Written By Autumn Battani
I’m getting ready for a fairly busy couple of months and I want to talk about how I get the most out of my time. I get asked often about how I organize my tasks and I thought I’d write a blog about it. Now, just so you know, I’m a pretty neurotic person. So I don’t think all of the methods I use are going to be directly transferable. What I do think could be taken away from this blog is the framework and mindset. I go through the specifics so you can see the reality of how I handle it and what I walk through will cover pretty much any output you choose to apply it to. I will talk about it mainly referencing vizzes but I do this for my blogs and drawings as well. From keeping track of what inspires you to solidifying your process to scheduling out your time, let’s get into it.
I tried to make the pictures look as cohesive as possible for the sake of the blog but if your version is scribbled on paper that is equally as valid. All of these are lists I actually keep up with but they do look a little different.
Hold On To Your Inspiration
This is my real list so expect some of these soon!
Before I solidified a process that worked for me, I felt like the #1 for slumps was the loss of inspiration. The second biggest was not completing things. I try to address both of those with this step. I started creating the list you see above. Every time I get an idea for a viz, I put it on here. Then I move it across the lanes as I work on it (because I do this on my iPad I can in fact literally just move the item over).
Why this works
For starters, I don’t forget ideas while working on something else. You can get 15 ideas in a week but it’s not realistic to actually make that many vizzes. So you usually start with one, maybe two. Then you finish and feel like you don’t know what to do next. This allowed me to revisit those ideas I once had. Another reason this worked out is that it kept me from starting too many things at once. It’s easy to get excited, dip into many things, quickly feel overwhelmed, and end up not following through with any of them. Being conscious of how many vizzes I had started really helped me scale back so I can focus a few at a time and give them the effort and attention that they needed.
Another great thing to pair with this is saving what inspired you. For me, it’s mostly TikToks, tweets, and conversations with friends. But whether it’s saving a link or jotting some things down, having the ability to revisit why you felt passionate about that idea in the first place will help you pick it back up when you’re ready.
So you have your ideas. Now to talk about putting that into action.
I drew the above picture sometime last year. It started out as something serious, I swear. As I was getting into the groove of building vizzes more regularly, I wanted to sit down and reflect on my process and try and figure out what [repeatable] path made the most sense for me. This is what came out of that introspection. I realized at the time and even a little to this day that I had a flawed organic process. The importance of this picture is that this next step needs to start with realizing where you are and what that routine, or lack thereof, looks like. After this, I was able to pick out the pieces that worked and start to build a structure for myself.
After some trial and error and lots of mindfulness, I came up with the following list of not only the steps I put into vizzes but the order that I like to do them in. Some dashboards require less. For example, if I’m doing one of the community challenges I won’t need to collect data. But most follow this pattern.
I have a similar list that has all my steps for writing and posting blogs.
Again, this may not be your process. But the importance of this part is realizing all the steps you need and what order makes the most sense for you! This takes time. But after paying attention for a while it’ll become apparent what flows and what doesn’t.
It’s A Date
Now, putting it all together.
I cannot stress this enough: Set. A. Date. The hardest part about community work is that while others appreciate the effort, no one is holding you to it but yourself. So you can push it off and off forever if needed. The date doesn’t even need to be soon, you know what’s going to work with your lifestyle and other priorities. But setting a date gives you something to work toward and something to work backward from.
My actual version has the title of blogs/vizzes/errands/courses + more personal things. This is just an example.
I start at the highest level, looking at the month and ask myself what I want to get done in it. This is just the actual output. I worry about the steps towards it later. For me and my priorities right now that means one blog and one viz a week. When you’re deciding what this looks like for you, be realistic.
If you try and do 2 things a day you can get 14 things done a week but if you try and do 14 things a day you’ll probably get 0 done a week.
— A Wise Woman (Me)
So I make a ‘schedule’ of what I want to put out and when. I also put other life things on the calendar as well so I can keep in scope that I do in fact have things outside of the datafam though it’s easy for me to lose sight of that (this month I actually am getting the second dose of the vaccine on the 19th; I’m also taking a couple of courses).
Next level, the week ahead of me. I only do this one week out because enough could shift and I don’t want to end up constantly moving things around. This is where the last step of figuring out your process comes in handy. If I know I want to put out a viz on a particular day, and I know the steps I take to put together a viz, I work backward to see what I need to accomplish and when (see below picture).
My actual version only has the bottom portion but I wanted to show how I figured out what went on each day.
While this may seem like a lot of work, I find it entirely less daunting this way. Rather than sitting down on a Wednesday night and saying, ‘I need to work on this viz’, I just say ‘I need to collect the data for this viz’. Not only does it keep me from feeling underwater but I have a larger sense of accomplishment at the end because I know I completed what I needed to that day for my larger goal as opposed to feeling like I only scratched the surface. Once I’ve backtracked all the tasks and written what I need to do for the week, personal things included, I assess whether each day seems feasible and adjust if not. I would also like to stress that I’m not advocating you work on it daily. If your schedule only allows you to work on it every three days or every week, that’s fine as well! This is for accountability’s sake.
After that, it is easy peasy lemon squeezy. I already know what I need from my day. Then I just figure out when, usually the night before. My tip for this is absolutely don’t budget your whole day. Something will take longer than you estimated and if magically nothing doesn’t then you have extra time back.
I know what you’re thinking, how long does all this take? Not long for me. The monthly version takes approximately 20 minutes a month. The weekly versions take longer. I’d say 35 minutes per week (but I also like to make them pretty, my actual version is color-coded by type of task). So overall I’m spending about 2.5 hours a month on this. But I want to say this, it works for me. And I think that alone is worth the extra time I take to make sure I accomplish the things I want to. And who knows, you may be faster! I’ve been told I’m a very slow writer.
“But Autumn, what if something comes up?”
Mm, everything I do always goes according to plan so I don’t know what you mean. KIDDING (boy do I wish). Things change weekly if not daily. As counterintuitive as it may sound, having a structured process allows me more flexibility to adapt. Because I know my goals, steps, and schedule, I have the confidence and support to pivot if I need to. I also have the comfort of knowing exactly how my plans and output will be impacted because I’ve already done the work of looking ahead. Things are going to change. But rather than panic or get discouraged when things don’t go as planned (which is what I used to do) I now go back to the drawing board and use the tools I laid out in the top three sections to help me handle it.
You Got This
Deep breath. That felt like a lot right? I’m still here with you. Let’s just talk takeaways now. Things you can tangibly add to your routine. I wanted to share all the odd bits of how I go about it but at the end of the day it’s the following 3 things:
Keep track of what inspires you and what you’re working on
Figure out what your process looks like and stick to it
Schedule, schedule, schedule
I hope some of this helps. Would love to hear how others organize and schedule their work! The companion piece to this blog will come out Thursday where I talk about giving yourself a little break after you run on 100 for too long. Thanks for reading!