The art of time management

calendar

When you punch a clock, even a gold-plated, corinthian-leather-encased execuclock, your time does not belong to you. You have sold it and the highest bidder can do what he wants with it. He can use it to make wonderful things that will improve the world or to get him coffee and scrub his bowl. You can gripe, you can whimper, but you have punched that clock and now it is going to punch you back, suckah.

These days, my time belongs to me, the new boss, same as the old boss. And I insist that this time I have bought back gets used properly, to the last tock of the ticker. There will be no lolling on the midday couch, no leisurely lunches or bowel evacuations, no navel gazing or whittling of any kind. Every day must and will be filled with productivity.

Now, because I am currently an “artist “(it says so on my LinkedIn page, so it must be true), I am allowed some wool gathering and beard stroking, so long as it is clearly being used to hunt down that pesky muse, drag her to the altar, and squeeze every last drop of creative inspiration out of her. That requires scrupulous documentation.

In the image above, you can see a page from my weekly calendar. I find it essential to structure my day so the hours don’t slip through my fingers and dribble out the door. I insist on logging what I do all day, as if I was still filling out timesheets. One simply must have a clear record, nicht? Otherwise, I might end up cracking open my first six-pack right after breakfast and playing the bongos all day in Washington Square.

So I log my hours and I color-code ‘em too. Pink is personal time, hanging with friends, reading on books, kissing my girl, walking my hounds, discipling my boy.Yellow is what I now call ‘work’: drawing, painting, writing, making videos, stuff I used to call ‘fun’. And blue is old school, freelance writing and consulting projects for clients I am still connected to after all those decades in the salt mines. Those blue hours are the lucrative ones, folding-money-wise, but they also cost me the most. My heart is no longer in them though the monkey keeps picking up the phone and signing new contracts. But in my pink hours, I spend time scheming on how to get the blue hours down to a precious few. And I think I’m winning. Slowly but surely my calendar is shifting hue and by the time I’m in LA, I’ll be out of the blues for good and all.

I have had a lot of fun with the yellow hours this week. I have made a half dozen videos for my upcoming class and I am really hitting my stride. I am happy with how they are turning out and I hope you will be too. Another big addition to the yellow column is a new book โ€” my lovely editrix, Bridget, just told me that the acquisitions group at Chronicle is really excited about my proposal and we should have the details of the contract hammered out any day. Then I have to get serious and write and draw it. I think my deadline is sometime in the spring. It’s going to be a humdinger.

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Pink is getting busy too, Jack and I spend two half days painting his room. You can imagine what a room that a boy has lived in for almost every one of his 19 years can be like. Instead of painting, I thought of calling in one of those companies that clean up crime scenes. I haven’t painted a room since I was in my twenties but it’s not a skill you forget and we had a great time working together, listening to music, cracking jokes and getting paint in our hair. Being Gregorys we managed to get splatters of white paint on the blue wall and blue paint on the ceiling but when we were done and exhausted to the bone, we agreed it looked amazing, like a real grownup room again.
Soon we will both leave our apartment for a good long while, meeting up again here at Thanksgiving and in the meantime we’ll have memories of a great summer, and of lots of time well spent

16 thoughts on “The art of time management

  1. I like that color coding idea Danny. In my case, I’m afraid how many splotches such a system might show of time playing solitaire or watching YouTube. Anyway, it would be a lot of WORK just to step outside myself to do the chronicling (is that a word?). I’m a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other girl, and somehow or other, things get done, even if in uneven allotments of time. I will admit, I’m always looking for more “yellow” time. For me, that’s the fun one.

  2. I think just ONE day playing bongos in Washington Square might amazing and be time well spent but that beer after breakfast is definitely not a good idea: ) Great post for all of us Boomer folks still on the chain of a timeclock and who day dream of what it maybe like to be truly free and in charge of one’s time.

  3. dear Danny,
    I am a teacher and an artist and I have found that floundering about is necessary for a prolific and long art life. When it comes to art I don’t even believe in inspiration I work like a mule. But every so often, specially in times of change, I flounder about. This past summer I floated about aimlessly just having fun. No idea what I was doing or why. I just kept on doing. All the very unimpressive stuff I produced I now see as really important to where I am going next. So even if you don’t do everything you wish you did, you are always fine. And all this floundering is making you the awesome artist that you are.

  4. I think your color-coded system is ingenious. I could see using it to keep a finger on the pulse of whether I’m spending enough time on artmaking, or any activity that I might claim really matters to me but then find myself not doing it. It’s simple, measurable (in an eyeballing vs metric ruler sort of way) and right-brained. And could there be some merit in shoehorning a bit of breathing room into that hunt for the muse? Can’t she show up on a trip to the barber, painting a room with your boy, or (blasphemy!) in one of those blue zone activities? Either way, thanks for taking the rest of us on the road with you and looking forward to your next book.

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  6. Hey, a day of you playing bongos in Washington Square would make a good post and it’d provide an artist an interesting subject to sketch. Love the colorcoding idea for your calendar page. I want to try this to see where I am in the scheme of color planning…afraid my colors would clash and look off balanced. Still I’m going to try it. Great visual idea to steer me into areas that need developed that I tend to avoid.

  7. Fascinating time plan. Studied it like Inspector Columbo might have, imagining your comings and goings – kissing the girl and/or hanging with friends on Wednesday lunch times, starting & ending Tuesdays & Thursdays with art… And Monday morning with monkey work. Excellent time plan. As the Germans say: Das Unangenehme zuerst – the unpleasant stuff first. Eat that frog! How sweet there won’t be toads in L.A. I am going to create a similar timeplan and weep ;-)

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  9. Sticking notes around might seem to be a good time management technique, but its not, probably it can be used to keep track of tasks. But making a priority list and working on it before all the other activities in the day is a good technique though.

    I keep doing this every night for the next day and try to complete this list of tasks prior to all other activities. Along with this I use Replicon time clock – http://www.replicon.com/time-clock and Google calender to keep track of time and tasks.

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