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There is a reason why when you ask an event planner how they are doing, their default response is “Busy”. Planners spend a LOT of time working - we are busier than we’ve ever been and technologies make it so that even when we are at home, it is completely possible (and sometimes very probable) to find ourselves still at work.
I’ve always been busy - there is no way not to be in an industry like ours. The real sign of a great event planner is organization and time management skills! There are several strategies that you can use to get organized, but with all the different systems and methods out there, it can be hard to know where to start.
Determine Your Productivity Style.
Before you try to work out a new productivity system, it will serve you in good stead to have a firm grasp on how you like to absorb information. Are you a visual learner? Do you prefer to do your work by hand? If so, a memo app on your phone may not do the trick. Maybe you need to grab some sharpie markers, post-it flags and a paper planner. Are you always on the go? Is there no way on earth you could keep up with yet another series of notes and tabs? Do you like lists? Maybe you should look into getting organized with Trello.
Irrespective of how many things you have to manage, the first step is to figure out how you like to work. Trust me on this! I tried for a very long time to use my paper planner as a stand alone solution for my time management woes. However, I didn’t take into account how useful I find reminders! Now I use a combination of a paper planner and OneNote!
Make Schedules Instead of To-Do Lists.
Once you have determined exactly how you like to keep and absorb information - be that visually, digitally, or otherwise, it’s time to start managing your time. And personally, I think schedules are the only way to do that.
I’m not hating on to-do lists. Physically writing out your major tasks is a great way to help conceptualize your day, but you cannot stop there. A to-do list is just that- a list of things you still have to do. Attach timeframes to the items on your to-do list and turn it into a schedule. Do the important and mandatory stuff first.
And speaking of schedules...
Time management is all about making sure you have enough time in the day to do all the things you need to do, and still have time to get to the things you’d like to do as well. The only way your schedule will actually allow you to do this is if you put everything on it.
Having a complete schedule of everything you do in a day, including your down-time, play time, and extra time can really help put you in more control of your day. You should especially schedule a time to check and update your schedule. I take a few minutes every night to plan out my next day, and I take about an hour or two, once a month to plan out the following month. When you know how much time you have to spare, you do not panic about wasting it. Don’t become a robot, but embrace the feeling of having completely manipulated your day.
Also note that time for personal enrichment doing the things that make you healthier and happier, like going to the gym, playing with your kids, or taking a cooking class, is as important as career development. Happier people work harder, faster and more efficiently. Get happy.
Find Your “Bonus” Times.
I live in the bustling city of New York, which means I spend a ridiculous amount of my day in transit. The time I spend in overly air conditioned subway cars is my bonus time - the time of day where I can accomplish two things at once without expending extra energy. I use the time I spend on the train to study. I draft blog posts in the Laundromat and listen to podcasts on my morning jog. Figure out a time of day that could be doing double duty!
Change Your Outlook.
I have found that productivity is a by-product of happiness and confidence in oneself. Learn to see yourself as the architect of your life, and then build each day accordingly. Seek to be effective rather than efficient. It is better to do a few things exceptionally well, rather than doing many things haphazardly. Don’t just try to cross items off of a to-do list (because you made a schedule, right?), make sure the things you do are important, and help you reach your most important goals. Think in terms of outcomes instead of in terms of activities.
Prioritize. Do what you are good at, be always on the quest to improve, and learn how and when to delegate (this applies to personal life tasks as well. Are the chores equally distributed at home?). Learn to say “no”. You cannot and should not do everything.
Take Care of Yourself.
Be nice to yourself; you work very hard. In order to have any semblance of work-life balance, you need to pick a time by which you are DONE WORKING. If you have made a true schedule, you’ve done the most important things by the end of the day. Learn to let go and give yourself permission to unwind. In addition to my self imposed bedtime, Sunday is my off day. I don’t do anything work related on Sunday.
Take the time to nurture yourself. Sleep well, eat well, and spend time doing things you enjoy, with people that you care about. Feel free to reward yourself for a great day. Hold yourself accountable to the tasks you’ve set, but remember to be forgiving.
Being an event planner is all about organization and time management. Even though we can keep up with the millions of tiny details it takes to keep us focused and happy at work, sometimes it can be difficult to bring that productivity to the rest of our lives. The key is to determine how you work best, create and stick to a schedule, and be kind to yourself about focus, break time and your mental health. Let me know in the comments below if there is a specific time management strategy you use that has helped you!