The arts are not as leisurely as one might think. Hard deadlines, quick turn-arounds, long hours, and working in a highly collaborative setting, all combine to create a high stress environment! Often, it seems that time is our own worst enemy. If not managed correctly, issues compound and before you know it your project can get away from you which leads to your productivity dropping and the quality of your work to suffer. Even worse, if the stress leads you to clash with your colleagues you can cause long term damage to your work relationship which will make it harder to collaborate on future projects. Often, we decide it is just easier to quit. While tempting, this is not a healthy solution. Instead, what you may need to do is step back, reevaluate, and perhaps channel your energies in improving your time management skills!
People often overlook the value of time management in the creative world. It is an important skill to have and those who take the time to master it tend to succeed in their craft. Sadly, most people do not develop these skills during their tenure at school for a variety of reasons. One of the primary culprits are that programs tend to focus on only the “craft”. An example of this disconnect is the story of a university theatre program who put on multiple shows a year and required their students to take on a role in each show. On its face, this should have been a great educational opportunity. However due to a short schedule with quick turnarounds between each show, students started to blow off their obligations for the 2nd and 3rd show in the season as they started to fall behind on their first assignment. Sure enough, productivity and the overall quality of their work decreased steadily between the shows as the season progressed. The program looked bad. At the end of the semester the students were frustrated with the program and the program was frustrated with the students. The tension made things awkward which really made it hard to turn things around.
What could the theatre program have done to avoid the scenario above? Well the answer is simpler than you probably think. Here are three quick and easy solutions that, if implemented, would have helped immensely;
Make a list of tasks
Before you start any project take a few moments to sit down and think of what you need to accomplish. Write all these task in a list and then jot down a rough amount of time you think it will take to complete. Not sure how long something will take? Add extra time just to be sure. Do the things on the list need to happen sequentially? If so put them in order. Working with others? Make them create a list as well so you can flush out conflicts early on. This is a great way to visualize what needs to be done. It also sets expectations which is a huge factor in time management.
Create a calendar
Now that you know what needs to take place and how long it will take. Start placing tasks on a calendar. Be sure to notate when things are due. Don’t let tasks run long. If a meeting only really needs to take 15 minutes, make it 15 minutes. If working with others share this calendar with all parties who are involved with the project. Are there any conflicts? Adjust the schedule if possible. It helps to designate one person to oversee making and approving changes.
You and your team now know when things need to be done. Show up. In the event something happens, or you need more time, vocalize that. Nothing is more frustrating when communication breaks down. Maybe your part of that 15 minute meeting really takes 5 minutes. You probably can spare that, so that for the sake of the whole project everything can move forward. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed take a few minutes to compose yourself. If working in a team, ask for assistance. Getting aggravated and having your productivity decrease or your work get sloppy helps no one in the end. Once you complete the project take time to make sure you allow yourself enough time to recharge.
Following these simple steps will help you vastly improve your time management skills and complete tasks more efficiently. These steps work for both individual projects, as well as, team projects. Once you get the hang of the basics you can research more advanced techniques that will help you further. Best of luck on your next project we hope it will go a little more smoothly now!