Transitioning from a more traditional job into content creation often means suddenly finding yourself with a much more flexible schedule. And although that can be a good thing, it can take hard work and careful planning to ensure you avoid pitfalls like procrastination or overworking.
Whether you’re just starting out or are looking for ways to maximize your efficiency after some trial and error of your own, these tips will help you lay out a plan for making the most of the time you spend on content creation, and everything that goes along with it.
1. Understand your goals
Figuring out both your long and short-term goals as a content creator is one of the best things you can do for your time management. After all, it’s important to step back and look at the bigger picture before you try to start scheduling all the details. If you know you want to hit a certain number of subscribers, or publish a specific number of videos per week, or even just have established an online presence on every social media platform by a predetermined time, you can chart a course to get you to that point.
Laying out your goals also helps with prioritization. If you get to a point where you feel overworked or stretched too thin, and there are things taking up your time that don’t actually do anything to get you closer to your goals, you can reassess whether those tasks are a good use of your time.
2. Prioritize tasks
Making sure individual tasks move you closer to your goals isn’t the only consideration when figuring out what to prioritize. Here are some questions you can ask yourself when prioritizing tasks:
- How long will this take?
- Is there a deadline?
- Am I relying on anyone else to help finish this?
- Does this need to take place at a certain time of day?
- Are there later steps connected to this task that have a deadline?
- Do I need time to review this when it’s finished?
- Are there outside factors that could prompt a delay?
These questions can help you decide what needs your attention early, and what might be able to sit on the back burner for a minute.
It can also help to look at your work day as a whole. Your most important task usually doesn’t need to go first—that can be quite daunting, and you may find yourself procrastinating getting started. If you can begin with something small and easy to accomplish, it will help you get into your groove. Conversely, if you can save the more mindless tasks towards the end of your day, or when you know you’ll be in somewhat of a slump, that can help stop you from losing momentum entirely.
3. Time blocking
Time blocking isn’t for everyone, but it can be a helpful tool for those who struggle with spending too much time on one thing, jumping between tasks, or losing focus.
Essentially, time blocking calls for you to divide your day into chunks, which you then schedule out in advance. For instance, you may set aside an hour to respond to emails, 30 minutes to browse comments to your most recent TikTok, and two hours to sketch out your next video. You can keep the blocks broad, but many people find it better to get as specific as possible.
You can also choose to do different tasks on different days, especially if some things require particularly large chunks of time. But if you do the same or similar tasks every day, it can help to schedule them as close to the same time as possible, so you get in the habit of mentally switching over as soon as the clock tells you that you’ve reached that point.
4. Divide large tasks into smaller tasks
“I have to post a new video by Friday” can be daunting, but it’s also something that’s easily broken down into smaller tasks. Soon, needing to make a video looks more like:
- Pick a topic (research, brainstorm)
- Prep (props, guests, etc)
- Finishing touches
Working this way, especially with larger projects that have a number of moving parts, helps you stay organized, encourages better time management by preventing procrastination or misjudging how long a larger task might take, and can be easier to wrap your brain around, especially if you tend to get overwhelmed.
5. Batch similar tasks
Some people are perfectly capable of jumping back and forth between unrelated tasks, while others struggle with switching their brains to a different mode — which can eat up valuable time.
Batching similar tasks is similar to time blocking, and can work well in tandem with it. It just means that if you have a number of tasks that are similar in some way or require the same sort of attention or skill from you, it can make more sense to group them together.
For instance, you may want to answer all your emails at once. Batching emails with other things you need to do at your computer, particularly regarding correspondence or writing, can also be wise. If you decide to incorporate batching similar tasks into your routine, just make sure it doesn’t come at the expense of your priorities—editing all your photos from a shoot at once may be technically efficient, but not if it leaves you scrambling to get the only photo you needed to post that day up on time.
6. Create boundaries
Whether you do content creation full-time or as a side hustle or hobby, chances are, you spend a lot of time working from home and creating your own hours. It’s important to delineate boundaries anytime your personal life and work life are mixed so closely. Try setting specific hours each day that you will work—meaning, you start on time, and you don’t keep working after those hours are done. Creating a dedicated space for yourself and your work can also do wonders towards enforcing these rules you’ve created for yourself, especially if you have a busy household. And make sure anyone sharing space with you understands that even if you’re home, when you’re working, you’re working.
7. Stay organized
Keeping track of everything you have to do, ideally in a single location, means you spend less time going back over your emails and your notes, and your idea journal trying to remember what you had planned. A calendar system of some sort is often helpful for this time management technique, whether you stick with time blocking or not. There are also all sorts of productivity and workflow apps, both free and paid, that can keep you on track. If one system doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to move on and try the next.
8. Build in time for mistakes and mishaps
Things go wrong. Whether you come down with a cold, a file gets deleted, or a great new opportunity that you can’t afford to miss pops up at the last minute, you will definitely have setbacks outside of your control on this journey. And when your tasks are tightly scheduled, that can cause some frustrating problems and rearrangements.
Instead of waiting for the other shoe to drop and hoping it doesn’t happen at the worst time possible, plan for the worst. Build a buffer of sorts into your regular schedule, depending on your needs. Worst case scenario, it leaves you with extra time to review your work or get a jump start on the next thing. But it also may save you from rushing around in a frenzy trying to make up for lost time somewhere down the road.
9. Consider outsourcing
Once you reach a certain point in your content creation journey, it may be time to consider outsourcing tasks rather than taking on everything yourself. There are a number of factors to consider here, especially as far as finances go, but in terms of time management, it can be a serious gift to yourself.
Outsourcing may mean finding someone to do some of the work for you, or it may mean looking into options to automate certain parts of your process, like generating titles or scheduling social media. Be careful with the latter, as there can be a learning curve and a human touch is often preferable, depending on what your goals are. As for hiring people to help, make sure you are actually taking tasks off your plate and not creating more work for yourself in the process.
Here are some additional things to consider:
- Is it cost-effective compared to what you make?
- Do you find yourself having to spend a lot of time fixing what they worked on because it wasn’t quite what you wanted?
- Are they making good on a promise? (increased hits, etc)
- Is your workflow interrupted by outsourcing this particular task?
10. Analyze your workflow
How many hours do you spend on specific, regular tasks? Do you get more editing done at night? Does being interrupted often cause you to be thrown off track for extended periods of time?
If something in your workflow repeatedly isn’t working, it’s a lot easier to determine why that might be if you keep tabs on not only what you’re doing, but how you’re doing it. Don’t be afraid to change your schedule, or try a different method or approach to things.
11. Focus on what works best for YOU
There is no single right way to do anything—something you’ve likely already learned if you’re taking the dive into an untraditional income source. And just like working in an office or customer service job may not be the right fit for you, the same can be said of time management techniques that are frequently upheld as the norm.
Working five hours a day, seven days a week might leave you more productive than working seven hours a day, five days a week. You might work best in a specific environment, or at a certain time of day. Time blocking might be a nightmare to you, whereas maybe sticky notes actually are a more effective way for you to organize your thoughts than any of the more sophisticated options out there.
The important thing is that you know these things, or you’re willing to figure them out. It’s also important to be honest with yourself about the difference between how you work best and how you prefer to not work. Just because you love staying up until 3 a.m. playing video games, crashing til mid-afternoon, and putting in your work hours somewhere in between doesn’t actually mean that’s the road to productivity and good life/work balance for you. Then again, maybe it does. Only you know.
12. Avoid burnout
No matter how much you enjoy content creation, you’re liable to start feeling burned out at some point. Take a step back if you need to. Taking a day or two away from your work is better than burning out so thoroughly that you end up needing a month or more to recover.
Of course, the best way to avoid burnout is to take preventative measures, on both a macro and micro scale. The aforementioned suggestion to build in time for mistakes can help with this, as it provides a cushion that will hopefully stop you from having to rush to get something done last minute.
You can also do little things, like regularly take 5-15 minute breaks, reward yourself for completing intimidating or complicated tasks by spending a short amount of time doing something you love, listen to music while you work, or make sure you’re sprinkling content you’re passionate about into your lineup if the majority of what you do is more centered around income.
Again: burnout is no joke, and it’s not worth sacrificing your health and well-being, not to mention your future income, to keep pushing unnecessarily through when your mind and body are screaming at you to stop.