Time Management Musings to Help Keep Focussed

Hello! I’ve had a pretty positive week which has felt really nice after my rather cathartic blog of last week (We All Struggle At Times). I’m starting to look forwards now and feel there’s a slight shift in my attitude. This week’s achievements involve getting things printed for the future (whisper it *christmas*) and so have been happily and a little frantically designing a calendar and various marketing materials to take me into the next few months. Admittedly I haven’t actually designed any overtly Christmas products yet but turning to face the later half of the year is a big step forwards!

Like many creatives I’m teeming with ideas and sometimes get a little flustered and overwhelmed trying to put them into practice. I’ve been having a think on paper planning out the next few months – starting backwards from the ideal results so I know what I need to do and how and when I need to get there. It’s quite amazing how early you need to start to get things ready for the Christmas frenzy. Luckily for me I sell through some amazing independent stockists who all have wonderfully supportive and organised owners who nudge me along in the right direction. Even though I might want to dispute the fact, deadlines are vitally important to me for providing that helpful rocket up the bum when it’s all too easy to mosey along taking my time.

I find it helpful when overwhelmed and lacking in focus to create various methods of using my time – this can change day by day. I don’t know about you but motivation and focus can feel very different on any two days so it’s good to have an armoury of tools at your disposal to see you through in the most effective way to suit your current mindset. Yesterday, for example, I HAD to get my printing order finished by midnight to take advantage of a discount. As I said earlier, I had been working on this print order on and off through the week but all Saturday night when back from visiting my parents during the day, and all of Sunday, I was ON IT!! The method I used which proved really effective was to design at the computer for half an hour, then go and do something else for half an hour, using a timer on my phone to keep me on track. This kept my eyes and head from fuzzing up like they often do when I’m at the computer for too long, and also kept my work fresh as each time I came back to it new from doing something else I needed or wanted to do. Sometimes when I don’t give myself boundaries like this I tend to just work through for long stretches at a time and come blinking and stumbling out the other end pretty useless for doing anything! And I do admit to groaning and not wanting to move away quite often when the timer goes off – luckily I forced myself to do it! It’s based on the Pomodoro method, which was developed in the 1980’s by Francesco Cirillo, and the idea is to set a timer and work for 25 minutes then take a short 3-5 minute break, repeat, then on the 4th time take a longer break of 10-15 mins. Then back again to 25 on, short break off. I use this technique quite often but varying the length of time on/off topic.

When I’m really scatty but faced with 3 million things to do at once, I’ll work for 5 mins on one thing, then 5 mins on another for 4-6 tasks, then have a short break, before starting the next round of 10 mins for the same tasks, then 15mins, and so on. It really does work and helps to get, then maintain, focus. It also helps to calm me as I feel as though I’m getting all my numerous tasks done, rather than them jostling before me in an unruly & undisciplined manner! Conversely, if I’m getting really tired but still need to concentrate, I might gradually DEcrease the time each task is done for eg 20 mins, then 15, 10, 5. This enables me to give what energy I’ve got without sitting there staring into space in a useless way because I’ve lost it! I do have a myriad of methods I use and might share some over the next few blogs – they could help you too, or at least suggest a way of doing something to you I’ve not mentioned.

Well, at the moment I’m on half hour on/half hour off, and have got 13 minutes left. This blog, like its predecessor last week, may be a little rambling; but right now I’m getting to grips with just “showing up” and “doing it”. I don’t know if you’re aware of James Clear at all? He’s an author who writes a lot about habits and motivation and he is brilliant! I’ve picked up so many useful tips from his weekly newsletter and his recent book, Atomic Habits. I can’t recommend his work highly enough! Link to his articles here on showing up, deliberate practice, and putting the reps in which can be more effective in implementing a regular routine of, say, writing a blog, than by striving to have the best idea or content as a muse – which may never come. The idea is that by sitting down to write this blog, I’m reinforcing the good habit of being a blogger, and that by repeatedly doing this my craft will hone, shape and improve as I practice! So, apologies again if my writing style is not all it could be, and my subjects meander and veer off on tangents! It’s a bit of a thought process but one I’m really enjoying. Stop reading any time you’ve had enough!

Well I’m signing off now after keeping to time (yay!!) and will show some of the results of my printathon on social media over the next week or so. Hopefully I will get delivery on Thursday. I must say I’m very excited to see my calendar – I really, really hope it’s all worked out ok!

Speak soon, Karen, Millie Moth x

PS My alarm has literally JUST gone off. How’s that for timing?!

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