How You’re Using Your Day-Planner Wrong: Get Better At Working From Home (Part 2)

Do you struggle with time management?

If you often find yourself scrambling to get out the door in the morning, arriving late for almost everything, missing meals, forgetting important dates; you most likely are bad at time management.

Being bad at managing our time can not only hurt our productivity, but also our relationships and quality of life— it can even lead to us disappointing the people we care about most.

I don’t often miss my bus, but when I do it puts a damper on my day because the next one won’t come for 30 minutes, making me late.

What if this happened every day?

I would be miserable. I would dread catching the bus every day because I would always miss it. Rather than missing my bus, I just give myself way more time to catch it.

I don’t have a special routine. I don’t have to wake up at 5am (you can’t get me out of bed until at least 8am, if you’re lucky). 

So what’s my secret?

My day planner… That’s it!

Even though it’s one of the first things (and arguably the only things) we learn in elementary school, time management escapes us.

If you remember your school timetable—or maybe you still have one in the form of a calendar planner—it was or is the thing that rules your life. It tells you where to be and what you’re doing at every hour of the (school/work) day.


As adults of a planning-mindset, we usually adopt a day-planner to manage our lives.

But did you know you’re probably using it wrong?

What your daily planner IS NOT FOR:

  • To do lists of what to do each day—this isn’t useful because it doesn’t tell you WHEN and HOW LONG you’re doing those things on your list. 
  • Items without dedicated time intervals. If you don’t know how long something will take, set an amount of time (i.e. 2 hours) to work on it—try setting a timer and don’t break your concentration until it goes off.
  • Items that are not actionable: they have to be broken down into smaller tasks in order to be completed.

These things are what make us realize at the end of the day that we only got through half of what we planned to accomplish; we always plan too much in one day when we fall into these ‘productivity traps’.

Working At Home Like A Pro With The Help Of These Tips
The Importance Of Time-management Skills When Working From Home

‘Productivity traps’ are what make us feel busy all day, but leave us disappointed by what we finished (or didn’t) that day.

Things like chasing ‘vanity metrics’, we’re pouring our energy into things that don’t reward us the most when we don’t plan our days.


So what’s the big secret that’s transformed how I think about my time and productivity?

Two words my friend: time-blocking. Or is that two words? Whatever.

Learning about time-blocking is what started to totally change how I work. I never feel like I’m wasting my time. 

It’s given me the freedom as a freelancer to be more present; I don’t feel like I have to be glued to my phone because I know when I need to be… I scheduled it.


So how can you get better at time management right now?

If you haven’t already, you should really read my Part 1 of this post before going any further! If you haven’t done any time-tracking, time-blocking will be a failure.

Why?

Because you need to know what you do with your time first.

So go read that post right now if you need to learn what time-tracking is along with my tips and favourite apps to get started!

Now I’ve been raving for a while, but what’s the big deal?

You might be thinking “I’m self-employed and don’t need a schedule”, but that would be a huge mistake!

Our minds tend to segment things — to break them off into smaller chunks, so they’re easier for our brains to digest. This can naturally make it difficult to accurately track your time.

We sit down and draw for an hour, but it feels like it’s been minutes. Or, you’ll be at work for an hour and feel like you’ve been there all day. 

Our animal brains have no real concept of time.

That’s why I find time-blocking so important.


Time-blocking is the act of delegating set amounts of time for the tasks you need to complete, but in as much detail and specific as possible.

Whether, it’s my work life or the activities I do in my free time, I like to keep track of the time I’m doing anything because it forces me to be present.

Applying time-blocking to my entire life — rather than just my work life — is what really kicked my productivity into gear this year. Extending this philosophy past the common conception of a ‘work day’, I found is where I starting seeing the most returns.

I force myself to take a moment to asses (or reassess) what I’m doing, how long I’ve been doing it, and if it’s a thing I should be doing.

Spending 3 hours drafting a comic is great, but three hours of ‘drafting a comic’ with nothing to show but a queue of watched Youtube videos is not. 

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Read about what live-streaming is and how it boosted my art at The Artist Journal.ca + download a FREE printable to get your goals ready for 2020!

Tracking your time alongside time-blocking will force to be in the present moment and will hold you accountable for how you use your time.

See how it all comes together?

I know this sounds totally neurotic and overkill, but I wouldn’t talk about it so much if it didn’t totally change my workflow.

Tracking all of my time has shown me a lot about how I work. It’s shown me:

  • What hours are my most productive
  • How long the regular tasks I do take
  • How much time I’m making for family and friends
  • What foods I like to eat and when

I’ve even figured out the best times of day to work on different projects.

I wouldn’t talk about it this much if it were no big deal.

I really want you try this too!

So, I’m going to break down how I effectively use my day planner so you can get better at time-management and get more time out of your day with time-blocking!

First off, I use colours to segment my day into the blocks I want. This is what my planner looks like before I even write in it:

I’ve been doing this for a while, so I know when I’m most productive and when I need to take breaks. I use the different colours to show that here! 

Having these blocks determined already really helps later in the week when I’m trying to remember when is the best times to pencil in clients, collaborate with others, and carve out time for intense ‘deep-work’ sessions.

When you time-block your entire day, make it look like a school time table, with clear hour blocks of time to write in. The acceptation here is it begins when you wake up, and stops when you go to sleep. This can even be done on plain notebook paper.

Things to include when doing this (including how long it takes to do it):

  • Wake up, get clean and dressed 
  • Make and eat Breakfast
  • Commute
  • Buying Groceries on your way home
  • Walking the dog after dinner
  • Binging YouTube tutorials, all of it

Everything you do doesn’t need to be productive, it shouldn’t be; it should just be what you want to accomplish. 

Whether you want to bake yourself cake and eat the whole thing, or go to the movies with an old friend — your time should be spent on things you’ve set out to do and not letting yourself go idle, losing hours to Netflix.

This is about what my day planner looks like after filling it out:

I give myself extra cushions of time to be sure I’m not late for things while still having time for regular tasks. When I have extra time I usually have a book on hand or an article I wanted to read online.

I leave some of my regular tasks out because I have notification reminders for them on my phone, or they’re already a part of my natural routine; things like watering my plants, doing dishes while I start dinner, and other household chores that take less than 30 minutes.

I suggest only planning 2-3 days in advance in this sort of detail, unless you have a regular job where you work a set amount of hours at the same time every day.

Now that I’m better at journalling and planning my days, I find myself planning in detail 4-5 days in advance. Any more than that is overwhelming for me — my queue can’t get too long or I get very stressed out.

I’m sure you can relate to that feeling of overwhelm, having so many things to do you can’t remember them all. That’s why writing it out is great.

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I do a brain dump at the end of every week of things I didn’t get done and things I need to finish the next week. I also think about new tasks I want to accomplish for the next week. 

I do this by referencing actionable items in my ‘brain dump’, allowing me to let go of my mental to-do list.

This allows me to concentrate on the task at hand, because I intentionally planned time to do it. Whether that’s enjoying playing video games or writing for my blog until my iPad dies, I no longer feel any guilt or weight on my shoulders because I know I’m doing what I set out to.


Planning my days this way has totally changed how I work and how I accomplish more of the things I want to do, faster.

I’m hoping this in-depth walk-through of my day planner has convinced you the impact of time-blocking to improve your productivity and quality of work, and life.

If you found this article helpful I would love to hear what you have to say in the comments! This is a much longer piece than I usually write and I would love to know what you think, or what you would like to see more of in the future.

Until next time,

-J

Joey Dean is an illustrator and artist lifestyle blogger.

Since starting his online art-based business in 2016, Joey has been writing educational articles to help other artists learn essential solo-preneur skills like time management and productivity and is best known for his ability to translate left-brained concepts for right-brained people.

Share his passion for comics and creative lifestyle on his blog, The Artist Journal, and catch him at @joeytoadstool across the universe.

Journalling Ideas To Guide You Through 2020 + A Free Journal Prompt List

One of my favourite things to do at the end of each year is to reflect on the previous 12 months and make “goals that build” for the next year — relevant goals that align to an overall vision.

This time of year really forces me to reflect on the past year and determine how close I am to my future vision as the previous one. Here’s a bit more on developing your future vision.

Set effective goals for the new year - Pinterest Graphic
Download your 6 free journal prompts printable for dominating your New Years’ resolutions at TheArtistJournal.ca

*Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission to fund my coffee drinking habit if you use these links to make a purchase. You will not be charged extra, and you’ll keep me supplied in caffeine. It’s a win for everyone, really.

I don’t ordinarily journal my thoughts — especially if I’m trying to solve a problem — because I’m often frustrated by the delay from my brain to my shaky hands. I usually finish a multiple-sentence thought in less time than it takes me to write about 12 words by hand.

This time of year is when I make an exception to that rule, and actually find myself valuing what I’m frantically jotting down. What I’m writing is the type of thing I will look back on in the new year, when putting together my next goals that build — a topic I would love to cover more another time!

I’ll be referring to my goals every month when I plan out my milestones for the upcoming weeks, and again at the end of the next year! Because of this, I keep them as neat as possible.

I generally tend to use the iOS Notes.app for my basic drafts and brainstorming; but since I’m routinely adding, editing, revising, and referring to these reflective journal entries, I keep them all in one place: Notability. This app on my iPad Pro is essential, especially with the apple pencil. I’ve been using it since I got my iPad over 3 years ago and it’s gotten me through college lectures, work seminars, and years of project planning.

How I set new year goals - Pinterest Graphic
Download your 6 free journal prompts printable for dominating your New Years’ resolutions at TheArtistJournal.ca

The types of things I find myself reflecting on are always: work, finances, hobbies, and home. 

I worked hard this year, really hard. Constantly strung-out, flaking on plans, and sleeping for 12 hours every day kind-of-tired. I don’t regret any of it, though. I feel better than ever: I feel alive. I’ve also learned how to push my limits, set boundaries, and treat myself with compassion.

One of my goals for this year is to be more composed and diligent, and have been embodying that over the past few weeks. I’ve already crushed a couple milestones before the year even started! Talk about the power of intention…

Think about what kind of wins you want to make this year.

What have you accomplished this year that you would like to bring with you into 2020?

Journalling our best year yet for artist New Years' goal setting - Pinterest Graphic
Download your 6 free journal prompts printable for dominating your New Years’ resolutions at TheArtistJournal.ca

Obviously work and finances are deeply co-related, but when you have more than one source of income, things get complicated. Between licensing more of my artwork, finding distributors to work with in 2020, and selling my painting archives; I already have a slew of financial goals I want to meet this year with some new side-hustles planned as well! 

To accomplish my financial goals I’ve been working through the “Master Your Money” bundle by Ultimate bundles and boy, it’s a treat! Even if there wasn’t over a dozen video lessons, the workbooks, ebooks, and printable materials provided are more than worth it!

I’ve already gotten a leg-up on meal-planning (my ultimate weakness) and keeping better track of my monthly purchases; now would be a great time of year to get started mastering your money and a great way to start off a new decade right! (If you purchase your bundle through my link, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you!*)

 I’ve improved my confidence so much this year, in a way I would have never expected!

How?

By learning how to cook.

Not just food, either. I have some favourite recipes to share to make your household more self-sustainable. And because making things yourself is Punk AF.

I’ve not only perfected by bread-making skills, but learned a ton of bulk-cooking recipes (thanks to Cheap Lazy Vegan), and make ALL of my own household cleaners. I even DIY some of my own skincare products now and my skin looks better than ever! All of these recipes I use can also be found on my Pinterest boards, where I’m constantly active!

I would love to share some of my tips and recipes for saving over $50 a month in your home! If this is something you would be interested, please let me know in the comments or via email! I’d love to cover things such as the many money-saving uses of Castile soap, as well as safe and practical uses for essential oils in your home.

free journal prompts for dominating your New Years' resolutions - Pinterest Graphic
Download your 6 free journal prompts printable for dominating your New Years’ resolutions at TheArtistJournal.ca

I wanted to leave you with some of my favourite journal prompts to get you thinking about how you want 2020 to look for you:

  • Write down 10 things you need more of in your life — pick three to focus on for the next three months.
  • Write down three actions you can take to embody these things throughout the new year.
  • List 5 things you can do to make yourself happy — right now.
  • Make a list of 25 things you’re grateful for from the past year.
  • List 100 things — big or small — that you would like to accomplish in the 2020’s.
  • Envision and record your perfect day. Think about what it would contain and write it down in as much detail as possible.
  • Make a list of your passions. Next, make a list next to it (a table) and list your priorities: where your time goes. Are you satisfied with how they match up? Is there anything you want to change?

Tip: Keep a copy with your weekly planner to keep you on track throughout the year while planning your day-to-day. Download that freebie!

So what will you accomplish in the new decade?

Photo by Alex Nemo Hanse on Unsplash

Now that I’m 14 weeks post-surgery and have gotten the O-K from my surgeon, I plan on running again. Between chronic illness and gender dysphoria, it’s something I haven’t been able to do for myself in years. Once it’s above 40 degrees Fahrenheit I can hit the trail behind my house with my new trainers!

Leave me a comment responding to one of these prompts, or what you want to accomplish by the end of 2020! In the meantime, also check out my latest piece on making a bigger impact with your art in 2020!

Until next time,

-J

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How I Accidentally Started A Brand And You Can Too!

Before writing more great advice about creating content, I wanted to give you a run-down of my background, what I make, and how I got started. I’ve been really excited to share this story, as I feel it’s a great learning experience to share with other creators, whether you’re just starting out, or stuck in a career-rut.

Toadstool Illustrates is the online apparel and print shop I run. I use it to facilitate creative conversation around LGBTQ+ and its’ expression. Toadstool has evolved with me as an artist, being the brand’s third iteration it has become exactly what I set out to do when I first officially opened up shop in October 2016.

But back when I started, that wasn’t my plan or even my intention. I actually had no idea of what I wanted other than “I want to make stuff and make an impact”. In the beginning I mistook that for something else…


How I got started.

The patches all started in 2015.

I was in college for Environmental Technology and found there weren’t any active environmentalists or other activists among my peers. I additionally found that even working for the government I couldn’t make in impact. It was extremely disheartening.

While in college I worked for a summer at a popular craft store, and was doing a lot of sewing and clothing alterations. I had piles of scraps piling up because I just couldn’t bear to throw it all in the trash. 

Table covered in scattered bobbins of thread, yarn, and other sewing supplies in a green cutting board.
Photo by Vladimir Proskurovskiy on Unsplash

Weeks go by and I’m still wondering what to do with all of these scraps. They appeared to be nothing but a pile of shredded denim and bleached t-shirt arms. I decided I would cut them into squares, as large as I could, and noticed they were all coming out at similar sizes. I still couldn’t figure out a use for them.

I am suddenly struck with these questions: can I make an impact by spreading messages? Can messages spread via the things you wear? Of course, that’s what brand logos and tattoos are for, but wouldn’t it be better if you could spread multiple messages at the same time? This and many similar thoughts led me to do some brainstorming.

After doing a little research, I decided hand-made punk patches were the perfect way to start. Even better, this idea allowed me to recycle over 90% of my scrap fabric that was piling up around my workspace! My patches are now all hand-painted on recycled scrap fabric.

I’m inspired by LGBTQ+ issues, and Transgender rights specifically, as well as other humanitarian ideals and sex-positive humour. I try not to take myself too seriously when it come to my patches and pins; they’re meant to be conscientious, but still fun.


About my pins.

I started collecting pins and buttons when I was a child. It was the early 2000’s, but my bags and lanyards were totally decked out like it was 1988. 

Fast-forward 15 years and I’m making my own buttons.

After the success of my patches in mid-2016, I was able to invest in new merchandise: buttons! I was so excited to take this next big step into new territory. 

I found the ideas and motivations behind my patches — that were too colourful and complex for fabric painting — easily translated into these tiny buttons. In the beginning I couldn’t afford a press and had to outsource production to other local makers.

After about 2 years I was finally able to buy my own button press!

Since then, I have been having fun helping other artists and creative businesses with custom button pressing and design services.

I include the first 20 buttons in the base fee to do my best to help out; I know starting off can be tough and buttons are great way to dabble into new merchandise.

I personally started with handing mine out for free at in-person events, which I feel really helped my online performance. I began working small craft fairs and art shows with them in about April 2017. By October people remembered me and were coming back to buy again!

Artists use them to experiment with turning their art into a physical medium. I’ve been told they’re also great when you want to expand your price range as a seller. 

My latest and biggest project so far would be my Sword & Shield Enamel pin set.

My LGBTQ enamel pin set was in the works for over a year. I still remember thinking — over 2 years ago at my first Hamilton Pride festival — about how I wanted to contribute to my community and how I didn’t think I could.

I definitely didn’t know at the time it would be with my designs. Giving people a unique way of showing their transgender identity was not the initial intention, but with a more neutral-masculine design and colour pallet my pin was a stark contrast to most of the other all-black geometric designs flooding the search results.

My main concern was that I love our flags’ colours, but didn’t feel comfortable being decked out in pastel garb (and got the consensus that other trans-masculine folx out there felt the same way). That’s what inspired me to begin sketching.

These enamel pins were meant to help bridge the gap between the Transgender pride flag colours and the use of original neutral/masculine design.


Text "DO MORE" on an iMac screen on top of a minimalist office desk.
Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

So, that’s my Etsy shop story.

Don’t leave thinking this entire article a big flex. It’s not, it’s for you to know I speak from years of real experience and about a metric tonne of books. I will be creating a 2020 reading list to help you get in a more creative and productive mindset to start your year off right. Let me know if that’s something you would look forward to, or any book recommendations you may have for me!

Until then, I hope you read through my last article where I talk about How To Use Your Doubts and Fears To Build And Motivate Your Business Part 2. If you missed Part 1 of that series, it’s important you go there first!

If you want to read some Etsy Shop tips I’ve gained through my experience go read How To Run Your Etsy Shop From Only Your iPhone And Increase Your Sales! Stay tuned for the next Artist Journal by following on Facebook or Instagram.

-Joey @ The A/J

Joey Dean is an illustrator and artist lifestyle blogger.

Since starting his online art-based business in 2016, Joey has been writing educational articles to help other artists learn essential solo-preneur skills like time management and productivity and is best known for his ability to translate left-brained concepts for right-brained people.

Share his passion for comics and creative lifestyle on his blog, The Artist Journal, and catch him at @joeytoadstool across the universe.