Simple tips for creative minds to get workloads under control and projects accomplished.

By Shawn Michael Foley, AIFD, CFD, PFCI

The topic of time always seems to be a touchy subject with florists, especially because there never seems to be enough of it. Whether you’re a floral entrepreneur, freelancer, employee or student, getting a maximum return on your time is crucial to being successful. You may have tried to-do lists and planners before with the best of intensions but quickly fall back into old habits, leaving you feeling like the sands of time keep slipping through your fingers. Don’t be afraid; I am here to help.

To get a handle on your schedule, you need to use techniques that work with your creative mind versus trying to cram it into a structured box. Creativity secretly craves structure but dies once it’s confined. So how do you find the balance between creative freedom and managing your time? The answers are much simpler than you may think. Small tweaks ripple throughout your life and end up creating the biggest changes. 

Here are five simple ideas designed for the creative mind that you can implement today, to help you feel more in control of your productivity and time management.

TIP NO. 1: Set clear achievements or goals that you want to accomplish each month.

Do this before each month begins instead of flying by the seat of your pants. For example, take the last week of December, and use it to write out your ideas for what you desire to get done in January. Once you have a list of your monthly goals, break them down into weekly goals. Then, each week, assess how best to divide those goals based on your workload each day. If you will be out of the shop or studio Monday and Tuesday with appointments, don’t plan on getting wedding quotes or communications done during those two days. Stack the deck so you can win instead of hoping you get a mountain of work done. 

TIP NO. 2: Prioritize your tasks. 

When you’re looking at a big list of things you need to do, you’ll have a great feeling of accomplishment for creating it. This lasts for about 10 minutes, and then the feelings of being overwhelmed start to creep in. So, where do you begin? When you are stuck, look at your list, and ask yourself these three questions about each task:

• Is it quick?

• Is it easy?

• Is it urgent? 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, start with tasks that can be done quickly. This will allow you to see more things finished in a shorter time and make you feel  more accomplished. 

If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, start with the tasks that are the easiest. This will let you use your fear as fuel and can help you get on track when you’re emotionally spinning out from stress. 

If you’re feeling behind, start with the tasks that are the most urgent. This will help you feel like you’re getting caught up and empower you to move forward. 

When you use this method, you can help yourself work through whatever stressor you feel instead of letting it become a roadblock to your productivity. 

TIP NO. 3: Be brutally realistic with what you (and your team) can accomplish in a day, a week, a month, etc. 

At the end of the day, you are a human and have earthly limitations to what you can accomplish during a specific time frame. It feels amazing to be “Wonder Florist” saving anniversaries, weddings and celebrations of life one bloom at a time! However, that’s not sustainable for your body, mind, spirit or business in the long term. It is highly likely you are setting the bar to an unrealistic height for you to be successful, causing you to feel like you never have enough time to get things done. 

If you find yourself having difficulties finishing your tasks for each day, make sure you’re at least getting the urgent tasks completed. If you reach the end of the week and you still have tasks you couldn’t finish, have an honest conversation with yourself about your expectations of what you can get done. If it wasn’t urgent this week, roll it over to next week, and get it done then. You do not need to run yourself ragged to be successful; in fact, that is the best way to burn yourself out. 

TIP NO. 4: Create a reward system. 

Sometimes you need to dangle a carrot in front of yourself to get through the things you don’t like to do. If you’re an entrepreneur, the buck stops with you. That applies not only for taking blame but also for recognition and giving yourself a pat on the back. There is no entrepreneurial fairy godmother waiting to sprinkle you with glittery praises. The feeling of a job well done must come from yourself. 

Your rewards don’t have to be expensive, flashy or showy. Start simple, and take yourself out for coffee or lunch when you finish your proposals for the week. Order in lunch as a surprise for your team when it’s going to be a busy week. Order one or two bunches of novelty fresh product because you hit your sales goal last week. Take some flowers home for yourself to enjoy. No matter how big or small the rewards may be, get in the habit of positive reinforcement to keep you motivated and feel like your hard work is paying off.

TIP NO. 5: Be kind to yourself, and have fun! 

Every day will not be full of rainbows and sunshine, but if you’re not having fun in your career, you’re doing it wrong. Turn your obligations into challenges. Can you bow, foil and glitter all 30 poinsettias for tomorrow’s order in one hour? Find out! Set a timer, and a record yourself doing it as a time-lapse, to see if you can. If you do, go back to Tip No. 4, and reward yourself for knocking it out of the park. Life is way too short to take everything so seriously. 

When you utilize these five tips, you can drastically enhance your time management skills. Set clear goals, and prioritize them to compound your efforts. Allow yourself time to reflect when things don’t get done, and be OK with altering your plan, if necessary. Reward yourself so you don’t feel like you’re just running on a florist-sized hamster wheel. Last, above all else, have fun, and be kind not only to yourself but to anyone involved in your world. You can do this!