Whether you’re a creativepreneur or not, chances are we can all agree on one thing: there simply isn’t enough time in a day to get everything done and get enough sleep and still have a life. But we all continue try to make it work and, if we’re lucky, sometimes we can strike just the right balance. It’s all about making your time work for you, rather than letting it control you.
There are some hours you don’t have a whole lot of control over–work and sleep, mostly–but how you decide to spend your off-hours is key. Spending time with the people you love should be first and foremost, but what about those other goals of yours, like reading for personal and professional development or learning a new hobby or tackling a project you’ve been putting off for too long?
Here are some tips for streamlining your processes and taking advantage of your “free time” so that you can take charge of your creative learning and hobbies:
Track the time you’re wasting and reallocate it.
If you’re like me and you treat your phone as an extension of your arm, you’re likely spending too much time on it, mindlessly scrolling through the same content over and over just because it’s there. Sometimes realizing how much time you devote to your devices is enough of a shock factor to get you to unplug. Download the app Moment (developed by my childhood neighbor, Kevin!) and track your use for an entire day, week, or month. You can even set limits or reminders for yourself and your family members so you can make time for the offline moments that really matter.
Or if you’re worried about your desktop usage, try Toggl, a time tracking app that generates reports on how you spend your time. It’s great for group projects, too, and for billable hours. There’s a free version for up to five people.
Or you can go old school and keep a log of your time usage in a notebook or in Evernote. :)
Once you have a better understanding of how you’re spending your time, you can reallocate it for doing the things that really matter to you. Still have trouble unplugging? Try the UNICEF Tap Project that gives back while you step back. Brilliant!
Pro tip: Spend way less time sorting through your inboxes by cleaning them up with Unroll.me! Use it to unsubscribe from all those lists you never meant to get on and to roll up all of your promotional emails into one daily or weekly digest.
Delegate specific amounts of time for each task on your to do list.
Set a specific amount of time to each task on your to-do list and stick to it. For example, between 1-2 p.m., work on blog posts, but at 2 p.m. switch to your next task. Whatever you don’t get done, set it aside for a miscellaneous hour or for the following day. Naturally, prioritize for the more time-sensitive projects. I use Google Calendar at work and it makes switching from task to task easy to keep track of if I’m working on the computer.
My mom has always used a “15 on, 15 off” strategy while cleaning the house and it has stuck with me. By delegating time for unenjoyable or boring tasks, they get done a lot faster, even if you’re taking breaks in between.
Download the task manager app 30/30 to set times for each of your tasks with a user-friendly interface. It encourages you to focus on the task at hand and rewards you with activities of your choice. AND it feels more like a game than an endless list of to-dos!
Listen to podcasts. (+1 if you listen while exercising or commuting!)
Podcasts are seriously all-the-rage right now. And I can’t say that’s a bad thing! It’s awesome to see different mediums pop up and I love that podcasts give you the ability to learn and be entertained, often while multitasking. Find some podcasts of interest (my favorites right now are Being Boss and Elise Gets Crafty, though there’s a million more on my list to check out) and treat them like a special reward for all of your hard work during the work day.
Though I go through an internal struggle when I have to choose between listening to a podcast and jamming out to my favorite tunes in the car, recently podcasts have been winning. By listening to podcasts, I know I’m feeding my creative soul during my morning or evening commutes instead of spending it strategically pressing next on my Spotify, hoping I won’t reach my five skip max before I reach a song I like. (I know I’m not the only free user who experiences this kind of pain!)
If you want to feel like a true boss at life, try listening to a podcast while exercising. Two great things for yourself at one time?! #winning. When I wore my Pivotal Living band, I would rack up my remaining steps on the treadmill, all while listening to how creatives kick ass at their businesses. I felt invincible.
Make reading a priority.
If you take a look at some of the best and most successful startups and companies in the world, you’ll likely find a strong emphasis on education and, more specifically, on reading. For example, Buffer and I Will Teach You to be Rich both list having access to as many books as one pleases as one of their company benefits given to all employees. Simply put, the most successful people read a lot.
Anne of Modern Mrs. Darcy (who I recently listed as one of 10 creatives who rock) gives some fantastic tips on how to make time for reading–and she has four kids! In her post, she suggests you choose good books and read several books simultaneously, among other great ideas. I’m still working on the latter, but I think that could be key for me!
I find that selecting a nice variety of fiction (or whatever genre of “easy reading” you prefer) and non-fiction or professional development helps to balance out my reading so I can stay interested and engaged (instead of reading multiple professional development books in a row).
Attend or Participate in “Fun” Networking Events.
If you are already spending your time scrolling on social media, you might as well make it work in your benefit! Participate in a Twitter chat during your free time and you’ll be using that hour for building connections, learning more about your industry, sharing your expertise, and establishing collaborations that will serve you long after the chat has ended. I have been fortunate to spend some time on Kayla Hollatz’s #createlounge and Elle & Company’s #ellechat and I always feel incredibly fired up afterward! I’ve made some fantastic creative friends and discovered so many new blogs, resources, and tips simply by joining in the fun. Keep up with the fast pace by using TweetDeck.
Get out of the house and attend a unique networking event that is at a cool location, hosted by an interesting company or organization, or features a fun activity. For example, if you were already planning on getting happy hour with your best friend, why not drag her to a networking happy hour hosted by that killer start up in your city? Clink glasses with some other cool and intelligent people for an hour and then go on your merry way! Force yourself to mingle every once in a while and you’ll be surprised at how many worthwhile connections you can make and how many ideas for cool projects you start to come up with. I highly recommend you see if there is a local Levo League chapter in your area!
Give these ideas a try and see how much more productive you can be with your off-hours! What other hacks can you suggest to help make the most of your time off-the-clock? I’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments!