It seems like you work all the time, yet still you have tons left to do the evening before a big event. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
“Busy” is the default mode of most event professionals. However, being busy is different to being stressed out (and burning out). Effective time management is the key to that difference. You want to get yourself organised, more productive and collaborative with others. Besides, you need good habits and a right work-life balance.
Here are some tips to help you, so you will manage your time more effectively starting from the next event.
1. Having a system
You want to develop a system that works best for you. Your system would include how to capture and organize information so that you can either simply execute a task immediately, or know when to come back to it later. Here’s a set of questions that you can ask yourself to build the system:
- What is the most natural way for you to capture everything that catches your attention? Is it writing on a notepad, making a voice recording, mind mapping or anything else?
- Where do you keep your notes? Do you often find it difficult or easy to find something within your notes? Hint: It should be easy. A note-taking app that syncs across all your devices can be a key part of this? Evernote, for example, is a decent note-managing tool. You can start a note on your mobile when you are on the go, and finish it later on your laptop in the office.
- How to make sure you do not forget a task? What kind of reminder works for you: reminder emails or mobile push-notifications?
2. To-do lists with deadlines
To-do lists are useful because they give you an overview of your tasks. Make your lists better by including (tentative) due dates for each task. Deadlines give you a sense of urgency, so you are motivated to get things done. They are also the guideline for setting priorities.
Users of Wunderlist, a popular to-do list app, can have tasks with a due date and a reminder. You can have separate task lists for different event planning jobs, from invitations to catering. Your tasks are also shown by day and by week, thus, you know what’s coming soon, and what’s coming real soon.
An editorial calendar is useful for event professionals to plan and keep track of their event updates on not only Twitter but also Facebook or even Instagram. You can use free tools like Google Calendar or these free templates from HubSpot. Alternatively, there are sophisticated tools such as CoSchedule, WeDoist, and Content DJ, with which more than one member of your team can update and manage the editorial calendar at once.
3. Use project management tools
A project management tool like Trello can help you save time planning plan event. You set up a board with stacks of tasks, ordered as you like – for example: one stack for tasks before, another for those to tackle during and stuff to do after the event. Alternatively, you can have lists for Venue, Speakers, Sponsorships and so on, like the example above taken from Trello’s Inspiring Boards.
On each stack, you can add task cards and assign them to relevant team members. You can move these task cards up and down when priority changes. Everyone who subscribes to a task will get an instant notification if an item on the checklist is ticked off, or if there is a new comment.
4. Always carry a notebook
With a notebook, you can jot down ideas whenever they come up. Make use of the five minutes in a queue or the half an hour spent on public transport! Besides, some ideas go as quickly as they come, and a notebook would be very handy in those cases.
“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them” – David Allen
5. Stay focused
More and more people are finding it hard to stay focused on a particular task for a long enough period of time. This ability is, however, the key to getting certain tasks done in less time, or at all. For event professionals with this problem, here are some tips on staying focused:
Purposely block out distractions
When you really need to focus, turn on your phone’s “do-not-disturb” mode, close your email app, and set your Slack status to “away”. There are browser plugins you can use to prevent yourself from visiting distracting sites like Facebook or Twitter during certain periods of time. Try StayFocusd, for example. If you work in an open-plan office, noise-cancelling headphones are useful to have.
Try a Pomodoro timer
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management philosophy aiming to create maximum focus and creative freshness. You achieve both by budgeting your work time into short increments, usually 25 minutes, and by scheduling periodical breaks. Many people find the Pomodoro Technique useful, including this New York entrepreneur Chris Winfield who gave a detailed instruction how to fit a 40-hour workweek into 16.7 hours. Intrigued? Get a timer and try it out.
6. Use more tools that help save time
There are many tools developed to help you perform traditional tasks faster.
For example, Slack is a great piece of software for event management. You can chat, share files and links to everyone involved in an event through “direct messages” as well as “channels”. When you need to look for something, keyword searching in Slack is instant and efficient, often better than going through email archives trying to remember who sent what and when.
Besides, there are more and more templates and cheat sheets developed to help make your job easier. For example, Canva has thousands of layouts for various design tasks, from templates for a wedding invitation to the Facebook cover of a charity event, from catering menus to festival posters.
7. Automate social media marketing
You can end up spending a lot of time on social media because of the need for regular updates about your event. Social media, however, comes with loads of time-wasting distractions.
Save yourself time by automating your social media marketing. Spend an hour a day scheduling posts using tools like Buffer or Hootsuite, so you don’t need to go to the actual platforms throughout the day, and can avoid wasting time on unrelated things.
Community management is an important part of every event manager’s role, so you can’t rely on these tools totally – but they really are a boon for your time management.
8. Stop multitasking
You tend to multitask as an event planner because you have so many things going on at once, but don’t! Take the advice from Mike Cannon-Brookes, co-founder of Atlassian: “Do one thing at once. Stop multitasking!”
9. Stop multitasking
Though all events have a unique character, they often share certain common processes to their organisation, such as designing banners, finding ticket agents, or promoting the event on social media. Collect data on how long each process takes and learn from it so you can get things done faster.
With a tool like Toggl, you can set up many projects, such as ticketing, designing, catering and so on, and log the hours and minutes you spend on each project. Every week, Toggle send their users a weekly report with a breakdown of their working hours by projects. You can also obtain reports for a longer period of time, for example, two months preparing for an event. Keep tracking your time over a few events, and analyse your own time management performance to learn your mistakes.
10. Stop multitasking
Form a habit of making tomorrow’s to-do list tonight. Visualize your whole day from the first thing in the morning to the last thing at night, with as many details as possible. Doing this helps you put work aside during your downtime because you know where to pick it up the next morning. Therefore, you have a good night’s sleep and will be well rested. You also have a head start in the morning thanks to this structure.
Do the same thing for a new week and a new month.
11. Identify the time-wasting habits and activities
Sit back after your day is done and reflect on your activities. Ask yourself these questions:
- Did you do anything that was a total waste of time?
- Did you really need to do that?
- How can you do it differently?
For example, if a meeting goes on for too long and nothing is solved, then it is a time-waster. Often, a preset time frame and an agenda would help. Meetings, however, can still be lengthy regardless of having an agenda. Now and then, allow yourself to walk out of a meeting when the time is up even if you are behind on the agenda. It is also good to arrange at least one day a week that is completely free of meetings, so you can totally be in control of your time.
12. Go with your biorhythm
Some people work well in the morning – I know I do. Others drift around for half of the day before they wake up and shine. Some can only create late at night.
Know how your brain functions, and be smart about it. Schedule heavy-thinking tasks at the time of the day when you work best. During your low time, do things that are less mentally involved, or don’t work at all.
It’s important not to force yourself to be a morning person (even if they say most successful people are).
Tips on Collaboration
13. Develop working processes
You will need to arrange food and drinks for most of your events, so why not standardize the process into a catering guideline and share it with all team members and caterers? The same goes for every other process: inviting guests, designing banners, hiring venues, etc.
Don’t try to do everything yourself. Learn to delegate tasks to other team members who might be able to do it faster than you.
You should remember, however, that whilst follow-up is necessary when delegating – micro-managing is hardly ever good.
15. Get more help
You can also get help from outside the team, especially when it comes to ideas. For example, you don’t need to (and shouldn’t) prepare all content by yourself. Inspire your audience to develop user-generated content. Check out tip 12 of this article for more ideas.
Tips on finding the right balance, so you won’t burn yourself out
16. You love your work!
While planning an event, many things are out of your control and they can turn badly at any time. Do you still remember a time when the flowers didn’t arrive at all or a speaker canceled at the last minute? Many have experienced unpredictable weather and unreasonable suppliers. It is hard not to feel discouraged and stressed out when facing these kinds of incident, but when it happens, take a deep breath and think of one happy memory you have with the most recent event. You will be able to remind yourself that you love your work and that this is all just part of the job.
17. Learn to say “no”
You can’t do everything. When you find you already have a lot on your plate and see no way to delegate or get help from the outside, don’t take on more work. Learn to say “no”.
“The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.” – Warren Buffett
18. Learn to let go of small details
Event professionals tend to be perfectionists. You pay attention to details and always check everything thoroughly because if you don’t, you won’t be able to orchestrate music festivals with a dozen bands and thousands of visitors. However, don’t obsess over small details. The color of the banner on the main stage is a big deal and needs to be printed right. Those of the flyers for the food truck map.. not so much. Don’t dwell on small stuff and let it drain the time budget for more important tasks, as well as affecting your enjoyment of setting up the event.
19. Learn to let go of small details
Take proper weekend breaks to recharge: spend time with friends and family, go for a long run, or do some yoga. Just don’t work. If you absolutely have to schedule a meeting on Saturday morning, make it up to yourself by finishing early on Friday or starting late the following Monday.
Don’t wait until the weekend to catch up with your sleep. Try to have eight hours a night, because it makes a huge difference to motivation, creativity and happiness.
There you have it: 20 lifesaving time management tips for event professionals. Leave me a comment if I’ve missed anything. Also, maybe it’s a good idea to pick up five new ones and give them a go when you plan the next event. I believe you will see a difference.