Remember a few weeks ago I posted about the 2 designers and their ideal days? Well, no one wants to be like designer #2.

It’s funny.  I didn’t set out to help fashion designers and creative types with their time management.  No way.  But every time I did a seminar or worked with a new client, I asked them a simple question.  “What’s the biggest challenge you have in trying to grow your business?”  4 out of 5 people answered something like, “trying to get it all done,” “not sure what to do first,” “overwhelmed and need some direction,” “time management in general.”

Your email Inbox

It’s not surprising.  Time management is tough for creative types. When you’re starting a fashion business or want to launch a line – and it can be overwhelming.

Designing my line and running a retail store for 14 years definitely taught me a thing or two about how to get it all done.  Throw in two little boys and, trust me, you gotta get some skills**.   (Read My Time Management Story)

So anyway, I got so many requests for time management help that I started writing it all down. The result?  In addition to typical fashion design business issues, I now have the bonus of helping people feel less stress, anxiety, and overwhelmed.

So here are 3 of my favorite strategies. They’re things you can do – today, yes NOW, yes even YOU, the one with the ponytail, especially you – to GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER and get more done.  So you don’t end up like designer #2!

1. Make a list of the 2 – 3 things you absolutely must accomplish today.  You can do this either the night before (my favorite) or first thing in the morning.  Then make them a priority.  This means working on these tasks without interruption.  So if your phone rings or your email beeps while you’re doing today’s TOP 3, don’t answer.  Turn off the ringer or beeper of all electronic devices for 1 – 2 hours at a time.  I promise it will not kill you, even if you think it will.  Think about past days when you’re in a meeting all day or at a trade show and couldn’t answer your beeping devices for hours at a time.  Your business survived, right?   I’m just asking for an hour or two at a time.  This focus time will increase your productivity dramatically – I guarantee it.  You can make an exception to this rule if you’re waiting for something important (a big order that’s truly time-sensitive, for instance).  Just be sure it’s really important and not just what I call “urgent for the sake of being urgent.”

2. Don’t check email first thing in the morning.  Get something accomplished from your TOP 3 list – or everything – before you check email.  This is very hard, I know.  And the temptation to cheat is huge!  But when you think of it like this, you may agree…

“Email is a nice, orderly list of other people’s ’emergencies’ and priorities.  Not yours!”

It’s easy (and habitual) to start the day by checking email because then we don’t have to think.  We let someone else decide what work to do by RE-acting to an email.  But YOU are the boss of YOU, so don’t let email “tell” you what to do with your time.  Be PRO-active about your work and do what’s important to you first.  Having your TOP 3 list takes the “thinking” and “deciding what to do today” away too.  It’s already on the paper, now just start the task.

3. Empty your entire email Inbox.  Say what??? Who’s got time for that? Well, I can give you a way to do it that only takes about 30 minutes and will keep your email Inbox nice and clean and shiny and easy to read.   And it will stay that way.  I got so sick of having 65 new emails every day (what a time suck) that I had to take action.  Here’s what I did:

  • I put my spam control on the highest setting.  I hadn’t done it before because I was afraid I’d miss something important.  Heh.
  • I decided what email lists I wanted to be taken off.  This was hard, but I was tough (it’s like cleaning out your closet – you have to be brutally honest, not emotional about it).  For instance, Daily Candy.  I like Daily Candy but why does it have to be every day???  Man, that’s just excessive.  I unsubscribed but know I can go to their website any time I want to see what’s new.  There were also a lot of e-zines that I enjoyed but clogged up my Inbox.  I switched them to an old email address that I check about once a week.  This way, when I get some time I can read them.  And if I don’t have time, they won’t distract me from my “real” work.
  • For the rest of the emails left in my Inbox, I had to decide if keeping them would help move me considerably closer to the goals I have for my business. If they met this criteria, I gave them a “label” of KEEP.  If not, I deleted them.  Again, this was hard but it felt soooooooo great after I did it.  Clearing the clutter is oddly liberating.
  • I then moved all the KEEP emails out of my Inbox into a KEEP file.  Voila! Empty Inbox.  It only took me about 3 days to clear out everything from the KEEP file and my Inbox has stayed clean.  I LOVE IT.  And I don’t get that sinking feeling I used to get when I check email.  I no longer have all those emails in there screeching “HELP, read me!”  Then I’d feel guilty because I didn’t read them.  I’m not kidding.

If want MORE on how to get more done and work more effectively, you might consider our Time Management for Designers course. It’s an online, on-demand training about being more productive, feeling less overwhelmed, and how to focus and what’s important. You can check it out here.

Truth is, I developed this online training to help MYSELF, because I struggle with staying focused, BSOS (bright shiny object syndrome), and taking on too much work.  It’s helped me a lot and it might work for you too.

Talk to you soon.


**If you like dumb humor, and who doesn’t, ”skills” are a popular theme from Napolean Dynamite. Check out a clip here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5wmParkppw

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