Time management is tricky for multi-talented, creative people. We have a lot of activities and tasks on our plates. And those plates are spinning. No sooner do we start project A when we suddenly get a great idea for project B and a key contact for project C calls out of the blue and…before we know it, the week is gone and there’s no discernible progress on anything. How’s a DaVinci to give time and attention to everything? Which time management strategies allows you to get more done and make more progress in all your talents?

Now some people, like Lynda Barry, can easily and effortlessly float among their different talents, letting the chips fall have they may. It's less about time management and more about being in the moment. This morning they paint, this afternoon they’ll write, tomorrow they might compose some music. Lynda Barry calls this approach "What it Is" and her amazing, dense book by that title illustrates exactly how one can live this way. If it works for you, go for it.

For the rest of us, however, the problem with the laissez faire approach to tackling our projects is that, left to our own devices, nothing really gets done. Maybe we get swept up in what’s urgent or easy…and not necessarily what’s important. Or perhaps things get shelved under ‘if I have time for it’ or ‘if other people let me’ or ‘once X happens, I’ll turn my attention to it’. In any case, the end result is that our talents and projects languish.

If this sounds like you then you need a deliberate gameplan -- purposeful time management - to husband your different talents and various projects. Underlying each of the following four time management strategies is the reality that, regardless of how many things are on our ‘to do’ lists, the fact is that we can only focus on one thing at a given moment.

The extra challenge for DaVincis is that when we are given the chance to focus on one thing, it’s not long before we get bored or distracted or swept up in something new. The key question to answer in finding a solution is: how often do you need to switch tasks to make progress and yet stay focused and engaged? Think about that as you consider the following time management strategies tailored for creative people with many talents.

Option 1: The School Schedule Approach

In school, the week is organized to cover a wide range of topics and activities. There’s even time scheduled for recess and lunch. Why not apply the same approach to your week now?

How to: Examine your typical week for chunks of time 30 – 90 minutes long. To each, assign particular projects, practices or talents.

Example: Perhaps first thing Monday morning you have a 30 minute slot on which to spend writing that children’s mystery book. On Tuesday evening, you find a 90 minute period perfect for you to whittle wood. Wednesday mid-day is your chance to practice your vocal scales for 30 minutes and Wednesday night is choir practice. Maybe Saturday gets lots to domestic chores and social obligations but perhaps Sunday is like Talent day for you... you have four separate 60 minute slots, scattered throughout the day to spend on your creative talents -- say, bellydancing, metalsmithing, writing your screenplay and practicing your stand-up routine. Especially for those of you who enjoyed school, this might be a fun, productive way to approach your time management.

Caution: be sure to follow up at the end of each week to ensure that you are keeping your schedule. If so, great! Give yourself a gold star. If not, make the needed adjustments to refine your schedule to better suit your circumstances. It make take some trial and error but what you’re aiming for is a weekly plan in which your life feels enriched because you’ve flexed your talents and participated in activities important to you…but not so overly scheduled that you’re stressed out or overwhelmed.

Option 2: Flavor of the Week / Flavor of the Month

If the school schedule approach seems too chaotic or ‘patchwork’ for your tastes, you may prefer a time management strategy in which you focus more specifically on one project or only one of your talents during a given week.

How to: Assign one project or talent to be your number one priority during a given week. Any and all extra time you have will be focused on your chosen pursuit.

Example: You could declare this week ‘Music Week’, next week ‘Sculpting Week’ and the week after you could devote to chip away at your screenplay.

This approach to time management is simpler than the School Schedule strategy but if it still seems too choppy, you could extend the period of time from a week to a month. Perhaps January is “SongWriting Month” while your February will be “The Month of Shooting Photographs”.

Caution: be sure to decide on your week’s (or month’s) focus ahead of time…and stick to it. Check in at the end of the week to appreciate what you’ve accomplished.

Option 3: Toggle Between Projects

Some of us work better alternating our efforts between two activities and/or two talents. They could be two projects of equal importance or one major plus one minor task. Ideally, you’d want to choose two things that are fairly different in nature so that working on one provides a break from working on the other.

How to: Select two projects or talents and commit to focus on them and only them. When you need to take a break from one activity or talent0, switch to the other. When you return to the first project, you’ll do so with more energy, focus and ideas.

Example: Let’s say your top priority project is getting a website launched. It’s often helpful to have a second, completely different project (like learning to play a new song on the guitar) to turn to when you need a mental break or when you hit a hurdle on Job One. Often, the time you’ve spent away has allowed solutions to problems to percolate while ‘on the back burner’.

Caution: Check yourself each day or week to ensure you are happy with your progress in both projects. If your time management feel unbalanced or stressful, make the necessary adjustments until you feel pleasantly productive...and guilt free.

Option 4: Quotas

Some people do well with organizing themselves by time but for others, it’s more important to organize by action. The solution here is to set up daily, weekly, or monthly quotas for what you’d like to do. Unlike other time management strategies, you maintain complete freedom in WHEN you do something...so long as it gets done within a specific period.

How to: establish minimum requirements for specific tasks. For example, "I shall contact at least three agents per week until I find representation". Choose REALISTIC targets rather than something overly ambitious like “I shall compose an opera every day”. The idea here is to cultivate steady progress. Also phrase your quota to give yourself the opportunity to exceed your expectations. (e.g. “At least three times a week, I will spend at least thirty minutes practicing my sousaphone” gives you the option of doing more).

Examples: Maybe what’s important for you is to write at least five pages a day. Or to make at least five cold calls each week. Or to participate in at least one ‘open mic night’ per month.

Caution: Quotas don’t work unless they are realistic and unless you check in regularly to keep yourself on track. Reward yourself for achieving or exceeding your goals. If you find you’re missing your quotas, adjust them.

Activity: review the four time management strategies and choose which one seems most attractive to you. Try it this week.

(c) Liisa Kyle, Ph.D. All rights reserved

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Are you struggling with too many talents, skills, ideas? You may have The Da Vinci Dilemma™! Find tools, fun quizzes, coaching, inspiration and solutions for multi-talented people at http://www.davincidilemma.com/.

Author's Bio: 

Liisa Kyle, Ph.D. is the go-to coach for smart, creative people who want to overcome challenges, get organized, get things done and get more out of life (www.CoachingForCreativePeople.com).

Liisa Kyle is also an internationally published writer/editor/photographer as well as author of books including "YOU CAN GET IT DONE: Choose What to Do, Plan, Start, Stay on Track, Overcome Obstacles, and Finish" (http://bit.ly/YouCanGetItDone). If you are a creative person with too many ideas and too much to do, check out her other helpful articles here: www.DavinciDilemma.com