Making Time For Better Work

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When we first defined Mastery for 3D art Ease of Use was set up as our first pillar (It’s explained briefly in this article). This month we’re going to take a closer look at making that happen.

The first step to doing so (in a way that requires less willpower and more routine) is making sure you have time available for improvement on a day to day basis and in your project as a whole.

Setting Aside Time Is Important

When you’re committed to changing how you work and improving exponentially it’s easy to choke and fail. One of the simplest areas to avoid is not having enough time to make the changes – or not thinking that you do.

You work the way you currently do for a reason, whether you’re part of a team or not. Over time you’ve developed habits and a work flow that makes sense to you and you probably don’t even actively think about it any more. Because of this anything new, no matter how small a task, is going to cost you time. Suddenly you’re not finishing as quickly as you’re used to and this can feel like failing (or worse, make the rest of your team resent you).

If you haven’t made provisions for this sudden ‘extra’ time and aren’t expecting it then chances are you’re going to revert faster than your closest colleague or brooding reflection can say “I told you so”.

Making Time for Fun and Profit

In reality you don’t “make time” – you can’t magically add an extra hour or two to your day. No matter what you do it is still going to be 24 hours. What you can do is use that time differently and make a little space in your routine for new tasks.

There are two broad ways to do this; Become more efficient at what you’re already doing, or take time from something else in your life.

Fortunately we don’t need to free up a LOT of time to make an impact to our work; you’re likely to find that time by dealing with your efficiency. However taking a little time from another task at the start or end of your day can also be painless if you’ve no other choice.

Making Better Use of Your Time

Traditional advice would have you keep a time diary or log for a week, identify where you’re wasting time or aren’t completely on task, and then eliminate (and presto! Free time). We’re not going to do that for a number of reasons, not least of which that it doesn’t actually work for real human beings.

Instead I’m going to treat you like an adult and ask that you answer this question for yourself; Where can I find an extra 20 minutes per day?

For some of you that might be cutting down on social media (usually the first to go, isn’t it?), or email, or maybe you don’t really need to do more than skim your meeting minutes and you can save time there.

For others it could be as simple as making a template response for standard questions, or documents you have to create on a regular basis. Having a good template can easily cut down 10-15 minutes of work each time its used, and with one or two of those your improvement time is created.

Longer term, if you really want, you can periodically ask yourself when doing any new task – How can I do this better? Make it easier? Complete it in less time in the future?

You’ll know what you need to cut down on. It’s very rare that the problem isn’t ‘knowing’ what to do; it’s more usually that you don’t want to. Or it’s ‘uncomfortable’ at first. If you’re still having issues with this after working through those questions honestly, send me an email and check out this article.

Allocating Time Differently

If you’ve already managed to save your 20 minutes of time for improvement you don’t have to do this task at all.

When you can’t become any more efficient and you still need extra time, then the only other option is to take it from something else. This isn’t something you typically want to think about, however, look at what you actually do with the rest of your time.

Are you spending all of your ‘non-work’ time actually doing things that make you happy? Spending time with family and friends? Taking care of yourself?

Or is there some of that time being used to veg out, worry, stress, run endless errands, chores, more sleep than is necessary, or anything else that doesn’t improve or enrich your life?

Exactly.

What I’d recommend if you need that little bit extra time, is you add it either to the beginning of your work day (for those people that like mornings) or at the end of your work day (everyone else). Remember we’re only talking about 20 minutes, and if you commute it probably means less time in traffic anyway.

You’d be amazed how the other things in your life shuffle round so that the truly important stuff still gets done.

A note on sleep: Don’t immediately jump to taking the time from here unless you’re legitimately sleeping 9+ hours a night. Sleep is important and shouldn’t be sacrificed lightly.

How That Time Will Now Be Used

It’s all very well to clear the time needed but you also need to know what you’re going to be using it for. We’re going to be looking at this in more detail next week, but for the moment resist the urge to fill it with random crap. Instead spend the time thinking about how to make your next task (or your teams’ next task) easier, or in researching the rest of the production pipeline.

The time is cleared for making your work fit seamlessly into any team or project with minimal arguments, resistance, friction, or whatever buzzword you want to use to mean ‘less horrible conversations, errors to fix, and tense work environments’. Use it for something related to that and you’ll have a head start on next week’s task.

Next steps

Today your only task is to find 20 minutes of time per day and actually carve it out. Spend some time altering your schedules, operating procedures, habits, making templates, whatever is needed to get things set up and in place.

Set it aside for improving your work (and don’t use it for anything else in the meantime).

Next week we’re going to fill that time with your key improvement tasks, and in the newsletter this week we’re going to look closer at spending time for results (and how to make it less linear). Sign up now if you don’t want to miss that.

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