The year was 2006 and I can clearly remember the scene. I was sitting in my freshman print making class listening to the instructor talk about the upcoming deadlines for projects. This instructor, while very talented and knowledgeable, was very short on patience. To do well in this class was simple, keep your head down, think a lot, do you work on time, and then do it they way he wanted you to do it.

As the entire class sat looking at the instructor as he quickly rattled off dates for projects with his blood pressure starting to rise, he abruptly stopped and looked around at all of us.

“Why the fuck aren’t any of you writing this down?” he blurted out with a surprised tone and indignant tone.

“All of you need to start keeping a planner, I’m serious. I’m sick and tired of talking to myself about dates and deadlines then you come to me and ask when it’s due. You all need to grow up.”

Now at this point in my education, I was already a few years older then everyone. I could legally buy alcohol. I knew better. Did I write down his deadlines? No, It wasn’t that hard to remember. In fact, everything during college wasn’t that difficult to remember. Maybe it was a combination of dedication, fear, willpower…I don’t know, but it wasn’t difficult for me hit deadlines. I was consistently ahead of schedule. When I was attending Hussian School of Art my focus was to graduate and get a job in my field. I wasn’t there to make friends (I did though) nor was I there to party. I was there to make sure I would never have to make made to order food for late night truck drivers ever again.

This instructor, though indignant and sort of pompous as time went on, was correct about managing your time. Time management is one of those skills you can’t learn from a book. It’s something you only understand its intricacies when you start managing your own time.

I was pretty lucky in the fact that I had a mentor in my last year at Hussian. I learned a lot from David Stencler, principal of StenclerDesign Ltd., about many different areas concerning the business side of being a creative professional. One afternoon, my group of friends and I went to his home office to get our senior year projects from his very Epson large format printer. It was a grand experience because as he was printing our materials, he gave us a run down about his office setup and his workflow. He spoke at length about managing your time on projects, but also managing your life as well. This really stuck out to me since the last four years of living in Philadelphia were spent working, reworking, learning and expanding upon how to be professional. I sort of forgot that reality includes having time away and letting go to avoid burnout.

Fast forward to July 2013, a little over three years ago, I work for Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians as a respected member of the communications department. I run my own design studio and take on client work that is fun and interesting. Between both foci, I am one very busy person. Time management skills were developed to keep my sanity and to keep up my level of professionalism.

It’s really easy when you start out to jump at the chance to do any paying client work. Life has a sense of humor about these opportunities…you usually get them all at once. I remember several different times when I would be working on a client project, and several other new project proposals would come in at the same time.

Life thinks it’s funny.

Inevitably you bite off more than you can chew. Work suffers, you get little or no sleep, and you start to make asinine mistakes. Once you make good on your projects and everything is successful, you crash. All the sleep you missed catches up to you and you give your finger tips a much need rest as they are sore from punching out code and sketching up ideas. At this point I learned that I needed to create a way to keep my sanity and deliver the best work I am capable of doing. I learned a lot through trial and error, and experimenting with different workflows and tools.

Now I feel like I have a pretty good system in place. I was introduced to Asana and that helped out tremendously. It is a great tool and I find it very intuitive. I make sure to schedule in lead-time for office projects and give myself enough time to complete tasks on a deadline. I have events, meetings, and client work planned up for the next month typically. To keep my sanity from doing only work, I make sure my schedule actually accommodates for days where I will go on vacation, or sit at home and watch Through the Wormhole.

Time management is one of those golden skills that you learn by actually doing it. You get guidance and learn how others do stuff that works for them, but you won’t learn it from a book. It does make life easier.

The only downside in this whole post is that now every time I see a physical planner I always think of my print-making instructor.

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July 3, 2013

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