Time Over Task

I get easily distracted, it can seem like a curse when all you want to do is get your work done. 

I am usually in one of two states, the ideas come rushing in like waves at high tide.

Or

I’m like the L.A. river, bone dry and thoughts of failure stage constant drag races through my brain. 

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Either way, I’m distracted by tons of thoughts or many ideas about many different things, and sometimes many ideas and then many judgmental thoughts about those ideas.

The prevailing advice when it comes to completing projects is to make a list of tasks, complete each task and check each one off until you are finished. 

Makes sense, it’s logical, and I imagine that it’s probably a really satisfying way to live. 

Because so much is going on in my head, I find it is often much easier to follow my gut to harness the thoughts and give them some kind of structure.

I usually have to work on what feels right in the moment as opposed to what seems logical. 

Photo by  Kiana Bosman  on  Unsplash

It’s as if in addition to my actual Id, I have an artistic Id, a part of my personality that is much like a spoiled, hyperactive child who needs to be kept busy at all times with art projects.

She craves activity, but she will only do what she wants to do when she wants to do it. 

She needs to be challenged constantly, but also she must be allowed to tackle her tasks on her own terms. I have struggled with ways to control this aspect of my personality.

  • Writing down lists

  • Trying to complete tasks by doing the Pomodoro Technique

  • Outlines

Even Sketch-noting entire projects and then attempting to execute from a place of familiarity, like using muscle memory, which if you think about it, is like doing the work twice.

None of this worked for me.

Last week was Alt Summit, an entrepreneur and creative conference for those that don’t know.

I had the pleasure of sitting in on a round table called “How to Stay Organized When You Have A Creative Mind. “

The perfect workshop, since organization for creatives is one of my primary topics here on Will There Be Cake?

Jessica Litman from The Organized Mama and Katy Krupnick from The Tidy Cottage facilitated the round table. and the big take away for me was to work to time not to task.

According to Jessica and Katy, non- linear thinkers should create chunks of time where you will naturally do your work, this varies from person to person of course, but the simple idea is to produce what you naturally want to produce during times when you are naturally more productive. Rather than planning out tasks, allow intuition to tell you what you need to work on during the given time slot.

Most of the time, I naturally want to work on what needs to be done. Intuitively, I just know.

I may have a list of tasks just as reminders of what may need to be done, but I am not obligated to follow the list chronologically…or even at all.

Doing what feels right at the right time really works for me.

Some of us are more productive in the morning, some at night. 

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I am the most productive early in the morning, when I first wake up or when inspiration strikes before daylight, slightly less productive, but still able to work around 11am to about 2pm, and then again after 8pm until I am ready to fall asleep around 11pm.

If I try to do anything productive between the hours of 3pm and 8pm, it would be like plowing a dry hard field, and I am the plow. It is a struggle at best, and usually ends up being a bit of a draining disaster.

I spoke at Alt Summit on a Wednesday at 3:30pm. The workshop turned out fine, but I was extremely headachy leading up to speaking time, tired rather than nervous, and all I wanted to do was get it done. I felt haggard even though I showered and dressed and freshened my makeup an hour before. I normally love public speaking and sharing what I do, but the time was seriously not optimal for my best work. I was mentally and physically drained after. It took a whole day to recover from something that would have normally given me energy instead.

If it were up to me, any other time of the day would have been much more optimal for me to present; morning being the most optimal.

In addition to learning that I should prioritize time over task, Jessica also confirmed for me that it is better to plan my tasks and projects for the day in the morning after I wake up, rather than the night before.

To read Jessica’s post “How to Be Creative and Organized” click here.

This is something that I have practiced for many years because I get most of my inspiration after naps or a good night’s sleep. Sleep is so important and can make a huge difference in what we create.

Stay close for a whole separate post on this idea and why this actually works.

It’s a concept that deserves much more attention than I can give it in this particular post, but suffice it to say, it works for several different reasons and because it is something that I have been practicing for a while, it has become the number one tool for getting anything done.

A perfect example, it is now 5:0am, I am writing this post after a restful few hours of sleep. I woke up and intuitively crafted this post based on a free flow of ideas that came to me while I was still half asleep. 

I am finishing this post as we speak in the notes section of my phone and when I’m done, I will fall back to sleep. 

I am one of those people who can do that. 

During one of my time blocks today, once I have gotten up at the normal time, around 7:30-8:00am, gotten dressed and completed my morning rituals, I will insert this blog post into my blog and work on the images, schedule and it will be ready to go. Chances are, I will brainstorm the secondary post on why sleep is important for creatives, as well. 

My Artistic Id will be excited to do these things because of the random dose of inspiration that has rendered this now complete post and the feeling of accomplishment that comes from completing a task that wasn’t even scheduled, all before the sun has even had a chance to come up.

If you feel as if you’re in some kind of Twilight zone parallel universe while reading this, just imagine what it must be like to write. 

The takeaway:

If I had a random list of disparate tasks that I was hell bent on completing today based on what I planned last night, chances are, I would have missed out on this bit of inspiration and none of those other tasks would get done either.

Now I have an organic list of tasks that will naturally flow based on an intuitive state of being and the idea that I’m allowing what wants to be created rather than forcing what I think should be created. 

Al I have to do is insert said tasks into my naturally pre-determine time block and let the work naturally flow. 

Time, not task and a bit of intuition thrown in for good measure = productivity. 

And in this case, it is not just one, but two organic blog posts.

I would say that’s definitely winning.

To learn more about organizing for the creative mind, read Jessica’s post “How to Be Creative and Organized” here.