Ease Overwhelm with These 8 Time-Saving Tips

Are you like a lot of my clients? You want to do/try it all. You’d like to be everywhere but time runs out.

Lack of time is the number one anxiety for most of my clients. It’s not fear of rejection or failure or even potential criticism. It’s there’s not enough time in the day to do it all.ease overwhelm

Like you, I’ve been overwhelmed with possibilities for business development and strategy.

Just three years ago, I remember sitting down and crying to my husband that I couldn’t work any harder. If I wanted to increase my impact in the world, I would have to work smarter. That’s when I hired a serious business coach and got back on track.

Here’s what I’ve learned about dealing with overwhelm and a seeming lack of time.

1. The important stuff always gets done.

I don’t know how, but I know why the important stuff always gets done. It gets done because it’s important! I recognize its value and somehow manage to make it happen.

Knowing this truth is a relief.

2. There is no such thing as time management.

You can’t manage time. The clocks keep ticking and the sun continues to rise and set. There’s not much we can do about that.

But we can manage ourselves. Here are a few ideas for doing this:

  • Group similar tasks together: phone calls, errands, writing (more on that below).
  • Say No to the opportunities and requests that don’t serve your long-term goals. This is the hardest lesson you’ll learn.

    If you master saying No, you’ll master yourself and your business.Invitations come at you from every direction, and you have to have the strength to know what is critical to add to your calendar and, more importantly, what doesn’t deserve a place on your schedule.

  • Hire someone. If you’re so busy that you can’t meet deadlines and live up to your promises, it’s time to get help.

    I suggest hiring someone while it still stings your pocketbook a little. You aren’t going to wake up one day with the sudden realization that you have “extra money” for an assistant. You need to hire people so that your business can grow.

  • Stop multitasking. Switching from task to task and back again adds as much as 25% more time to what it would normally take to complete each task.

3. It’s easier to crank out four article drafts at once than to write one at a time. This sounds crazy, but it’s true.

Something happens when you devote a couple of hours to focused writing. It’s like your ideas have babies. They multiply and feed off of one another, so pretty soon that one little idea becomes four.

4. Well-defined systems will save your behind.

Stop reinventing the steps it takes to publish a newsletter, blog post, or to execute an exhibition. Create systems for every task you undertake on a regular basis.

A system is a series of steps that includes the following actions:

  • Block out time for the task on your calendar.
  • Define the tools and technology you will use.
  • Identify the people who will help or must be notified.

5. Automate everything you can.

When someone signs up for your newsletter, they should receive an automated, but personal-sounding, email. If you have an assistant, s/he should automatically receive notification of orders or invoices so you don’t have to relay messages.

6. Download email when you have time to process it.

Email is probably our #1 time-sucker, but it doesn’t have to be this way. A few years ago, I turned off the “automatically download” function in my email program. Now, I download messages several times a day – when I have time to focus on them.

I refuse to let email run my workflow, and I encourage you to follow my lead.

7. Honor your calendar. If it’s important, schedule it.

For quite some time, I have been blocking out Friday mornings for writing time. For almost as long, I have allowed too many appointments to creep into that sacred period. Before I know it, I’m scrambling to write on weekends when I should be refilling the well of inspiration.

Now that I’m aware of how detrimental it is to my workflow to miss writing time, I am better prepared to guard my Friday mornings.

8. Planning time is your best friend.

If you think you’re too busy to set aside a couple of hours a week to plan, you will have no one to blame but yourself when you start feeling overwhelmed.

In my experience, overwhelm happens when everything is up in my head. I don’t know what happens up there and who is in charge of allowing such shenanigans, but my brain in overwhelm gear is pretty worthless. It’s unfocused, directionless, fearful, and anxious.

This makes it impossible to get anything constructive accomplished.

The solution is planning time – every day and every week.

Your Turn

Is lack of time one of your biggest issues? Please share how you deal with this or tell us about your favorite time-saving electronic programs.

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28 comments to Ease Overwhelm with These 8 Time-Saving Tips

  • Dawn Petrill

    Wow, you really hit the nail on the head with this one, Alyson! Not only did you tell us time-sucking activities but you gave us straight-forward solutions for them. I continue to be amazed by your gems of wisdom. Thank you so much!

  • Thanks to you, Alyson, I am doing better with time related obstacles!

  • Hello Alyson,
    You are right on with every point as usual. After recently planning and hosting a large (for me) studio event I observed that, yes indeed, everything important got done! There were moments when it did not seem possible. Your points on setting aside REGULAR planning time and honouring that is the next habit that I am going to implement. Thank you again for support throughout the years of my art career 🙂

  • I followed the email link because I am searching for any helpful tips to manage time that I can find. I am not an “official” artist yet, but am working in that direction as I search for retirement income. Signing up for your emails is one of my efforts in that direction. I think the biggest tips you have (for me) all are planning related. It is so HARD to set aside regular time for any activity, even art and planning, but I am getting better at it. Thanks for more encouragement with handy tips.

  • I needed this kind but focused kick in the butt about systems and writing in blocks and I feel better that you bohoo sometimes (probably rarely) when it all comes crashing down

  • The most important advice for me has been saying No to things that don’t contribute to my goals. I have to have a list of important goals nearby so I can review them; otherwise I forget to say the magic word.

  • Found this really helpful & timely (forgive pun) – I went off the rails of my own schedule this week, good to be reminded about saying no to anything that diverts you from your path, also grouping similar tasks/doing one at a time great. Thank you.

  • Thanks Alyson. I’ve got to think about #3. I write a little here, a little there. Maybe I should block out more time and knock out a few articles at once.

    #9. Take time to sit with yourself a little each morning before the craziness of the day begins. I find this keeps me centered and focused on what is most important. If I do that, the rest is not so overwhelming.

  • Colleen Lynn Curley

    My dad has a great little productivity tool I have adopted called “The Top Three.” After I make my always lengthy “to do” list at the start of the day, I then decide which three items are most important, put them on a post-it note, and proceed to cross them off. Once that is accomplished, I immediately make a new “top three” list. This works great to stay focused and prevent overwhelm on high stress days, when you have a deadline or guests coming over, etc.

    I also want to share an inspirational quote I recently came across:
    “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandella

    Happy Friday!

  • I am teaching design foundations for the first time and am incorporating a “studio practice development” portion to it.

    Love your phrase “well defined will save your behind”!

    If you do not mind I am going to use that this semester with my students as they start to formulate their own systems for managing their creative practices. Thanks Alyson!

    PS I ADORE Golden and have got fingers crossed for 2106…

  • Thanks so much for this post Alyson. A great reminder.

    My issue is that I get a schedule down and and something pops in to disrupt the whole thing. I admit it’s usually something good (a show opportunity, commission, invitation to teach a class), but how does one keep a routine while still keeping things flexible enough to embrace the near constant change of owning one’s own art business.

    There’s the inevitable ‘must attend’ meeting, show, etc. that occurs when the “sacred art/planning/business” time is scheduled. I feel a slave to the show season too. Any tips to shift things seasonally, monthly, or to acclimate to the “art world” schedule? Thanks A!

  • Parisbreakfast

    Excellent list Allyson!
    Especially ‘Automate everything you can’
    I wish they had taught us Excell in art school…hard learning spreadsheets and to database now.

  • Thanks Alyson. Your article is very helpful.

    My husband is always looking for ways for me to automate my art and art business. It is very helpful to have a set of eyes other than my own.

    As a relatively new artist I realize I need to focus on a lot more than just making art. So I am now setting aside time to learn about marketing best practices and organization.

  • Great article – the saying no ‘hardest lesson’ is something I am in a co start loop of learning it seems!!
    On systems, I recently setup a whole system for harnessing blog ideas and dealing with my art biz to dos . Managing multiple projects without overload and getting stuff out of my mi s and into a safe storage place were my aims and by coincidence I am in the middle of a four part series about it on my blog now in case it can help others too. http://www.helenconwaydesign.com