The greatest challenge in the freelance / entrepreneurial / creative existence is TIME. We have already talked a lot about it but there is always more to discuss, I believe. Lately there has seemed less of it than usual and I have found myself needing to re-evaluate where I am spending my time. But this isn’t just a case of saying “no” to a bunch things – although a great read is “My Year of Saying No” by Ruth Amos (who also happens to be my sister). There are things we have to do. Things we want to do. Things we need to do, even if we don’t want to. Things we should do, even though we often put them off. So I have started considering my buckets.
List of buckets:
- Writing / Deep Work Time
- Time with my person (and children if you have them)
- Taking care of current clients
- Meeting with potential new clients
- Quality Networking – finding new potential clients
- Health – for me: yoga & walking every day
- Creative refill/Artist Date/Non-work Creative Explorations
- Quality Time with friends/family
- Personal / Nothing Time – fun, watching tele, a hobby, mental break
- Administrative work – bills, taxes, life &work organization
- Giving Back
When a request for my time comes in, I think about what bucket(s) it belongs to and whether I need more in that bucket, or if we are currently at capacity. Some buckets are bigger than others, or a regular size but need daily filling. Deep work, Exercise, and Time with my guy are prioritized. Gotta work, gotta stay healthy, gotta nurture the thing that makes the world go round. (That’s love, people. Love.)
Quality networking takes a bit of work to identify and can be the hardest to do. It is also often stressful, exhausting and sometimes the furthest bucket from your comfort zone. But it is SO important and can be greatly rewarding. Last week I had the opportunity to hang with a bunch of great filmmakers but it was going to require me going ALL THE WAY TO THE WESTSIDE and involved a commitment of an entire evening during a dense work week. I am SO glad I went. It was a brilliant time. But it took effort, some mental/emotional self-convincing, and it was an excellent reminder to take good care of that bucket. It is worth the sacrifice to keep it at capacity.
Sometimes doing a two-for-one can help with time management. Getting your Creative Refill while also having Quality Time with Friends. Combing both those with Education – like attending a workshop or panel. I also think a few of the buckets can cope with a break for a season. You can have seasons in your life when you spend a lot of time giving back, volunteering and contributing to your community, and then periods when this bucket can remain completely empty because your focus needs to be on the Deep Work, or the Family bucket needs more of your attention. There are times where you don’t see your friends very much. I don’t recommend doing that too often but it is reasonable sometimes – always good to give your friends the heads up though.
Don’t abandon buckets; instead mindfully put them on hold.
Sometimes you are so busy with current work it is hard to find time to invest in new collaborative relationships or taking care of other current clients. Be careful there. It is so challenging but you always have to be looking ahead. This is where the balancing act becomes tricky. But we cannot afford to only focus on what is directly in front of us. Take care of those buckets that are an investment in your future. Same thing goes for that pesky Admin bucket. You can really screw yourself if you ignore that one. It is the least sexy bucket (unless you are a crazy person like me who adores organizing) but it will help you with pretty much every other bucket if you take care of it.
Having that down time is so important. Especially if your job is creating – composing, writing, animating – the brain needs a moment to recharge so it can keep popping out new ideas. A new friend of mine talked about Indoor Cat days: time where you don’t need to leave the house and you can just stay home and recharge. Those days are truly exquisite. For me that is TODAY!
I have had a really busy week. I definitely had some Deep Work time (but frustratingly not enough). I had some quality time with friends this week, did quality networking twice, took care of current clients, saw some fantastic live music, which was also a time where I could support and spend time with friends – a two-fer!. But today I am not seeing ANYONE (except my guy, and my cats). I am going to be doing Deep Work, having some nothing time which will probably involve cooking, tele watching and maybe even some sewing, and then getting exercise and writing this blog. I have been looking forward to this day All Week!
So, my friends, think carefully about your buckets, and how you want to fill them. Curate your precious time, be deliberate in your choices and most importantly: please take care of yourself.