Mastering the Art of Time Management

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If there’s only one certainty in life, it’s this: time can’t be given back. Once you use it, it’s gone. Time is a precious, non-tangible idea that controls the work world. Deadlines, how many projects you can tackle, how much overtime you need to work—it’s all dictated by time. So for those of us not wanting to work overtime every week, time management is a must. But like anything else, time management is a skill that must be learned and mastered. Here’s how we have conquered time and become ridiculously efficient at what we do best: create stuff.

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Post-It Notes, Calendars & Reminders

Clients come to Black Bear for small copywriting projects, big website design and development projects and a lot of graphic design projects. We thoroughly enjoy working on these kinds of projects, but let’s be honest, writing a blog post isn’t going to take nearly as much time as creating a website from scratch will. I can usually knock out a blog post in a day. Our designers? No way could they create a masterpiece in a day! So how do they stay motivated and on track with projects that have deadlines three months in the future? They go old school.

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You’d think that sticky notes would be long gone by now what with the ability to take notes, set reminders and access our calendars on our smartphones. Yet here we are, and we couldn’t be happier that these yellow pads are still around. Our entire lives revolve around jotting down notes and reminders on sticky notes! We can quickly write down an idea that popped into our heads, write down a reminder that the audit meeting takes place tomorrow or simply doodle when we need a break. These notes, in addition to calendar reminders, keep us on track and enable us to remember what we’re supposed to be doing. We rarely miss details or let things slip through the cracks, all thanks to reminders and notes.

Honey-Do Lists

In case the excessive use of sticky notes didn’t indicate that we need to write stuff down to be super productive, our use of to-do lists certainly will. Each and every one of us is working on six different projects at a time, so when I ask Tony to give me feedback on a blog post, chances are, he’ll likely forget to do so. We’re all busy, but use a great system to ensure we get stuff done.

I prefer to write everything down, so I come in early every morning to create a to-do list for the day. We all use a project management system that creates tasks for us, which is essentially a high-tech to-do list. Utilizing these to-do lists allows us to focus on what needs to get done today and what can wait until next week. We recommend getting a planner or notebook to set up to-do lists.

Turn it Around

We haven’t personally tested this one out, but Hubspot’s reverse to-do list is definitely on our list of must-dos. The idea is to create a plan based on a deadline (this works best with deadlines that are further out). They create milestones that lead to the end result. For example, if they’re publishing a white paper, they work backwards to see what needs to get done by certain days. First would be the actual publishing of content, then editing, then drafting, then preparation and finally the project idea. It seems backwards, but that’s how it’s supposed to be to help identify a timeline to stick to!

Help Me!

If there’s one person in the office that knows all the details of every project, it’s our project manager. She is a go-to resource for any questions we have and helps keep us all on track. Instead of wasting time trying to find the right word for a blog post or spending time digging through emails to find what the client said about a color choice, we all utilize each other and ask for help. It’s better to ask for help than waste a lot of time trying to figure something out on your own. We’re not saying you should rely solely on your PM, but don’t spend more than a minute trying to find something or mind reading the client’s needs.

Take a Second to Breathe

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The stress of meeting deadlines and exceeding client expectations can definitely take its toll on us all. To ensure that we remain productive all day, we take frequent breaks and joke around quite a bit. Whether that’s grabbing lunch outside of the office, making a QuikTrip run or just going on a walk around the building, we all take breaks. Research has shown that people tend to be more productive when they work reasonable hours (less than 50/week) and take breaks. We’ve mastered this!

When we come back from lunch or a QT run, we’re feeling reenergized and ready to refocus that energy on our work. Not only does this help us get our work done, we’re motivated instead of stressed. Who knew that taking a break from work would make us all so productive!

We encourage you to try a few of these strategies and see how they work for you. Time management is all about having strategies that enable you to focus and not let the day simply slip away. Do you have any strategies you currently practice that have made a positive impact on your work?

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