “extra moments” throughout the day.

The project was massive and I questioned my wisdom on many occasions. I don’t know that I will take something like this on again but I am glad I did it and tonight I feel a sense of accomplishment and can acknowledge that many prayers have been answered.

My elephant has been eaten and I am glad to have eaten it. You do have time in your day. It may not be those wonderful big blocks of studio time that we all love, but you do have time. As artists, our conditions are rarely ideal. We can either give up or we can make it work. Sometimes we all have to eat the elephant.

Take it on!