Spread the love

Episode 58: Time Management with Madeline and Maggie

by Nov 2, 2021Podcast

In this episode we will cover:

  • Lessons Learned {the hard way, unfortunately}
  • How Do You Actually Do It? {3 strategies that really do work}
  • Getting Things Done in a Way That Feels Good

Working on weekends? Pushing deadlines? Sunday scaries {writers edition}? 

If you’re a content creator or writer, you can probably relate. 

We all recognize the concept of time management and its importance, but why is it so hard to actually implement the practices?

On this week’s episode, guest co-hosts and North Star Writers + Mentors Madeline Crone and Maggie Grimson break down the topic of time management—specifically, how to apply time management principles to your life and career as a writer. 

Here’s a few of the strategies they use:

  1. Time Blocking: Break your work day {or entire day} into several hour chunks, and plan out exactly what you’re going to work on during the allotted time. This helps you keep momentum and seamlessly move on to the next task. It’s also a great way to visualize your day and tasks. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as crossing things off the list as you go!

  2. Pomodoro Method {A.K.A. Tomato Time!}: This method requires a timer {you can download an app, we put some suggestions below!} Set a timer for 25 minutes and focus on one, singular task in that 25-minute stretch. Take a 5 minute break between timers. We recommend doing three sets of 25 minutes, but you can do more or less depending on the task. This method is easy, actionable, and gives you a feeling of accomplishment. Those small stretches of time add up to big progress!

  3. The Big 3: This method requires you to choose three big tasks to focus on each day. Pro tipmake sure they’re not all in the same stage. For example, don’t set yourself up for drafting three first drafts in one day. Try mixing long-term projects with those that require more creative energy upfront. Also, if you’re working across multiple clients, try creating synergy between tasks  by choosing to work on clients with similar voices on a particular day. Ultimately, it should be three tasks that if you finish on that particular day, would make you feel accomplished. 

 

No matter which method you choose, remember to give yourself some grace and flexibility and keep an open mind. Madeline is a self-proclaimed night owl and sometimes gets super creative and productive at 1 a.m. She gives herself the space to tackle tasks during the day, and indulge in her late night bursts of energy and inspiration.  

As a writer, being aware of how and when you work best is an important aspect of learning how to effectively manage your time and navigate your workday in a way that honors your creative and physical energy, your body, and your mental health.

 

Here’s a few insider tips from our co-hosts on how they manage their time as writers:

  • Maggie: I have a strategy for avoiding the bad feelings that come with having *toooooo* much to do. I’m a big fan of the Pomodoro Method. I also make sure that I feel good about the work I’m doing, including the clients I work with. This helps me manage my time, energy, and stress levels. 

 

  • Madeline: The ultimate dream is to get the majority of my tasks done one full day in advance of the deadline. This helps avoid any last-minute disasters and gives me the space to accommodate changes. Plus, I still have time to read/write my own stuff, paint, and hang out with my fiance! 

 

Homework: 

  • We’d love to hear from you—how do you manage your time? 
  • How has working from home impacted your time management + workflow? 
  • Join the Polaris Writers Lounge for more support and resources on time management {or to commiserate over the struggles}!

 

Services/Products/Offers/Freebies Referenced (for affiliate links or list growth):

TRANSCRIPT

Jessi:
Welcome to the Brand Your Voice Podcast, where we’re digging into how you can create personality-driven content that connects and converts. I’m Jessi…

Marie:
…and I’m Marie. We’re the co-founders of North Star Messaging + Strategy, where we support business owners in outsourcing content without sacrificing authenticity.

Jessi:
Every brand has a unique voice that sets it apart. We're digging into how to capture the way your brand communicates from the words you use to the stories you tell. So you can create more compelling content that strategically helps you meet your business goals.

Marie:
And if you choose to outsource that content, you'll be able to do so with confidence, knowing your brand voice is in good hands and you can reclaim your time. We're so glad you're here and hope you enjoy this episode.

Madeline:
Hi listeners. Welcome back to the Brand Your Voice Podcast. In case you haven't noticed, we are not Jessi and Marie. If you missed the last two episodes introducing us, my name is Madeline and I have Maggie here with me and we are the writer mentors at North Star. We are gonna be taking over the podcast for a couple of weeks. Well, Jessi and Marie take a much needed vacation. So hello.

Maggie:
Hello everyone. So good to be here and for Madeline and I's debut, we are going to be discussing near and dear to many writer's heart. Something that a lot of us struggle with that is to say, time management.
You know, so reflecting a little bit on this topic and my history with time management or lack thereof, I can remember very vividly, you know, working on a project, on a piece, an article that was due on a Monday and putting it off and putting it off and putting it off, you know, like, so wrapped up in other tasks, you know, like my daily life, the things I wanted to do, the things I needed to do that I didn't actually even reach out to the person I was supposed to be interviewing till Thursday. Meanwhile, the piece was due Monday.

Madeline:
No.

Maggie:
It was bad, it was bad. But you know, like, so I finally interviewed them Thursday. I spent, you know, like hours transcribing and then, you know, like producing this article and long story short, I spent a whole weekend doing it. I was flustered and I didn't do the story justice because I had totally failed to manage my time. And I ended up creating something that I didn't really feel that good about. Has that ever happened to you Madeline?

Madeline:
Yeah. So the, what stands out to me is similar thing. It wasn't an interview, but it was the first time I wrote a sales page, which are actually some of my favorite things to write now. But the first time I wrote like a full length sales page, you know, I didn't start really until like about 24 hours before the draft was due. And when I sat down and I, you know, it was my first time, so I was kind of nervous, but I was like, okay, I have all my notes. I have the template. Like I know the structure of a sales page. And I was like, okay. So trying to fill out the, you know, the outline for the sales page. And I realized, oh my gosh, I don't actually have any of the information that I need about what I'm selling from the clients. It was like that just like didn't even occur to me, which in hindsight now sounds very stupid. But I just, that part hadn't really clicked that like, oh, wait, I need to have like a rock solid understanding from the client of like all of the details of this program that I'm trying to write a sales page for.
So I had to push back some due dates because I was just like, I can't write this because I don't have the information that I need. And then even after I got the information, I was still like, I was so like frazzled in everything that, you know, I still kind of left it to the last minute. And I was like, you know, I think like you said, it was a weekend, it was a Saturday or something, and I was just scrambling. And I was like, I'm never doing that again.
So now when I go to write a sales page, I always am like, okay, do I have all the information that I need? Because if not, everything needs to get pushed back. So that's my horror story that stands out. But honestly there are lots. I'm a pretty classic procrastinator and it's something that something that I'm working on.

Maggie:
Yeah. I mean, like, even despite that experience that, you know, like the bad experiences I've had, where I left something and I just didn't do a good job determining how much time something might take me or leaving it to the last second or whatever the thing is. Like still occasionally it just happens. But you know, in a perfect world, that's not how I want to work like that is for sure not how I want to do all of my tasks. And it's really hard when you're a writer and so much of what you do is, you know, based around creating a deliverable, you know, like, no, one's keeping an eye on you and making sure you're showing up and working on it, it's just due when it's due and, you know, like, so to scramble and do something like without a lot of time, and maybe even without a lot of energy to get it done, you know, like it doesn't feel good or even healthy as far as mental health goes, you know, like all of a sudden, all your good habits, you know, like, oh, I wanted to go for a run this morning or whatever, but here I am, you know, like writing because I, you know, like, I mean, that is just not a good way to create, like calm and stability and like, do your work in a way that feels sustainable I think.

Madeline:
No, definitely. Well, and that's part of why I am trying so hard now to plan ahead with most of my projects, like weeks in advance to accommodate myself if I'm having a day when I'm like, because, you know, we all have days when we're lower energy, lower creativity. And like, I think, you know, that's fine and that's good to recognize that and to, you know, accommodate yourself within reason. But at the same time, you know, you have due dates and you can't keep pushing due dates back just cause like, I don't really feel like it today. So, but like, if you give yourself enough time, you know, you can accommodate for those days and be like, okay, ideally I would draft this today, but if I'm not, if it's not working today, like it's not coming, then I have two days, two more days that I can draft it instead of being like, this is due in five hours. And I would rather jump into a shark tank right now than write anything.

Maggie:
Yeah. That is a really smart to kind of set your own, like sort of mental due dates that are ahead of the actual due date is really smart.

Madeline:
It's sort of like how, when you, like, if you set your alarm clock like five minutes faster and try to trick your brain into thinking that you're running late, which that never worked for me, but.

Maggie:
Yeah. Yeah. And I think too, you know, like when you have as like many people who, you know, create content and stuff like that, do like have many projects at any given time, like, lots of stuff to do in a given day for different clients, you know, freelance work, all that stuff. I think that it can be difficult to sort of fit it all in and, and even like organize your mind around what has to be done. So I like legitimately I am going to hold this up, listeners can't see it, but like I legitimately do time block.

Madeline:
I do the same thing.

Maggie:
Yeah. And it's something that I actually I've heard about on Tobi Fairley's podcast. I find it incredibly useful because it just helps me to visualize everything I need to get done in a day, whether it's like, you know, work or other like extracurricular sort of stuff and determined exactly what I'm going to do it and how much time I'm going to give to that task.
So if you don't know what that is, listeners, it's like you block your day out into different hour long chunks. Like I kind of like play it loose like three hour chunks, but then you take note of what you're going to get done in that time, like work on this thing, you know, like do laundry, whatever the things are that you need to get done in a given day. And then you stick to it. And when you move out of that time, blocking into the next one, you get started on the next task. So it really gives you like a sense of momentum and you get something done on that stuff every time or every day. And I think it's helpful to even feel like you do have like a mini due date, like, okay, I need to get this in before 2:00 PM because I'm going to move on to a new task.

Madeline:
Yeah, for sure. For sure. And then like holding yourself to that and being like, okay, it's two o'clock it's time to stop doing this and to start doing the other thing. That's important too, because sometimes I'll just get like sucked into a project and, you know, especially that's when like the big monster of perfectionism comes out and I think if you give yourself that, like you said, that mini due date of like, okay, no, this is done. We've used our time for this task and now we're moving on. Then it's less opportunity to obsess over it.

Maggie:
Ah, yeah. Andy can kind of avoid some of the burnout that comes with like, all right, I'm going to take six hours to write a sales page on this Saturday, but you get like pretty, like, you know, that feeling like you can't see the forest through the trees.

Madeline:
Oh yeah.

Maggie:
Like that can happen pretty quickly when you're writing something big. That takes a lot of time.

Madeline:
Yeah. I wrote a sales page a couple of weeks ago that despite my absolute best efforts, I ended up drafting most mainly in one go with it, a couple breaks in between. But most of it was in one day. And like, by the time I got to the end, I was like, it was like, I have two brain cells left and they are struggling. So I like had to leave a note for my editor. That was just like, I ran out of steam, like, I'll fix the end later, but like it's done. Here it is.

Maggie:
Yeah. Which is sometimes legitimately what you have to do to, you know, trust your editor. But another, you know, like speaking of many breaks, another really, really good strategy is the Pomodoro technique. Sometimes when we have North Star co-working hours, I know that we've used it, but I really like it too. And it's basically, you know, just a way of maintaining focus, honestly, that you set a timer or you download an app there's ton of apps for using this technique, for twenty-five minutes. And in that 25 minutes, you just focus on the one task you've selected and you just work on that. You don't open a new tab or whatever thing you want to do until the twenty-five minutes is up. And then you get a five minute break. And after that five minute breaks over, you jump into another 25 minute session. And after several of these, I can't remember exactly how many, then you kind of have a built-in longer break then 25 minutes.

Madeline:
To do. I usually do 3 25, 5 25, 5 25 and like 20. Yeah, like a 20 minute break. But sometimes if I have a lot to do, I'll do four instead.

Maggie:
Yeah. I mean, and that's like, I mean, it's pretty incredible. It's like an hour and a half worth of work, you know, that you got done in like an hour and a half more or less because you haven't been taking a ton of breaks, a three minute break here, every two minutes of work know.

Madeline:
Right, right. So why is it, why is it called Pomodoro? Like, I know you mentioned this to me before and I still am confused about it.

Maggie:
So I've done what I read that I hope I'm not like wrong remembering this, so the like theorist scientists' behaviors, I'm not sure who he was that created this technique was Italian and Pomodoro is Italian for tomato. And so it's called tomato time. And that the tomato part is like, has something to do with the tomato. Like the timers you'd keep in your kitchen or like boiling water or whatever, cooking that looked like tomatoes. My aunt Mary had one of these. I don't know if it's a superpower or it just as a reference to cooking.

Madeline:
Because I'm like, why isn't it tomato? I mean, maybe, tomatoes are delicious. I don't know. I don't, I never grew up with a tomato timer. I don't think I've heard of that. But I had all sorts of weird things in my mind. This is completely a tangent, but growing up my, just to give you an idea of what I'm dealing with, my tea kettle that my family had growing up, it didn't whistle. It was like a harmonica noise. And so like, which is really cool, but I just like grew up thinking that that's how all tea kettles were. So like, if that gives you any idea of the timer that I had, it definitely was not like a tomato, so that's why I was like, why is it tomato time?

Maggie:
It was like a trumpet or something like that.

Madeline:
It was a rectangular timer. But yeah, but it's still good, but that's fine. Now. I want a tomato timer. I'm going to have to get one now.

Maggie:
I haven't, I don't have an actual tomato timer, but I do have an app on my phone focus keeper, which I find really helpful. That is just about timing for the Pomodoro technique. And I've had one in the past that called was called, forest helped me focus. And it was really cute because the longer you focused, you would like grow a tree, you know, but if you like clicked, you clicked out of the app or clicking something else, like you would start killing your tree.

Madeline:
Oh, no.

Maggie:
It was for 25 minute sessions. Not in general.

Madeline:
Uh, gosh, I'm already bad at keeping real plants alive. So that's awesome. That's awesome. Oh, the other thing that helps me in addition to the time blocking the tomato time is like, at the beginning of the day, just picking out like, okay, these are the three big things that must happen by the end of the day. And you know, if I get those done and I still have time and energy, then I can move on to other things. But like that helps me, especially when I am working on a bunch of different projects. Cause it can feel super overwhelming, like looking at everything I have to get done over the week and being like, oh my gosh, how, like I can't get it all done. And then I just kind of like freeze and then don't do anything, which is not good. So like if I can just break it down to be like, okay, if by the end of the day I have gotten these three tests done, then it will be, wow. It will have been a successful day.
And then within that, like just making sure that they're at different, like the three tasks are all at different stages. Like I'm not drafting three different things. Like my big three things, aren't all from scratch drafts because that's just, that's not gonna happen. But if it's like, okay, draft one thing and then like do revisions on another thing. And then I don't know, like send a client this box or something that you like, it can be as small or as big as that, but just like making sure, okay. I have three things. If I get the three things done, then it will have been a successful day and I can go to bed without like stressing too much.

Maggie:
I think that that's a really valid point that you bring up too, of like just working on things that are kind of in different stages or, or are different enough. Right.

Madeline:
Yeah.

Maggie:
I think that sometimes especially people that are not in this field, like don't recognize like just how creative it is and how energetically draining that could be. Like, you truly run out of like the mental agility to create really good sales copy if you've been at it for three hours.

Madeline:
Yeah. And like, especially with North Star, when I'm writing for North Star clients, I mean, our whole thing is nailing the client's voice. And you know, if I am in a situation where I need to draft two things for two different clients with two completely different voices, like doing them both on the same day is not going to produce the best work because I get so like grounded in a certain client's voice. And then if I have to like switch to like a dramatically different voice, then I get really confused.

Maggie:
Yeah, That makes total sense. I think that is, you know, it's not a way to that, seeing the happens behind the scenes that, you know, people don't really appreciate, but like giving that kind of space to do the work in order to do it well.

Madeline:
Yeah, definitely.

Maggie:
Are there other techniques you have, or managing your time or just doing it well, like getting things done in a way that feels good, I guess.

Madeline:
Yeah. The other thing that I've had to like kind of develop for myself is like giving myself grace and flexibility and keeping an open mind about what times I work. I feel like in, you know, in creative fields, we both work from home and working from home is like, in some ways it's a blessing in some ways it's a curse because you know, you don't have set hours, which is cool, cause you can create your own hours. But you know, I think there's still sometimes feels like there's this expectation that like, okay, if I don't work typical quote, unquote working hours, like nine to five or something, then like I'm a lazy, hot mess or something like that. Maybe that's just me. I don't know.

Maggie:
I get that. I totally get that.

Madeline:
Yeah. But like personally I'm a night owl and so sometimes I'll just like, feel super, super creative at like one o'clock in the morning. And I'll just like crank out a whole bunch of work then. And some things has been like integral to me is like figuring out, okay, how do I give myself like flexibility and grace with that while also making sure that I get things done.

Maggie:
Yeah, totally. And I think that just having, and maybe this is something that working from home gives you, maybe I'm not sure, but you know, like having that awareness of like how you work, when do you like to be writing and when do you like to be like living the rest of your life? You know, that's right. It's really important to be attuned to because yeah, I think that's how, you know, like work should be in a perfect world, you know, and it should be done at a time and in a way that feels good to you, and feels good to your body and all of that, you know, when you have a lot of energy, but it might take some, it takes some time to like figure out in some cases.

Madeline:
It does, there's a lot of trial by error and sometimes trial by fire.

Maggie:
Yeah, yeah. That is the truth. And that being said, I'm sure that you all out there listening have had some, you know, like perhaps new experiences working from home or maybe you're like, oh, work from home veteran and you've been doing it for years in either case, I'm sure you all have figured out some useful strategies for managing your time and just getting things done in a way that leaves you feeling good, accomplished and never drained.
So, we would love to hear those. We do have a slack channel that we created just for other writers to get support, share ideas, all of that stuff. It is the Polaris writer's lounge. Have you head over to our website, you can sign up to get a link to join. And we have a lot of conversations like this in there where people share ideas, tips, and even just commiserate.

Madeline:
Yep. It's a really good time. It's free. Just support and resources and commiseration on every aspect of writing, not just time management, but that's definitely a topic that comes up. So...

Maggie:
Yeah, it's super important. So thank you all so much for spending a little time with us on the podcast and it's such a pleasure to be on the podcast for the next few episodes.

Madeline:
Yes we're excited.

Maggie:
Alright, well until next time.

Marie:
Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Brand Your Voice Podcast Make sure to visit our website, northstarmessaging.com, where you can subscribe to the show on iTunes, Spotify, and more.

Jessi:
If you found value in this episode, we'd love for you to leave us a review on iTunes and share it with your friends. Thank you, and happy content creating.

For additional content strategy and branding tips, check out northstarmessaging.com/blog. Also, please tag us on Instagram and let us know you’re out there! @northstarmessaging 


Spread the love