Why time management is so hard for creative people

Everyone in every field complains about not having enough time, even though we all have the same amount. But creative types often struggle with time management more than others. That’s mainly because organizational systems are designed by analytical types. The J’s, if you’re familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

These are the folks who excel at scheduling, sorting, and list-making. Myers and Briggs call them “Judging,” but I prefer the term “Judicious.”

People who are what Myers & Briggs call Perceptive—creative, spontaneous, and imaginative—tend to resist scheduling, sorting, and list-making, all of which are critical to these systems. Perceivers like to have lots of options, and often see lists and schedules as eliminating options.

creative organizing
Photo by Justyna Furmanczyk • freeimages.com

To a certain extent, the perceiver needs to embrace scheduling to increase productivity, just as the introvert needs to embrace networking to succeed in business. But you can do this within the bounds of your personality. Find the system that works for you, then adapt it to fit you—not the other way around.

If the idea of being locked into a schedule makes you squirm, remember that your schedule is just a plan and can flex to accommodate whatever crops up. Keep big blocks of time open and be flexible and creative about how you fill them. Keep things fluid so your options are open.

Don’t think of lists as things you must do—they are things you can do when you chose to.

When I teach time management, I say the session is a menu, not a rulebook. Some of the techniques I’m going to suggest will sound good to you, others you’ll think are crazy. Take what works and leave the rest.

For example, last time I mentioned that many writing instructors advise doing your writing early in the day. This is because if you leave it until evening, you run the risk of having Interruptions crowd out your Important Goals.

priority grid urgent important

But some of us are just never going to be at our best first thing in the morning. That’s why I use that time for consumption, rather than creation. First thing in the morning I can take some time to pray, read, and drink my coffee. Not necessarily in that order. But if I try to do creative work then, it’s likely to be a bust. I’m really no good for creative work until after Second Breakfast.

Understanding your own creative highs and lows is an important part of managing your time. Because in addition to managing your time, you have to manage your energy.

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2 Comments

  1. Thanks for this article. For a while I believed that I was the most unproductive person in the world. Then I thought, mainly because of my tendency to procrastinate, maybe I am only good when faced with a deadline.

    But no, for me I am most productive between 2pm and 6pm. I get sooooo much done. This could be due to the fact that I’m trying to beat the clock because the work day is almost over, but whatever the reason I’ve decided to give myself some credit today. I just need to capitalize on those most productive hours of mine as much as I can.

    1. Yes! Knowing when you’re most productive is key. Knowing when you will stop (what is sometimes called a hard out) is also key. I’ll talk about this more next time. Thanks for sharing! You are not alone.

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