Prioritizing: It’s a Fun Thing

While I was on vacation, a couple things became apparent. I was sketching pages and pages of ideas for holiday food and gifts, and I was super pumped about getting home and jumping right back into my own little mini world, but I just couldn’t imagine having this much fun at home. All my Etsy hours seemed to be sucked up by staying hip on food jewelry trends and doing painful amounts of photograph (which in my case involves being hunched over an upside-down trashcan, occasionally standing on a chair and shooting into a tiny scene almost completely obscured by a tracing paper box. It was time to prioritize.

As I went through the process, I took notes, because I figured that I’d probably need to be doing this sort of thing again, and because it’s something that pretty much anyone an apply to any thing they have to do, like a term paper or a large birthday gift they’re making. Here we go!

Here’s the short version. Then we’ll dive into the nitty gritty.

  1. Take a break.
  2. Make a list of your activities.
  3. Make a pie chart, or two.
  4. Pick hours to work.
  5. Figure out how much time to devote to each activity.
  6. Put your new knowledge into practice.

The first thing you need to do is to get some distance. Take a break from creating, writing, or doing whatever it is that stresses you out about the project. In my case, I stopped sculpting, photographing, and listing items. I continued to check my Etsy Activity Feed and answered convos, because that’s something that will stress me out if I don’t do it. So drop the angst-inducing stuff but don’t cause yourself trouble by axing things that keep you in a positive state mind.

In order to get some extra distance, do fun stuff that isn’t related to your project. Take a bubble bath, play Dance Dance Revolution, bake a wedding cake. I don’t care what it is, as long as you do it. Your “break” can be as long as you want…the point is to relax enough to regard your project with a fairly disinterested eye.

Once you’re no longer wrapped up in all that stuff you have to have done by yesterday, start taking notes. Make a list of things you have to do to keep your job going smoothly that aren’t the things involved in the production of whatever you’re making. In my case, this meant ignoring sculpting food, stringing jewelry, photographing, photo retouching, and listing items. Some of the things on my particular list included comparison shopping for materials, designing new products, and writing a newsletter each month.

Try to group your activities into fairly general catagories. For example, “grinding coffee for my espresso” could probably fall under “general office” or “mood stabilizers” along with “tracking my PayPal expenses” and “answering emails from customers”. We’re going to be making a pie chart later on, so keep that idea in mind as you simplify, simplify.

Now it’s pie time. Decide what percentage of your project-designated time you want to spend on each activity. If photographing items is important to you, maybe you want to spend 25% of your total time taking pictures. On the other hand, maybe you have a new Etsy shop and you want to get the word out. You have a high-end product, and enough of it, that you decide to spend 50% of your time on marketing and advertising. Once you’ve got it all figured out, make a pie chart. Make it pretty. If you’re suprised at how it looks, try making an honest pie chart of how your time used to be spent. Shocked? I realized that I was spending 50% of my Frippery Factory time following trends, even though I’m trying to create a product that’s more unique than trendy. Egad!

Next up, we pick hours. Decide how many hours, roughly, you’re designating for your project. Obviously they’ll flex around holidays, if you’re selling gifts, or in the summer, if you run a sailboat marina. There’s no “right” amount; choose a number that makes you happy and that will let you get your work done in a comfortable fashion. Translate your pie graph into the amount of time you’ll spend on each activity. If your pie graph represents an hour, 1% is 36 seconds of that hour; 5% is 3 minutes. For example, if you’ve decided you’re going to spend 10% of each hour you work on cleaning up your workspace (a noble goal!), you’ll be spending 6 minutes of each hour on that. If you work 10 hours a week, you’ll be spending an hour on tidy-up. And you will have a spick-and-span studio. Be sure to do this with all your listed activities.

Put it into practice. Do this however works for you. For me, that was making a schedule of everything I needed to do in each category (“Sculpting: Exploded Diagram Sandwich Earrings, Donut Dangles Preliminary, Etc”) at the beginning of a week. So far, it’s working marvelously.

To recap:

  1. Take a break.
  2. Make a list of your activities.
  3. Make a pie chart, or two.
  4. Pick hours to work.
  5. Figure out how much time to devote to each activity.
  6. Put your new knowledge into practice.

Your turn! How do you decide what to devote your time to? How does it work for you? Let us know in the comments below.

 

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