Over the past year (The Wonder Jam turns 1 in May!) we have learned a lot. A LOT….
One of the harshest realities is that creativity blooms when given rails. When rails don’t exist, time creeps into everything and productivity/creativity/momentum crawls.
You Need a Trellis
Imagine your processes, systems and tools and as a trellis.
Without a trellis, your vines can’t flourish in the direction you want them to grow. A trellis is your system that allows the organic, creative energy to flourish, play and grow in the direction you want it to.
Todd Henry talks about setting up “rails.”
“It takes intentionality to engage with creative projects on our own time – [rails] don’t just make themselves.” From the Accidental Creative Podcast episode #143 “Rails.” Listen here.
Why Small Tasks Need Batched
Multi-tasking is a lie. Yes, a simple graphic MAY only take 7 minutes to create, but what is it interrupting? That interruption costs you anywhere between 15-45 minutes depending on what research you read. The point is this: switching between dis-similar tasks acts like a multiplier for interruptions.
We can finish a weeks worth of work for 1 client in 4 hours. But if you break that into 10 minute tasks sprinkled throughout the week, it eats up hours & hours of creative time. The same is true for you. If you disagree, you’re wrong….
The Solution: Batching Small Tasks
This image illustrates the amount of interruption email plays into your day. It’s pretty clear which allows you the most time to focus on a single, creative task. Since switching between tasks requires AT LEAST 15 minutes of lost focus, you can see how the first column can rob you of ALL of your day simply with email.
The System: What We Do
Allie and I (Adam) each have a different personal system (but they’re very similar). Allie LOVES pencil and paper for her daily to-do list where I prefer to keep my to-do list online and accessible from all my devices.
1. Capture All Inputs
I put everything into Evernote OR Todoist. Ideas go in Evernote, reminders to go Todoist. That’s it. If I write something down that I want to remember, I’ll snag a photo for Evernote or set a task reminder to transfer the notes to digital copies.
2. Educate Those You Work With
I recently added a signature to the bottom of all of my emails alerting folks that email isn’t the way to get me urgent information.
It’s easy to get frustrated with others who don’t work on YOUR system, so you have to EDUCATE them. You can’t expect clients, contractors and friends to read your mind.
3. Take Control of Your Schedule
When I’m out of town, I’m going to be harder to reach. Same for the weekends. Same for 11pm. There’s an amount of difficulty that should exist. At any given time, The Wonder Jam has 10-20 clients in a multitude of timezones and with varying levels of need. The only way we can make sure they’re all happy and rocking and moving forward is to make dang sure we’re operating very, very efficiently.
Here’s a few tips:
- I use Calendly to reduce the amount of annoying emails back and forth. Calendly isn’t the only way to do this, it’s just the one I use. It integrates with Google Calendar which is The Wonder Jam’s system.
- I only make Tuesday & Thursday open for meetings. This doesn’t go for client meetings or project meetings, but anything outside of that is pushed into Tuesday or Thursday.
- I limit the number of meetings I have per week. Calendly makes this easy.
- Not everything needs in-person meetings (few things actually do). Phone calls tend to be shorter than coffee shop meetings and more likely to stay on-point. Emails work great for getting tweaks and feedback and approval. Meet when you need to, phone call when you need to and email when you need to. Knowing which is best and most effective for you and your clients will give you energy, momentum, freedom and more creative power.
4. Batch Small Tasks
I spend an hour each Wednesday reviewing and planning for financials. The Wonder Jam spends 3 hours at the beginning of each Monday checking in our where projects are headed, what’s coming up over the next 7-21 days (nothing beyond that). I schedule 3 chunks of 30 minutes to handle email processing (emails then get shifted to a Todoist, project management software or into Evernote).
You can see that I’ve already taken a few routine tasks that need to happen and we’ve batched them into a few specific windows. They’ll get taken care of, but they don’t sneak into my day.
Also, we batch our clients’ small tasks. Rather than designing social media graphics every day for our clients, we batch them into their own time each week. If a client emails us 3 ideas or pieces of information a day all week long, that’s OK. We just set aside a chunk of time, one day a week to process through all of that.
This is invaluable. It allows each client to get focused, creative energy from us. It allows them to send us things whenever they want, but we do the work on our time.
Fly! Run! Soar!
We stay efficient. We keep our hours manageable and – most importantly – we enjoy it more!