Last week, the Audio Publishers Association held its annual conference (APAC), which was skipped last year due to COVID-19 and was virtual this time. They ran it on a site that gave us a virtual meeting space, networking areas, and an exhibit section like an in-person event.
The planning committee had asked me to be one of the experts meeting with small groups of narrators to address their particular questions in the Business Diagnostics session. I had the great pleasure of talking with 6 groups of narrators about time management and marketing/branding topics.
I say I was surprised because I’ve often wondered the very same thing about other people!
I answered that I still struggle with this issue, sometimes on a daily basis. I always have a lot of things on my to-do list, and I can find it difficult to prioritize them.
“To be clear,” I continued, “other people’s deadlines for audiobook production always get 1st priority.” Rhythms of the household or neighborhood might affect recording time for some people, but I can record whenever I want through the day. I aim to beat all deadlines!
For my own narration projects, I set a general goal for completion and add padding to determine a delivery date to my editor. Why get stressed over self-imposed timeframes?
I don’t set deadlines for my articles, videos, etc. for my sites, with the exception of my bi-monthly newsletter about my projects (sent at 10:00am the 2nd Tuesday of even-numbered months) and the newsletter I send every other Monday at 11am to NarratorsRoadmap.com members about site updates.
I noted that I’m less likely to write or develop other content on a day that I narrate. Narration requires a lot of mental energy!
I maintain a pretty consistent schedule regarding work hours. I usually work 3-5 hours a day, and I definitely don’t like working 8-10 hours a day. If I wanted to perpetually have that level of busyness, I would have stayed with the IRS!
I also plan my daily schedule around the weather forecast. Rainy days are good writing days. In good weather during at least 6 months of the year, I intend to spend my afternoons poolside.
Yogi’s schnauzer alarms must be factored in. I know he expects to take his afternoon walk between 2:00-2:30, so I need to be able to stop what I’m doing by then. Finally, I usually plan at least Sundays as an off-day but often add other days off in the week.
Even after our time elapsed in the group, the question continued to reverberate in my mind. Like a lot of people, I’m constantly searching for the magic formula that solves the problem of having an overflowing to-do list.
I’ve researched and experimented with methods to divide large blocks of time to produce more finished products, but the small, incremental changes listed below have most increased my output. I suspect that prolific content creators do some of these things to a greater extent than me, such as outsourcing.
1. Help myself first.
We all only have so much time each day. I could spend all of my time helping other people and not be able to meet the demand. Plus, people don’t put a high value on advice they receive for free with no effort on their part.
I decided a long time ago that it’s not my job to educate the masses, even in the Facebook groups I’m in. As much as I want to protect the quality of audiobooks, I can only do so much to help people, especially when many refuse the benefit of my knowledge. While I obviously do volunteer a lot of time guiding and advising people, it’s more important that I continue to improve my skills and fulfill my vision for my life.
I stopped doing consultations for this very reason. I found they took too much time from my other pursuits, especially since I spent uncompensated time preparing for them to find links for people and then let the sessions run past the appointed hour to ensure the participant got the info they needed. I freely chose to add value in these ways.
However, a single person caused me to cease consultations. After they dismissed my good advice and suggestions with a negative, somewhat confrontational attitude for the entire hour, I decided the money wasn’t worth going through that experience again.
2. Establish and follow a communications policy.
I am most to likely respond to emails if I can do so within 5 minutes. Those messages tend to be ones where I’m able to share a link to something. If my answer would require more time, I want to convert it into some sort of content for my sites. Therefore, I may need weeks to reply at length.
I elaborate on 5 time-saving prongs of my communications practices in this article and encourage you to adopt similar tactics.
3. Repurpose and reuse material.
Linking to something relevant that I’ve written (as I so frequently do) only points the way to one form of the idea. Repurposing it, on the other hand, means to repackage it into another format or product. Reusing content this way is the secret sauce designed to get more mileage from it. This Tuesday Tip discusses several examples how to repurpose information. I’ll offer 3 more below.
- I copy everything I write in online forums to an Evernote notebook so I can quickly search through my words and repurpose them. For instance, I originally wrote the paragraphs under Item 1 above in a Facebook group for narrators. I harvested them from Evernote and then replanted them into this article.
- I lifted 3 paragraphs and the keyboard shortcuts from this article and plopped them straight into this Tuesday Tip.
- The slides I created and information I presented at Johnny Heller’s Splendiferous Workshop last year about creating your own path became the foundation for a video course I made for NarratorsRoadmap.com members.
4. Use automated tools whenever possible.
Since I’m the Queen of Links, I naturally created a linked list of resources for all the narrators in my APAC Business Diagnostics groups. I then decided to give it away to everyone who visited the APAC NarratorsRoadmap.com exhibitor booth. If you’d like a copy, you can download it here.
With time management as one of my topics, I included relevant Tuesday Tips, a couple of which I’ve already linked to in this article. The 6 tips below from my APAC resources list all relate to automated tools that will speed up your workflow:
- 7 Use Text Replacement The linked article under #2 above shows a picture of a text replacement.
- 8 Create Inbox Rules
- 9 Canned Messages and Templates
- 17 Memory Aids
- 19 Schedule Tasks
- 28 Connect Some Apps
The linked article above describes how I employ color-coded calendars and Evernote for monthly and daily to-do lists. An item on my calendar urges me to pay attention to it and do it. A digital calendar is better than a paper planner because it can visually and/or aurally remind me.
I rely on Evernote as my centralized repository for ideas and info. During my Business Diagnostics sessions, 2 people gave me suggestions for future articles they wanted to see. I immediately added them in the appropriate Evernote notebook. You can learn more about my Evernote operations in this post.
6. Outsource work to other people.
The Quadrants of Brilliance exercise in this article will help you figure out which tasks you should do and which ones you should delegate to another person or team.
I outsource my editing and proofing of my audiobooks to an editor. My husband Drew not only directs my recording sessions, but he is integral to many other parts of my business. He does both videography and video editing for me, responds to my LinkedIn invitations, adds my audiobook giveaways to promo sites, and manages my mailing list and web site updates. Previously, I was attempting to do all of these things in between other activities. We also hired a fabulous housekeeper who cleans our house twice a month, as well as a lawn service to maintain our yard each week.
7. Focus on a single task at a time.
Numerous studies show that our brains aren’t wired to do multiple tasks at the same time. We’re actually less productive when we try to do too many things at once.
A big part of managing multiple projects on a daily basis is scheduling the time for the next task in each one. Knowing that I have the other projects on my calendar gives me the freedom to concentrate on the one at hand.
I’ve found that putting all of my attention on one thing actually makes me feel I have MORE time to finish. Even when talking on the phone to a friend, I’m not doing anything but talking to them. My exception to this rule is if they want me to look at something on the computer that we then discuss together.
8. Limit time spent on social media.
I try to adhere to Bonnie Gillespie’s motto about social media: Creator, not Consumer.
I’m constantly invited to join new groups and sites, but I don’t do it. Even though Reddit has audiobook narrator groups, I don’t have an account there and won’t start one. Clubhouse is a hot, new thing, but I refused the invitations to join it.
I set the app limits in my iPhone’s Screen Time module to alert me when I’ve reached the threshold on social media. Even so, I’m constantly exceeding my daily limit.
9. Try different approaches for the same task.
My blog articles typically require at least 6 hours to write, in part because I find and test a number of links in each one. Although writing is both a creative outlet for me and a foundation of my business, I haven’t discovered a one-size-fits-all mode of getting it done. I’ve written articles by:
- scheduling 30 minutes of content creation daily on my calendar. This consistent practice works pretty well, especially since I don’t just write articles in that time. I create images and promotional pieces, film something for a video, etc. (As an aside, I loved a sea turtle petroglyph I saw in Hawaii and adopted it as my spirit animal when I learned it symbolically meant “self-contained creative source.” Of course, the tortoise is also the symbol for “slow and steady wins the race!”)
- registering for CJ Hayden’s “Get It Written” days. Paying money to a coach can be a good accountability measure!
- outlining the article as a draft when the ideas come. Otherwise, I lose them. This option has the benefit of leaving me with lots of material that I can flesh out into a full article.
- dropping everything and writing the article when the muse is speaking so loudly to me that I can’t think of anything else. Ideas love speed!
Every article needs an appropriate graphic to go with it, but searching for a good image can be very time-consuming.
Do you have a favorite time management tip? I’d love to see it, so please leave a comment!