Time management is a crucial skill for anyone working in a creative field. Balancing deadlines, meetings, and a personal life can be a daunting task, but with a few tips and tricks, you can improve your time management skills and increase not only your productivity, but the amount of time you have for a personal life as well.
I consider myself an expert on this subject, as a person who balances working full-time as Pixel Bakery’s Motion Designer with my hobbies that include running, cooking, and an excessive amount of time playing Sims 4. The highest compliment I ever received came from my college roommate, another motion designer, who walked in on me watching a movie one Sunday night and exclaimed, “How did you already get your work done? It’s like you live at 1.5x speed!” So here are my top three tips for a productive and happy creative life.
Things look less scary when you break them down
The first thing I do every Monday morning is write down all my tasks for the week in order of whichever has the earliest deadline. Even if I already have this information organized for me (thanks monday.com), writing it down again reinforces the existence of each item. Next, I take each item and break it down even more. So, let’s say I have a 15-second vector-style animation to do. I’ll dissect that down to something like, storyboard + reseach style inspiration + create assets/design + organize the layers + import them into an After Effects comp + animate scene 1 + animate scene 2 + so on and so on… you get the point.
I write all these down and draw a little checkbox next to each of them. It feels rewarding to check things off, even if the thing is something silly like “make sure continuous rasterization is enabled.”
Working this way is effective because you’re not wasting too much time thinking what to do next. Plus, it’s harder to forget the little things.
Don’t get lost in the sauce
As a designer it’s so tempting to pour hours and hours into every tiny detail. That’s pretty rewarding if you have hours and hours to spare. When you’re working on a deadline, though, it just isn’t the case. It’s important to remember that the client and the audience see the big picture; as long as the details that matter are supporting the bigger picture, and everything looks nice and cohesive together, that one leaf on that one tree that’s rotating maybe one degree too far isn’t worth fussing over. And in this industry, if you do decide to spend hours on that leaf, it’s almost a guarantee the client will decide to cut out the trees entirely.
This brings us to another great tip: Stand by your work, but don’t get married to it. If you hand off a product with confidence, your creative director and client are more likely to feel confident too. Don’t point out anything you’re feeling unsure of, or the feedback will fixate entirely on this point. If you put the right amount of attention into the piece as a whole, it won’t hurt as much when your favorite scene gets critiqued to death. Tl;dr: don’t sink hours into a special part when it isn’t a guaranteed hit!
Your life is more important than any piece of work you’ll ever make
Pixel Bakery is a great place to work because we’re encouraged to have creative and personal lives; our achievements outside the office are celebrated! Even our projects are diverse, interesting, and contribute to a general sense of well-roundedness.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case everywhere. It can be easy to make work your entire life; after all, we spend the majority of our adult lives at work.
Here’s my final piece of advice to manage this: make every single hour outside of work your priority. I promise you will work faster and more efficiently if you have a really exciting dinner to get home and make, or a 6pm showtime for that movie you’ve been dying to see. It’s much easier to focus and grind when you put a limit on the end of your work day, instead of looking at it as an infinite trudge along until retirement.
“Remember that it’s just your job” and “make great work” might not seem like they fit together, but trust me on this one. Being well-rounded, and passionate about your life and hobbies, only makes your a better creative.