The Art Of Routines In Time Management

My 10 year old loves anything related to art. It doesn't matter whether it's sewing, pottery, painting, or drawing; give her the tools and she will spend an incredible amount of hours in her own little world. Last week she even set up her own "artist table" in her bedroom. In a world dominated by a desire for all things electronic, watching Sydney focus on such a timeless skill is refreshing, and my wife and I are grateful.

From time to time she will invite me to participate in these Michelangelo moments. Unlike Sydney, however, I have the artistic skills of a dog, and I apologize to the dog. But I love making the attempt and spending precious time with her.

Sydney's goal on a recent night was to draw Disney characters. We got direction from a likely source-a Google search. Sydney beamed as she clicked on a website and saw the list of characters she could learn to draw by following a few simple steps. To me the instructions looked like blueprints for building the next Mars land rover.

As we finished drawing one character and began another one, I recognized a consistent pattern: Create the outline  for the head, hair, and shoulders, draw lines to guide positioning of the critical facial features, and then use this framework to add details. By the time our session was complete, we knew the steps by heart. And you can see Sydney's amazing results at the top of this blog.

It’s like trying to draw an eye before you outline where the face is going to be. Taking this approach creates days (and artwork) that are disjointed and frustrating.

Like the drawing session, our days have much better results with consistent routines. A routine that consists of framing our whole day in terms of time, prioritizing where the critical elements need to go, and then adding the details as needed.  Too often I find myself trying to focus on just one activity of the day instead of looking at the bigger picture. I get so caught up in the details of one task that I miss how it should fit with the rest of my priorities. It's like trying to draw an eye before you have outlined where the face is going to be. Taking this approach creates days (and artwork) that are disjointed, frustrating, and require lots of "do overs."

To begin creating more masterpiece days in your week, try developing the routine of:

  • Focusing on outcomes first. What's the picture you want to have of this day when it's done? Don't focus on specific tasks yet.
  • Determining your available resources. Like an artist's canvas, you only have so much space in which to create this masterpiece. How much physical time do you have that is not already allotted to other things?
  • Placing your priorities first in your schedule. They may not be first chronologically, but put them in place before listing less important tasks. This helps give your day, like a painting, the proper perspective and balance.
  • Adding details with the remaining available resources. With your priorities in place, you can better determine where other tasks and activities should go to make the complete picture.

What are some of the Picasso worthy possibilities for your day if you had stronger routines?