#freelancefriday: Organisation & Time Management

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#freelancefreitag: Organisation & Time Management

Hey my dears,

as promised in the latest video on my balcony, here the next #freelancefriday.
Today’s serving: As an entrée some notes on organisation in general, but especially as a freelancer, the main dish being helpful tools and methods that I use to stay organised and to schedule my time, and the desert consists of recommended products and techniques in a nutshell.

So, the entrée

I think we can all agree that in a hectic, busy world, being organised and scheduling your time well, can be of immense advantage, right?
Even more so when you are freelancer and you don’t necessarily have fixed working times and don’t have to be at work from 9 to 5.
What sounds extremely cool and relaxed for some is actually a hard challenge, because no one will be pushing you until the deadlines push, so you have to discipline yourself.
And whoever tried to change their daily routines, be it including more sports or a morning meditation, knows how difficult it can be to establish good habits and moreover: to keep them.

Let me tell you directly: I’m far from being an expert in organisation and especially time management. I’m still struggling, but at least not on a daily basis anymore. But I struggle as much as you do, probably at least, and we’re in this together, so let’s help each other out and share some advice. I go first.

Shift your mindset concerning organisational skills

There are several conceptions about being organised, let’s have a look
a) “I don’t need to be organised, a genius controls the chaos!” – Erm, okay, how long does it take you to find your phone plus cable, your purse, your keys and where exactly do you store the papers you have to fill out and send to administration? ah, understood… (btw the envelopes are in the trolley, second to last drawer, you’re welcome)

b) “I admire people who are so well organised and seem to have their shit together. I feel I can never accomplish that.” – Why do you think that? Have you ever tried? I too admire people who do yoga everyday and who meditate everyday and all these things, but instead of telling myself that I can’t do it, I try to do it as often as possible and the more you practice, the better you get and the easier it gets to implement these habits. So try it, one organised day, the next one a mess, the next one even more mess, the following one merely organised, the next one organised again, just TRY!

c) “I feel like being organised takes away my flexibility and creativity.” – Firstly, the image of the chaotic creative without any plan or organisational skills is long out-dated, let’s not deal with that, okay? I understand the flexibility part, but you know what? You can plan flexibility, too. Say wooooot? Yes, we will come to that when I serve the main dish, stay curious. And btw, being organised doesn’t mean ending up like Kant, who strictly followed a schedule including x minutes for breakfast and y minutes for taking a walk etc. and who’s day schedule looked like a train schedule. (and when do they ever work out, huh?)

Now, take some time to swallow and digest.
Ready?
Okay, let me present to you: The lovingly composed main dish

Tools

Calendars – electronic and old school paperback
Don’t underestimate the advantage and use of the old school tool called calendar.
Many things are out-dated, updated or now replaced by electronic gadgets, but I love having a good old paperback calendar.
And that is for several reasons: Your paperback calendar can’t shut down when the battery is low and doesn’t glitch. Plus, writing with your own hand has an influence on haptic memory, so the likeliness of you remembering your appointments and to-dos increases.
I tend to double back-up, so I use my electronic calendar on my phone (synchronised with my computer) and my paperback version. Especially transferring appointments from one medium to the other is a great way to store it properly in my memory. It’s a bit like writing cheat sheets that you then actually don’t need anymore, cause you wrote it so often that it’s stored in your mind.

To-Do-Lists – electronic and on paper
I know, it sounds like a meticulous method of a pedantic person, and some people say having to-do-lists just puts more pressure on them and there might even be some studies proving that right. (Well, I guess if you search long enough you’ll always find studies proving or destroying your arguments, huh)
But the thing is: When I say to-do-lists, these don’t necessarily have to be lists. Find out what works best for you, whether it’s a cloud with colourful small clouds in it that tell you what needs to be done or whether it’s sticky notes all around your house or reminders in your calendar or other app, to mix some paper with digital options. It’s up to you. I personally like lists, they work best for me and I separate the to-dos according to the branch they fall into, so creative, professional (meaning external job bookings), private, diverse with marked tasks if they have a deadline or a certain time span in which they have to be done.

(to find out more about how I combine to-do-lists and calendar, have a look at my balcony once in a while, I’ll show you there. Bring a hot beverage of your choice and make yourself comfortable.)

Methods

Keep it colourful
When it comes to calendars and to-do-lists, I like to keep it colourful, which adds a little more fun to it.
So, creative would have a colour on the to-do-list, which could or could not be the same colour in my paper and electronic calendar.
If you’re a little bit more for recognisability, I recommend you try to use the same colours in every medium. I personally for instance rarely ever use read, because it is the colour of urgency and pressure and correction, you know. (Yes, of love, too, but c’mon, not concerning tasks, not for me) So, I’d even tend to mark things like professional work, external bookings in a soothing colour, to lift up my spirit when I look at the next task that needs to be done.
Play with colour, you’re free. There is no right and wrong. Experiment.

Plan flexibility
Especially if you belong to category c from the entrée, here’s the thing: To-do-lists and calendars don’t necessarily take away your flexibility.
Being too flexible might even cause you to start off with the tasks you like most, ending up doing the rest in a hurry, because oooooh these deadlines come so surprisingly.
So, let’s say you schedule four tasks, which are not fix appointments:
Working on your website
Cleaning the house
Calling three clients
Preparing a presentation for an event
Now, let’s say you want to keep your weekend free, you have other fix appointments, professional or private, that gives you five days to juggle these tasks around.
Classic would be to divide it into first, second and third priority, but that’s not the focus right now, but of course, please try to fulfil the urgent tasks first. (If your mother in law is going to visit tomorrow, maybe, just maybe it’s a good idea to clean the house today, and with today I mean: Start now!)
Let’s say your original plan was:
Monday – Website
Tuesday – Website and calling clients
Wednesday – Website and Presentation
Thursday – Cleaning the house
Friday – Website and Presentation
Sounds good right? But now you end up being in a more talkative mood on the Monday and you’d prefer to go out and market your business instead of sitting alone in front of your computer all day, working on the website. Guess what, swap the client calling to Monday and if you have no concentration whatsoever, clean the house, too, either while being on the phone or before and after.
If you end up ripping yourself apart because you didn’t follow your original plan and now you have to do a lot of website, website, presentation, website from Wednesday to Friday, it won’t help you at all, and that’s the real blocker and the real pressure point. It’s not the calendar, nor the to-do-list, it’s how you deal with it and your attitude towards it.

Combine tasks
One of my favourites! Instead of hating on yourself for not having followed the original plan and now feeling a bit of pressure on how to get the rest fulfilled, let’s breathe for a moment and ask ourselves: How can we get these things done?
Many people “lose” time or use it inefficiently, just by not planning ahead. I hear you..”But planning takes time, too.” Yes, it does, but how much? I plan my days and logical ways for combining tasks while I’m showering, before I go to bed, while I’m drinking my first coffee in the morning.
So, I need to bring letters to the post office, do grocery shopping, call a client, clean the house, call my friend, go to an appointment, write two texts for clients, write my own creative stuff and maybe have some me-time.
Now, before I run from A to B like a headless chicken, feel exhausted at the end of the day and only tick off two tasks, I like to think in advance.
(Plus, I do most of all things by feet and public transport, so some planning serves well, you know.)
So, where’s my appointment? In a part of the city that’s not near supermarkets. Hm, okay, can’t combine these. Oh, but the post office is in walking distance. Note to self: Take letters with you to appointment. Is there a supermarket on my way back? Oh yeah, when I hop off the bus 5 stations earlier there’s a supermarket. Check. Take letters with you, take a bus earlier, go to post office, go to appointment, go to supermarket, take next bus home. (Three things done in one go, beat that!)
[hold my beer] Take letters, take one bus earlier, go to post office, go to appointment, go to supermarket, next bus home, call clients while having a cup of me-time-tea, take 30 minutes for myself after finishing calls, calling friend while cleaning the house. Bam! – drops the mic –
Now I have the next day the perfect setting to focus on writing, because most distractions are eliminated and sitting comfortably in a freshly cleaned environment is a good kick off to be productive. At least for me. I can get up, shower, take some time for myself and then start my day. Didn’t reach one of the clients yesterday? Okay, gonna try today.
This is just a quick n dirty example of how combining tasks can help. It’s not always possible, but it is more often than you think. And I hear you again: “But that sounds like one stressful day that you have to recover from the next.” Well, again, it’s about attitude. I tend to listen to some of my favourite music while running errands, I’m thinking about my creative ideas while walking to the bus or I just observe and take in the beauty of the moment while walking the streets, and knowing how I’m gonna feel after such a productive day makes it worth trying, you know.

Now, for the dessert
Tools, products, apps*

There are some helpful tools and having talked about calendars and to-do-lists a lot now, I’d like to share some products and apps that I use and used or heard of as being good.
My recommendation is that you find out what you prefer. There are a million calendars, journals and products out there.
You can use a classic one like those from Filofax, or if you aim to start your year with more awareness, there are journals and calendars including more of that, on the German market Ein Guter Plan being the one I used for two years.
I personally switched over from classic filofax format to using the inlays from weekview, that fit into my leather filofax. The structure with quarter plans and one week a page plus one page to-do-list for the according week is my preferred choice and works well for me. Plus, I really like that you have a quote for every week.
My normal to-do-lists I just write on a big sheet of paper and I tend to use that as my general to-do-list of all the tasks that have to be done, marking those that have a deadline, and choosing some of them to put them in my filofax for the week I plan to do them.
To get a more detailed insight into how I do that, I invite you to join me on the balcony.

When it comes to apps, I have to say, I’m not that extravagant when it comes to this, I use the normal calendar app and sometimes I’d use To-Do-Lists or Wunderlist.
But I heard from successful project managers and other freelancers involved in several big projects that BusyCal is the go to app that also synchronises on all your devices, because it is more detailed, you can include to-do-lists, type in additional information about meetings and even choose different time zones when you travel. It’s rather expensive, but if your business relies on precise scheduling and recording and tracking, it’s said to be one of the best options.

So, my dears, I hope today’s menu was to your taste.
If you have any remarks for the cook, feel free to use the comment section, email or DM.
Do you have any recommendations on tools, methods, products, apps that help you to stay organised and manage your time well?
For a little nibbling after you digested everything: There will be a snack on the balcony. 😉

So long, my dears.

Take care

xx


*none of these links are affiliated links, I don’t receive any money or other compensation for sharing these

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#writerswednesday: Tips for Creativity & Inspiration

#writerswednesday: tips for creativity & inspiration

As there are many creatives out there in different fields, be it photography, film making, writing, singing, acting, modelling, dancing, painting, whatever, I realised that often they are confronted with the same or similar problems.
Some of them being in the direction of the following:

* I’m not in the mood, I don’t know where to go with my art, it feels useless what I’m doing
* I have the feeling that I’m just repeating and reproducing what I’ve already done
* I have too many ideas and my mind is all over the place so that I feel like getting actually nothing done

These and similar thoughts I myself have encountered, but I also heard them quite frequently from other creatives, as by now I know quite many of them.
That’s why I’d like to share some advice with you. And this is not just for writers or photographers or other creatives.
Creative comes from create and therefore, any task that creates something can be seen as a creative task.
Be it gardening, redecorating your home or something else.
To cope with all these negative, limiting and blocking thoughts, I’m gonna share some tips with you that helped me all along the way of my creative path.

1. Take a break, have a coffee*. Consume art.

* can be substituted by anything you like, tea, whiskey, chocolate, cake…

When you feel like not being in the mood, like having all these ideas in your mind but they don’t mould into the next great piece of art, leave it. Let it take a rest. Don’t let inspiration run away, but give it a little time.
If you feel like being really blocked from it, it can also help to consume a lot of art to get into your own flow again.
As a writer, read. And read a lot.
As a photographer or model, watch a lot of pictures, follow other models/photographers and get your inspo board refreshed.
As a film maker, watch a lot of movies.
As a cook, read recipes, watch cooking shows or youtube videos.
The list could go on like that now, but I think you already got it.
This is not to say consume a lot in order to copy, but in order to get your inspiration back on track.

2. Sit down. Turn your phone off. Produce.

When your mind is so overflowing with ideas that you’re loosing track and you always think “I don’t know where to start.” this is gonna be lethal to your inspirational flow.
Instead, sometimes, although it feels like sh*t, just take the next best thing on your list (or if you already prioritised, take the top priority), sit down and get something done. Just start.
Or if you feel totally lost, like nothing great is coming out of your mind, take one thing that has been on your to do list for a quite a while or take a small creative task and push it forward.

As Picasso said “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

So, if you’re missing inspiration, it’s not necessarily gonna come while you’re contemplating about not having inspiration, you know.
In most cases, negative thoughts create a negative environment, so why should inspiration feel invited?
Create an invitational environment for inspiration and keep on working!

3. Try something new.

If you feel like you’re stuck in a rut and you’re only reproducing and repeating things that you already did and you tend to be bored by yourself and your art, just try something new.
Again, this is not to copy someone else, but if for instance you’re a writer of romantic stories and you’re completely stuck, try to write, dunno, a detective story or something from a different genre. Just to see whether you like it or not, to challenge yourself and to keep your mind in your creative field but with a different perspective.
This can also add to your own authentic voice, because maybe you find out that you actually like this genre, or parts of it or even that you don’t like it at all. It doesn’t matter. Either way it’s gonna show you something about you and your art and work.
For me, I realised that the #sundaystory helped a lot with this. It is challenging to combine the prompts to something coherent and as the mood or tone or genre is given as well, sometimes they are completely off my normal field of creative work. But I consider it exciting and really refreshing to use my skills in a different genre and to learn and grow with it.
Of course, this also works in other fields, cook something new, wear a combination of clothes that you haven’t worn before, style yourself in a manner that you’ve never styled yourself before in, take photos of things that normally don’t attract your photographic attention, etc.
Just try something new. It’s refreshing and helps you grow and learn.
About you. About your work. About your art.

4. Communicate. Meet friends. Chitchat. Share. Exchange.

One of my creeds and believes is “Inspiration through communication”.
Oftentimes while chatting with close friends, business partners and strangers, this exchange gives me impulses that hit a spot that was untouched before. And sometimes a good conversation is all you need to get you back on track again.
More often than not, when my mind is overflowing with ideas and I don’t how to prioritise them or whether they make sense or not, calling my best friend and chatting with her over a nice cup of coffee is the best thing I can do.
It’s not only her input, although it’s a beautiful input and I feel blessed to have such great friends, but it’s also that while you’re talking to someone else, you’re also talking to yourself and in that moment you shape things in a manner that you weren’t able to when everything was just in your own head.

5. Take yourself on a date.

As much as communication and conversation with people can be inspiring and give you impulses, as much is it important to take some time just for yourself. And no, darling, I don’t mean you on your own, glued to your phone, having a ton of chats open and still communicating with others.
I mean you, yourself and you again.
And when I say take yourself on a date, I really mean it.
Don’t go to the laundry service alone with a cuppa to go and call it a date, ok?
Don’t cheat!
I really mean, if you were another person taking yourself on a date, what would it look like?
Would you go to a restaurant? A cafe? To the cinema? Taking a long walk in a park?
Whatever you consider your dream date to look like, don’t wait for anyone, treat yourself to it.
Sometimes you would find me in a cafe with a cup of coffee and a piece of cake, mostly with my paper notebook or my laptop or a book to read, enjoying some time alone, just doing things that I love and that inspire me.
And no, no, no, I don’t do it to have a cute picture to post on instagram.
I mean yes, you caught me, that happened too, but I don’t go there in the first place to promote and advertise dating oneself on social media, you know. If I do so, I do it because I’m in the mood.
One of the things that I also love doing is getting up early in the morning, when the streets are still quiet and drive into a city, any city that I like, and walk the streets, watching all the details of architecture for example, taking pictures of the rising sun between houses or a beautiful flower on a wall or anything that captures my attention and that I therefore want to capture too. It’s really an intensive feeling taking a walk alone and watch a city waking up.
Sometimes I also take a walk in a forest or in a park or at a sea, whatever I feel like. And yes, a lot of the times I’m talking to myself.
I mean, hey, this is a date, huh? And normally we do talk on dates, don’t we?

General advice: Disconnect.
In many cases it’s a good choice to enjoy these moments disconnected from emails, social media and chats.
This is not a necessity, but it helps you refocus on what’s important to you without comparing yourself and your art to others and their work. And this gives you more freedom in your mind to work on your very own business.
You can still share the pictures you took, the things you’ve done, the experiences you made later on, but grant yourself a little time to really feel them inside of yourself.

I hope these tips and advice gave you some impulses on how to get yourself and your creative energy flowing again.
Of course there are many more things that I could put on this list and I might make a series out of it, but right now, I don’t want to bore you until the last spark of inspirational flow ran out by reading a blog post that was waaaayyyy too long.

Plus, guess what I’m gonna do? Yup, I just heard some coffee call my name. Can you hear it, too?