In a previous column, I briefly mentioned working smarter, not harder. One of the things that I find difficult to manage at times is what to do first. You get so many things on your plate, you only have so many hours in the day, yet you are expected to complete everything NOW! When you have conflicting commitments and you canít really drop them, how do you work out what to do first, and what to push to the bottom of the list?
First and foremost, have some way of keeping track of everything you have to do. Thereís nothing worse than finding an email you forgot to answer... a year or two later. Iím guilty of that; in fact I know Iíve got a couple of way overdue tasks on my list! This is my way of working things out.
Paid work should always come first! If you are a professional, you need to treat your paying customers like gold. They are your bread and butter. Being slow is ok, as long as you keep communications open and tell them youíre going to be slow. But never take money and renege on your contract or sale. Itís going to be hell on your reputation, and nothing travels faster than bad news!
If you have two tasks of equal importance and oneís been in your in-tray longer, thatís the one that probably deserves your attention first. However, if itís hanging around for ages -- like months -- maybe you should reconsider doing that task at all.
If you canít decide between two tasks, allot an hour to each task. Just start something! Flip a coin if you seriously canít decide. But if they are of equal value, have been there for the same time, donít waste time working out which one you should do... that time spent thinking could be time spent working!
The job that pays more bills is the one with the highest priority. Being an artist is important to me, but my day job pays all the niggly things like my mortgage and for foodĖ so Iím not going to screw up that because I was up all hours painting! (Says the girl up til midnight painting midweek *ahem*).
If a task seems too hard or you know that you are never going to get to it, you are entitled to boot it out the door. Donít keep it on the list; there is seriously no point. Iím not saying you shouldnít try to do difficult things, you just have to know when to let things go.
If a task looks like itís going to suck the life out of you and take forever, see if you can break it down into smaller tasks. An hour of sketching is a little more manageable than having to draw 50 line art pieces.
Stuff youíve bartered for should be treated the same as paid work. No one hates another artist who receives a trade and reneges on their promise. Itís just not cool. Donít do it.
Do fun tasks after youíve done the Ďworkí stuff first. Use it as a proverbial carrot (or in my case chocolate). If you do all the fun stuff first, youíre only left with boring, tedious things that will seem to take forever and ever and ever and... so try and organise your tasks using this theory.
Do 5 minute jobs NOW! Donít procrastinate. Knock them over and get them out of the way.
Be able to live with your decisions. Recognise that in order to do things well, you have to focus on one thing at a time!
And above all, learn to live with the fact that there are only so many hours in the day, only so much work one poor little trooper can do before they keel over, and that you are not in fact a superhero that can do 12 things at the one time. It just isnít possible! As much as we would like it to be!
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