Time Management for Creative Types?

I'm a SAHM and a part-time graphic designer/digital artist for the digital scrapbooking industry. I'm at my wit's end because I have allowed the artistic job to overshadow my other responsibilities. As in, I can't drag myself away from the computer some days. I'd like to institute a better time management system so I can dump some of this guilt eating away at me, but I don't want a book that's geared toward meetings and office stuff. I work from my home, I'm my own boss, and I really want to be a success at both my roles. What do you recommend I read/try? Thanks for any suggestions.

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PCEO stuff!

Check out the various items on this site:

These things are created by a creative self-employed fellow, so would most likely fit into your style of work also. For me, they are really good for blocking out my time. I use the Emergent Task Planner forms, and the online Electronic Emergent Task Tracker.

How I use them. First thing in the morning, I plan out what I need to work on that day, large-project-wise. and write them down on the top right of the ETP form. Then I decide how many hours I will devote to each of my projects. I then block their respective times onto the vertical column on the left. I then fire up the electronic Task Tracker to gong out my 15 min. intervals. When my time for a particular project is up, I move on to whatever is next in the vertical time column on the left. As I work, and the time gongs, I mark off the time in the top-right side. If I was able to work without distraction (phone call, etc.) I fill it in. If I got interrupted, I put a long slash through it. This gives me a sense of my progress. Plus, the 15 minute reminders help keep me on task.

On the bottom, right of the ETP is a blankish spot. In there, I write any quick tasks, todos, and also as an "inbox" for phone call notes, or items that pop into my head that could turn into interruptions if I let them. In other words, my mind emptier/distraction-removal system. I write it down quick, making tasks out of them if necessary. I also typically block out 15 minute blocks between large projects to work on those.

Doing all the above, I can get myself through a project, and also, as a reward, have free time blocked to get up, off the computer, and out and about. It's been working now for me since the end of January. I'm a "retentive" type, and still have all my old ETP forms filed in a Circa book. ;-) It can't hurt to give it a whirl...


Emergent Task Planner link

I should have added a direct link to the Emergent Task Planner page. Here's an update to the latest form, and a link to the original page:

Also, I forgot to mention that I reduced his full-page version to a half-page size, for use in a Junior Circa.


These things are created by

These things are created by a creative self-employed fellow, so would most likely fit into your style of work also.

I looked at these forms but couldn't understand how he was using them. Perhaps too much creative? I've got the PCEO bookmarked but I, for one, would need some convincing of his methodology before trying to use them. Maybe it's just that my work-style is differenct from his.

The idea....

behind the Task Planner is to force yourself to work in larger blocks of time. You use the top-left quadrant both for general planning, and for marking off your accomplished time. the column on the left is for the specific time blocking.

So, say you have three projects to complete today. You write there names under the "Big Important Tasks for the Day". Next to them, you would "tick off" the time you want to spend. I use a mark directly above the little ovals. So, if you expect to work two hours on project 01, you put a tick after the second hour's ovals.

For project 02, you repeat, and the same for project 03.

Next, you go to the vertical columns, and decide what hours you want to work on these three projects. First I mark down the hours of the day. I typically start w/9am, putting lunch around 1pm. I then draw a simple line down the column to show what hours. In the lines to the right of the time column, I write the 2 digit number corresponding to the project on the left, so, my first big project, labeled "01" would have a 01 next to it's alloted time in the time column. I work it down that way. BTW, I don't always put my 01 project first in the day. Sometimes, I put it later in the day. This isn't a prioritized list. More what comes to your head first. :-)

In your case, maybe you have one or two big projects, and you don't want to work more than 5 hours today. Maybe you want to work 3 hours on one project and 2 on the other. Mark off those time blocks in the time column, and make sure you work on those two projects in those hours you chose. When done, you put those projects away, etc. One other thing I do is that I try not to allow myself to work beyond the allotted time--even if interrupted. I would keep working to midnight some days, if I allowed myself. :-) So, since you are a stay-at-home mom, probably with children, you may want to allot more time than necessary to make up for the inevitable breaks. I know that when I work at home, my youngest daughter (newly 3) is my biggest time sink. She wants to sit on my lap, and then wants some peanuts, and then asks for my "train" (an N-scale loco and caboose that sits on my bookshelf that she loves to play with), and _really_ slows down my work. ;-) So, when I work at home, I allot an extra 30 min to hour just for her.

For me, the biggest benefit of the forms is to keep me on-task. Add an
"inbox" to empty my brain of essential items to work on later, and I'm good to go.

Oh, one more thing I forgot. I played with this for a week--forced myself to use this system for a week. After a couple days, I finally figured out how I wanted it to work, and since then, it's been a breeze. Maybe you just need to give it some time... However, knowing more how you need it to work might help with suggestions. I guess that's why I've shared so much on how _I_ use it, so you can see how someone uses it in real life. In any case, HTH...



That looks like just the thing to get me started. I'm looking forward to reading his articles about procrastination and productivity too. I wonder, though, how well those kinds of "project related" forms will work on ongoing tasks, such as housework. 'Cause you know, the minute I check "wash dishes" off my list, someone decides to make a messy snack. This is actually one of the things my husband and I knock heads about, as his household chores tend to be projects (install flooring, plant flowers, etc) and mine are the endless ones (scrub toilet, then scrub it again, and then after a day or two scrub it again). Any thoughts on managing those kinds of tasks?


For the housework, you may want to check out flylady.net. All kinds of good stuff there. Since finding that site, my wife and I have got it to the point that we can usually have the house clean enough to have guests over in 15 minutes!

As for the project related time management stuff, two things that have helped me out were "Getting Things Done" and "The Now Habit". The two compliment each other very well. I realize GTD is a little office-centric, but it still has some great ideas. Break up projects into bite sized tasks and then do them. The Now Habit mentions (almost in passing) that the only thing you should really ever be focused on with your todo list is your next action. When you've got some time to work on a project, just start in and give 30 minutes to the next task on your project.


I'm afraid I'm not much help...

with household chores. In our family, we have three children old enough to help. Every morning (we home school) we have "sektor" time, where everyone has a section of the house they are responsible for cleaning and picking up. Beyond that, we all take turns with kitchen chores, etc. But with three older children, it's easier than if you have younger children who can make messes, but not clean them up!

Funnily enough, however, our youngest (the 3 yr old) likes to "help" often making more work. Just yesterday, she saw her mom putting out a couple tablecloths for company today. She opened our drawer full of older, grungy tea towels we use for spills, and went to all the dining room chairs, and living room tables, and neatly set out these towels as "table cloths". What to do? ;-)


Oh for the day...

Mine are 8 and 5 and make more messes than they clean up, so I'll just have to wait patiently for the day the ratio begins to balance. :D Your system sounds awesome.

8 is a good age to begin

Actually, we started pretty young, but at 8, is about when their help can first become genuine help--not much, but something. ;-) and yes, it's more work at first. :-D


I hear you!

My girls are 7 and 9 and for the most part are good helpers. They pick up thier own rooms and make their beds, will vacuum, empty trash cans, collect laundry, etc. Overall they are very useful to have around! Now if they'd just get old enough to mow the lawn or shovel snow, I could retire!

The Reester
I never finish anyth



You might try Julie Morgenstern's Time Management from the Inside Out. There are lots of things you can use no matter what your work situation is. She has some practical examples from the cubicle corner as well as from a fine artist whose days are totally self-structured, like yours.

I think she has more examples from the cubicle corner than from other ways of living, but even someone who works wholly within the home would find something of value there, IMHO.


I second this one

I read Julie's books and while I found them to be not-so-useful for myself, I thibk they are more the non-corporate approach you are looking for. They were interesting adn well written - worth the time to read them, IMO.

She also has a plan for mapping your time, as one of the other posts above pointed to, and estimating time to plan your day.

The Reester
I never finish anyth

Unmanageable people

My favorite book on time management is "Time Management for Unmanageable People," by Ann McGee - Cooper. I think I've even mentioned that book on this form before. It has lots of pictures and even a flip cartoon on the top right corner. The author talks about not trying to use left-brain systems for right-brain people. She has a lot of suggestions for setting up systems for people with a more spacial orientation (like those who like having piles of stuff on every flat surface because if you put it away it no longer exists). The idea is not to modify how people work and think to fit a system, but to fit a system to the way people work and think. She is also the one who said you should change planning systems periodically to keep boredom at bay. For that permission alone, she gets my A+ rating.

at Amazon

Great Help For You

Hi Cindy,

There's a book that I can recommend, don't worry cause it's not that thick, and not geared towards meetings and office stuff. This is not just for time management. but as well for productivity and exploration of new lifestyle design.

Check this at http://davidseah.com/archives/2007/04/18/a-review-of-tim-fer...

And you can order this at http://snipurl.com/1ilc1.

Hope you'll find this interesting and would help you a lot. Let me hear your feedback.

Good luck!

This helps a lot

Big thanks to everyone who commented and offered suggestions. I'm working my way through the PCEO articles, and I started using the Emergent Task Tracker yesterday...that one's pretty nifty. Just knowing that I'm going to write down what I did for each 15 minute increment is pretty motivating by itself. :D I'm also going to pull out my Julie Morgenstern books, which are on a shelf somewhere, so thanks for reminding me of those as well.

Thanks everyone!