Along with being an independent artist comes freedom. Freedom to control what you do with your time. But with this comes a very real trap that can ensnare even the most dedicated among us. Wasted time. When your days are open and you are the only person calling the shots when it comes to what you do with all those hours, it is all too easy to fritter away hours on things that aren’t helping you move ahead.
We live in an era of distraction. It’s fair to say that modern life is based on distraction and it is productivity that has to fight for our attention. The entire world is at our fingertips on the computer or phone, there are thousands of television channels standing ready to whisk you away, and of course a universe of non-tech distractions that have been perennial time killers.
So how do you begin to combat all these temptations luring you away from the studio and your growing business?
One way to start is to take inventory of how you spend your time. To do this you need to be honest with yourself. Take a look at how you spend your days, keep a journal for a couple of days and read back through. Be meticulous about marking down start and end times.
If doing things the old fashioned way seems too difficult and, well, time-consuming, and especially if you are the sort who (like many of us these days) tends to lose track of time while engaging with technology, consider using an app or software to track your time.
Moment is an app designed by a 25-year-old who was curious about his own time usage on the iPhone. Like many, when his design was up and running he was quite surprised to discover that his time spent on mindless phone activity was nearly double his initial estimation.
Checky and Menthal are other apps that track your iPhone activity delivering a strictly empirical and possibly quite stark report of exactly where you’re losing time to the wiles of social media and the like.
For the computer, there is a program called Rescue Time that does the same thing. As you sit and work, Rescue Time constantly monitors your activity. Take a five-minute break to check in on Facebook? Rescue Time logs it in. Take another, and another? There’s no getting around hard data.
Once you have a clear picture of how you are spending (or perhaps wasting) your time, give some thought to how you would like to be using your time. Write it down. Make a schedule or a list or a collage, whatever works for you, but get it on paper so you have a reference to work with. Build in everything, even the time wasters, and start prioritizing.
Moment can help you in this next step, too. You can tell the app how much time you want to allow for iPhone related mindlessness. Plug in your allotted time and the app sends you a notification when the time is up. Of course, after that, it’s up to you to self-regulate and give up the surfing for the rest of the day. Over time, you’ll learn to work with the hours you’ve got.
Making a daily or weekly schedule is another way to make sure you stay on track. Begin by listing all of the things you need to get done in any given timeframe. Prioritize them and estimate how much time you need to devote to each one. Block out a schedule including everything from studio time to online marketing, any grants you may be working on, social engagements, openings, day to day tasks like cleaning and meals, all of it. Though it might sound fussy, doing things this way–at least in the beginning–will start giving you a picture of just how much time you need for all of your activities.
Another way to ensure you aren’t wasting time is to build in regular unscheduled hours. Although it may seem counterintuitive, allowing yourself to completely unplug from the need to work is a great way to refresh and keep you on track. You’ll come back with the energy to dive back in and get good work done.
Being your own boss means that there is no one to answer to. No one to tell you how to do things, or when they need to be done. It also means that you–and only you–are accountable for your time. As a small business owner, time wasted is money lost. While you certainly don’t have to be a total taskmaster, working yourself relentlessly day in and day out, it is important to have a handle on how you should be using time as opposed to how you’re actually using it.