Back from Frakenstorm Sandy this week, I was head first in a series of meetings with my marketing clients.  Apart from the normal witty banter and the discussion of projects, what I am hearing over and over is from my marketing managers and coordinators is: “I need more time, I am under the pump, I am just overwhelmed”.  Ok, so you could take this as a good thing that marketing is ramping up and budgets are being resuscitated but while I think that this is correct to some degree, I am also seeing that the “busyness” of work life has reached a critical point and we need to get some sanity around this.  I might not be so concerned if my marketing clients look energised by this fast paced activity but they look worn out, grey and in need of a lounge and a sherbert.

Get on the lounge with a sherbet!

So here is my lifeline for marketers and in fact anyone else that feels like they are on the hamster wheel that is cranked to ELEVEN.  Some of these tips are Diva tested, others are in the experimental stage:

1. Asana

I only got on board to Asana train these past few months but I can tell you now it has given me back brain space.  It is on online cloud based project management tool that is FREE. If you are anything like me, I strut about with a whole heap of ideas and to-do whirling about in the grey matter that is set to repeat every 3 – 4 minutes.  Using Asana, I can do a brain dump into individual projects, assign others to complete tasks and place dates against the list.  You can even tick stuff off as DONE!  This is freakin’ GOLD and has given me back a sense of control of the 58 (that IS NUTS) current projects I am running.  Go here for Nathalie Lussier’s introduction into Asana.  Promise, this will help you claw back time and give you a greater sense of control over the projects and events you are running.

2.  Chuck anything – and anyone – superfluous.

Yeah, I get asked a lot about how I get through my workload.  No secret.  I don’t watch TV.  I read a lot of work based material but it is usually only a scan to pick up the news I need.  I live in a one bedroom apartment which controls the amount of crap I can bring in and then have to manage.  I have outsourced cleaning of the car and home.  I have a personal trainer so I don’t faff about at the gym leaning against the vending machine pretending that counts as tightening of the abs. I don’t watch cute cat videos on youtube. I have a regulated filing system so I know (mostly) where everything is.  When I travel, I don’t queue.  I am a member of Qantas Valet, the Qantas Club, Budget Business Club and Accor Awards so I am assured of smooth passage.  When flights are delayed, I don’t bitch, I get busy attacking the to-do list.  I have a calendar that all appointment both personal and business goes onto and if I start feeling like the week is starting to get overloaded, I start culling.  Now I am not sharing all this to show you how AMAZING I am at scheduling but to show what I give up and what I streamline in order to get what I really need ie. more time to spend doing things I love.  Here’s the thing.  We all have the same 24 hours and it is up to you, YOU on how these hours are spent.  You will have to get selfish about how you spend your time.  You may upset people that you have been accommodating to the past but you can’t afford to extend this luxury to them in the future.  No doubt, my scheduling is made easier by not having kids but don’t give yourself a pass on this even if you have kiddies.  If you really looked hard at your schedule I am positive you can find areas you can chuck.  If the whole idea of being so strict with your time sends you into a meltdown, just chill.  Think of it as scheduling the things you can and know about so you can free up space to…be free and spend more time doing the things you love!

3.  Time blocking

So – deep breath – this is going to be a new one for me.  I have always been available on email and phone for both suppliers and clients.  I will interrupt stuff I am working on to take calls and then get caught up solving that query, then I jump down a rabbit hole of distraction so when I come back to what I had originally been working on, sometimes 12 hours later I have lost the source of inspiration or have no idea where I was going with a particular idea.  At the tail end of 2013 I can see that I am getting burnt out and I want to change this for 2013. I will be trialling time blocking.  I have come to see that multi tasking is making me dumber and since I work in the creative field, I need to allow quite time to come up with the genius stuff.  I am going to try restricting the answering of emails to twice daily blocks.  When I am designing and doing working drawings, distractions are the devil so I will be secluding quite time for myself and hitting the do not disturb button on the smart phone.  I know this won’t be perfect and I will have to negotiate how this works when I have installs going in and need to be available to take queries on the positioning of last-minute graphics, if extra power is required for the client machine and where the hell the forklift key is?!?  But I have to give this a try, I think some of the best work I have done has been realised in the past few years and I want to keep dialled into that muse rather than running my brain down to slo-mo.

4. The great big no.

Ooooh, doesn’t that word just make you feel tighter.  We really aren’t allowed to say this often but I think it is key to claiming back your time.  So many of us are conditioned to say yes because that is who we are, we are obliging folk.  But what is yes have made us a prison?  Rather than be the first with the hand up, sit back.  Or, sit on your hand if you can’t trust your “Yes, me!” impulse.  If the outright no is too confronting, when given a request, buy some time.  Exhibit A: “My schedule is pretty stacked right now, I will take a look and get back to you”. The good thing about this is that you are already setting the expectation that you are not able to assist and you are giving yourself some time to see if you can really agree to the request.  Do not fear the “No”.  It is not a dirty word.  Unlike French Bulldog and Coldplay that are dirty, dirty words.

Alright, I am keen to hear from you if you have any other time-saving tips and techniques you might have so please leave your suggestion in the comment section below.

Now that you have given yourself some time back, we need to go to spin a tune.  When I free up myself enough time, I will be donning the sequined hot pants and lace tights and grooving to this (next life: I am coming back a female drummer).

See you next week!