A few weeks ago I was asked how I manage my time to accomplish items on my to do list. First let me just say that my situation affords me a lot of time to devote towards illustration projects and for that I feel very fortunate. My youngest boy is now 13 and does a lot with his older brothers and friends. My wife was teaching school when he was a pup so I spent a lot of time watering and weeding that one but now I have much more time. I don't have a full time job so that really helps. I know many of you have a lot of responsibilities that demand big chunks of time but here are some of my strategies - perhaps they might give you a few ideas:
I need less money because we've simplified our lives. Fewer activities, reusing items, less extravagant vacations - basically living within our means has allowed me to take on less work- to be choosy and more judicious with my time.
I work many hours during the day but when I draw I do it on my iPad in the family room so I can be with my wife and kids - not super high quality time but I can still participate in discussions...and arguments :) I do most of the thumbnail and design decisions in my studio where I can think and then refine the finishes with the fam.
I sketch on an iPad - I can't tell you how much time this has saved me. We have some medical issues in our family and find ourselves at doctor appointments quite often. Now I can take my work with me on the iPad. I like it better than a sketchbook because I can completely finish drawings because I never run out of "paper". You can always re-size and keep working. When I'm at school or waiting for one of my kids in the car - at the in-laws, etc. I always have the ability to keep working. I then email the work to myself and when I get home I'm already to start photoshop work.
I love hiking in the mountains and playing racquetball - so I use both of these as incentives. I'll tell myself that I can't leave for my hike until I get x done. Self imposed deadlines have become a way of life - so much that sometimes I forget that they are my deadlines and I sometimes have to remind myself that it's ok to blow one now and then. The hike resets my mind and gives me focus - I'm more productive when I return.
I had to go on an internet diet. One of my indulgences is to check facebook, email, twitter, my blog, my back office sales stats for Amazon and Pubit, other people's blogs, news feeds, etc. The online connections are potentially endless and Seth Godin really helped me by clearly stating that these distractions are NOT work. So while I used to be able to convince myself that it was part of my productivity I no longer can - Thanks Seth! I jump on in the morning and then a few more times throughout the day but then I click out and really try to crank on my assignments.
I visualize a lot too. I begin with the end in mind as Stephen Covey put it in his 7 habits book. Imagining how cool it will be to have children's story apps for iPad and android really gets me going and gives me the motivation to sidestep many distractions that inevitably try to trip me each day.
I also break down each project into small little checklist items. Even if you're only able to cross one little item off each day think what you'll be able to accomplish in a year. Thinking about doing it is good but people sometimes spend years telling themselves, "I'm going to_______." - make the freakin list - start checking things off!
Probably the biggest thing I've been able to do to boost my productivity and time management is to start saying no to assignments I'm not in love with. Cutting out the projects that bring me down and replacing them with projects I love has me waking up in the morning excited to get going. Sometimes I have to pinch myself that I get to go in my studio and work on some freakin cool stuff.
Hope this list helps some of you - it's taken me many years to finally figure out what works for me - I'd love to know what works for you...maybe I can steal a few ideas.