We only have so many hours each day and it seems like the to do list just keeps getting bigger and bigger. As a full-time artist, a part-time employee at an art supply store, a full-time owner/ operator of a local artists collective, a partner to a wonderful human being as well as being a cat mom I can tell you firsthand that my to do list could fill up the entire chalkboard of any college professors classroom.
People always ask me "how do you do it?" in reference to keeping everything in motion and organized... so I figured I would share my schedule hack with you all. For me, I use a paper calendar (old school, I know) but when I have tried to store things onto cell phone calendars or apps, I just couldn't get things to flow. If I physically write something down, I usually can recall it mentally and if I am foggy on the details, I still can almost always remember that I have something booked for a particular date if I wrote it - even if what it is (in the moment) escapes me.
Tip # 1 - I work backwards
I work backwards, it's a trick I learned when I used to plan weddings at a fancy pants hotel.
For example. If I were to have an art show installation on 11/01 at 12pm.
I would block off that time on my calendar, then I would determine when I would need to follow up with the artists to confirm them into the show and collect their contracts, so for me that would be at least a week before (10/25) I'd physically write on that date in my planner to "follow up for art show install/confirm artists and get contracts."
For bigger projects, its so easy to stay organized when you work backwards because you can block out days to meet people, when you should be posting about an event on social media, when to follow up with clients/artists... for me all of this is related to Fringe stuff and show planning but you can easily morph this into whatever you do.
Here is an example:
If you are an artist and you want to apply to art fairs.
Find the date of the fair - put it on the calendar.
Find out the app cut off - put it on your calendar.
NOW from the application cut off, go back a few dates so that you have time to prep for the app... give yourself a week or whatever amount of time you need.
From this date, the prep for the app date, block off time to create new products for the fair as well as promote that your going to be there.
Seeing my calendar fill up (and it will fill up fast if your doing this for all of your projects) gives me the ability to realistically say YES to new opportunities and it allows me to see that I have to say NO to something. It gives me the power to determine what I want to make a priority and adjust if I need/want to.
Tip #2 - I don't carry my planner with me
This sounds ridiculous, but I rarely carry my planner with me because I never want to make a commitment in the moment. I have learned the hard way that saying yes during a meeting or while on the phone with someone is not always wise. By rarely having my planner in hand, it forces me to truly think about the opportunity and determine if its something I should actually take on. It gives me that breathing room, that pause - the much needed reflection time I require to think through the process and all of my other obligations before I ink it into my planner pages.
I rarely say YES in discussion because I'd rather make sure that what I want to say yes to can be achieved successfully and that it will not create stress or be completed in a lackluster way. If that's the case, then it's obvious I should say no.
Tip #3 - I plan for down time
This is a new thing for me. Recently a lightbulb went off and I realized that I was working myself into the ground, that I wasn't spending a lot of true quality time with Andrew and our friends so I decided that I would block off a minimum of 1 entire day per week for self care - slash - rest and fun time with my loved ones.
I don't even care if it sounds selfish. I need this time to reset and connect. It makes me a better person when I am rolling up my sleeves to get to work and it gives me the ability to enjoy the work I have completed.
Tip #4 - I make lists on my daily pages
I use my calendar as a to-do list as well. Each day that I need to get something done, I add it to my list. When it's complete, I physically cross through it.
My lists vary based on what I have going on. Sometimes it's big projects and other times its something simple like, pick up cat food. Either way, I write it all down and when I tackle it, I cross it off.
Tip #5 - I unapologetically leave when you're extremely late
I could plan everything down to the minute... no really. I've done it.
However, you have to account for other people and sometimes they are not going to be as organized as you are. There will be days when you block off time and someone ghosts you - they don't care that you drove 45 min. to meet them or that you have another appointment that you are now late for. Instead of letting this stuff bother me, (oh man, it used to!) I learn from it. I just don't schedule art shows for those people any more, see how easy that was to solve.
I don't wait for other people to respect my time. It's my job to do that. I don't wait for late people... If I have to leave at a certain time to make it to another meeting, I just leave and send them an email letting the late person know that I couldn't wait for them past our agreed upon meeting time. It's really a simple mind set but its one that took me a long time to develop. I would "feel bad" or I felt "obligated" to wait and wait but now I have learned that sometimes people will just do that, they don't value your time and instead of getting angry about it, you just move past it and learn to not waste your value on them again. Also, let me clarify. I am not talking people who are an unexpected 5 - 10 minutes late... I am talking about people who are more like 20+ minutes late (all the time) and who don't give you the courtesy call that they have hit traffic or their kid is puking beyond that "shit happens" 10 minute window.
So that's basically it. It's fairly simple and for me, it's incredibly easy. If you have questions about my scheduling strategy, hit me up in the comments below :)