Time management can differ from person to person, especially in the creative space. Today’s guest Wayne Mullins, the Founder of Ugly Mug Marketing, shares how he would get frustrated with himself because he couldn’t fit his time management strategy into Zig Ziglar’s planners that he bought on a yearly basis. Not until he began experimenting with himself to find out which time management tools worked for him and which didn’t. Wayne explains two things that worked for him most: making time blocks and setting day themes. In this episode, Wayne and Penny Zenker talk about the benefits of time blocking and setting day themes, how setting parameters enhances creativity, and how you can experiment with yourself and figure out which time management strategy works best for you. If you’re having difficulty managing your time and making it work for your creativity, then this episode is for you!
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Find The Right Time Management Strategy For Your Creative Personality With Wayne Mullins
I’m excited because we talk a lot about how to work smarter. We don’t necessarily make it clear that there are different types of personalities and ways that people want to approach their time management and what makes somebody productive. I’m excited to talk about productivity for creators, time management and how to create balance for those people who are more creative thinkers than structured thinkers.
I’m excited to have Wayne Mullins with us. He’s the super expert in this area as he’s super creative and has learned a few things along the way. He’s the Founder and CEO of Ugly Mug Marketing. He’s worked with, inspired and motivated clients from over 100 industries. His work has directly influenced more than 100,000 entrepreneurs. Through his books and training programs, Wayne influences more than a quarter of a million entrepreneurs a year. Welcome, Wayne. I’m great to have you here.
Thank you so much, Penny. I’m looking forward to our conversation.
Let’s start out and understand, was time management and productivity an issue for you as a creative that’s why you worked to find solutions?
Penny, it started way back in the day with this planner that I got from this gentleman of the name Zig Ziglar. I don’t remember the name of his planner, but he always talked about Zig and his CDs, which is what I got back in the day. He always talked about the importance of scheduling your time and assigning your priorities to your calendar. Penny, for years, I would order his planner. I had the greatest intentions every year of using that thing and maximizing my life and time. I hope so many other people can relate to it. I always fill out a few pages, a few weeks we go by and then it would get more sporadic. By the time, March, April, and May rolled around, there was nothing going in this wonderful planner that I had spent $50 or whatever it was. Can you relate to that?
In different ways. I’ve had so many different tools that people have given me. I had all good intentions to use them but I couldn’t use them for whatever reason. It didn’t feel like a fit, so I didn’t. A lot of people can relate to that, whether they’re creatives or not. There are some great tools that aren’t working for them. Tell us more.
That was the beginning of my journey, but what happened along the way was I kept getting frustrated with myself because I couldn’t seem to fit my personality style into this planner that Zig Ziglar created. That began an experimentation process of me trying different things, seeing what didn’t work. I would go from extremes. I went from trying to use his planner, which was scheduling out your weeks and your months in advance, to not doing anything other than identifying priorities and then letting happen what would happen to this week.
Over the years, this process I began refining. What I discovered was that someone creative identifies with big ideas or picture things, they don’t like details, which I’m in that category. The assumption is that we don’t want boundaries, or parameters around our time because it “stifles” the creativity. What I found out to be true is that when we don’t give ourselves some form of boundaries with our time that we become less productive as creatives. I’m speaking specifically as someone more of a big picture person.
That’s true for everyone. Back in the day, when Henry Ford was working on time management or the assembly line, they went to 50, 55 hours. They found when they extended the day and time that people were working, that it was less effective. They went back to the 40-hour workweek. Boundaries are important for everyone. I do want to hear what specific boundaries and how they work for creatives. I do think that’s one of the things that people across all different personality types struggle with is they fail to set some of their own boundaries. Whether those boundaries are deadlines or started at the day end of the day or whatever they are, they can be different things for different people. This is great.
From the creative standpoint, though, is we tell ourselves a story and that story is those boundaries or parameters around our creative time. The time we give ourselves to do these creative things, that stifles us and the opposite is true. If you think of a painter with a canvas, the canvas doesn’t necessarily stifle them and their creativity. Instead, it enhances their creativity because it gives them boundaries and parameters within the area to work. The same is true of our lives and for creatives. A lot of what we do from a company perspective, we have a lot of creative people on our team. When we set the parameters around the creative time, we are more creative than when just have open-ended take as much time as you want to come up with the ideas or the solutions to these problems.
How to avoid snoozing your alarm: decide in advance when you will wake up and make that decision every day. Click To Tweet What does it look like for you? Does that look like blocking a segment in your calendar for creating or a start and end of your day and leaving your day open? What are your boundaries look like in that context?
I’ve experimented a lot. I now use time-blocking. That’s the way I set my schedule or my agenda. I working in three different ways. One would be with my natural rhythm, the rhythm of my body when I have energy. That is the circadian rhythm. I’ve learned over time when I’m able to do my best creative work, when I’m the most creative. What I make sure to do is schedule to block that time where it aligns with my natural energy levels or creative thought process. The other thing I love to do is theme my days. Even within keeping the time-blocking, I love to theme certain days. Certain days of the week are the themed for various activities. Towards the end of the week, as I know that my mental capacity will have dwindled, my ability to come up with creative ideas or solutions will wane over the course of that week. I try to avoid scheduling things that need a lot of creative thought towards the end of the week. For me, it’s a mixture of both time and energy management. It’s a mix of where those two things intersect.
You must have read my book. I talk a lot about energy management in that understanding our body’s energy, but also being able to control and direct our energy. I’m a big fan of it’s how we show up for our time and understanding at what times are the best to do different things. I can relate to that. This isn’t just for creatives. This is how you implement it for your creativeness. I want everybody else who’s not necessarily considering themselves in that bucket to see that time-blocking is good for everyone. We all have times where we have more energy where it’s better to do something that requires more thinking when you have the highest level of energy. That makes a lot of sense and theme days help us to keep that overall focus if we have any extra space. We’re going to use what’s on the theme. If you’re doing a cold calling day and you’re a salesperson, if you’ve got a little space, you can make another call. These are top time management practices.
One of the things that I also do is work in 50-minute blocks, and then a 10-minute break. That break in our office, what we do is we work in the same rhythm. We work for 50 minutes distraction-free so that means if you have a question for your coworker, you’re not allowed to get up and go ask that coworker question, unless if it’s an emergency, and we’re very clear about emergencies are. Often, what we think are emergencies aren’t emergencies. Here we are in a creative space, a marketing advertising space where collaboration is key, collaboration’s important, we still restrict when distractions take place. We have to do that because we know that Deep Work, as Cal Newport would call it, is required to produce the results that we want for our clients.
I would encourage people, even when you look at your time blocks, or your theme days, to reward yourself. If you have a big-time block of mentally heavy activity that is going to be working on, reward yourself with your next time block with something you enjoy or that’s easy on the mind. The same thing with your theme days. For me, I don’t like digging the financials and the details of financials going through financials. I always make sure that I have an easier day scheduled after that. When I’m going to spend my theme day on financials, the next day I’m not doing something that’s very mentally taxing for myself.
I want to highlight some of the things that you said that are important for entrepreneurs who are running a business with other staff members or even managing up for those of you who could bring this idea to your department or your head of your company. You, as a company, have taken responsibility to set some structures in place to help everybody to be more productive. I do not find that enough in organizations. You said two things that struck me that I have not heard before anybody share on the show. You set your whole team in certain rhythms.
That’s powerful because that means everybody is focusing at the same time so you don’t have those got a minute meeting at the wrong times because people take a break and then they make it everyone else’s break when it’s not. It’s like, “Let me come up and tell you what I did this weekend.” I love that you’re bringing that from top-down to help them to put that structure in place. I want to ask you about your defining emergencies. That’s another thing that not many companies do is to help to define what would be okay to interrupt me or one of your colleagues. How do you define that? That process could be beneficial to some other people who are reading.
In the entrepreneurial space business owners, we believe often by default that almost everything’s an emergency. Every time a potential sale calls in, it’s like an emergency because I can’t afford to talk to that person or somebody calls on something that I’ve been waiting to hear back from them all. It’s an emergency. The reality is rarely are those things emergencies. For us, the way we define emergencies is simply this. One of the functions of what we do is websites. We build websites. If a client calls and says their website is down, that’s an emergency. That’s a very specific thing.
The other thing that would constitute an emergency is if one of the people in our office is expecting a call and they need to speak with someone, they will let the person know who’s answering the phone. If this person calls, “Please come distract me or come let me know because it is urgent. It’s important that I speak with that person.” The thing that is most people are going to get hung up because I know for years I was hung up on like, what if we miss things or an important call, or lose an opportunity?
Trust me, I get that. Always use the analogy of, let’s say that God forbid, I was diagnosed with something that was very life-threatening. A disease that was life threatening. I can make an appointment with a doctor here in my town and go see that doctor early next week. I could attempt to get an appointment with a specialist, one of the top guys or gals in the country who specializes in this, but they can’t see me for three months. The question is, do I disrespect or do I respect the world-class expert less because I can’t see that person for three months or do I respect them more because they’re so booked up that they can’t see me for three months? It’s this scarcity mindset.
It depends on how urgent your illness is.
We get into that scarcity mindset that if I don’t answer their call and we’re talking for us 50-minute blocks. If someone can’t wait 50 minutes for us to make that connection with them, then that may be an indication that one, we haven’t been running other parts of our business well. We’re desperate to have to “get a sale.” Two, that person may be extremely needy and not the right type of client for us. I’m painting with a very broad brush here. That’s not absolute by any stretch. I would encourage people reading to do is to get started. You don’t have to set these in stone, treat this as an experiment. Here are how we’re going to experiment or the emergencies we’re going to start with. Let’s give it a try and see what happens.
What I’ve also heard that I think is very smart if find urgencies and create specific channels for different types of communication. Do you do that where all emergencies are communicated over one channel? For instance, if the whole group does chat over Slack that maybe Skype is the emergency channel or something like that. People know that when I get a message on this platform or in this way, it comes to my cellphone, it’s got to take her 911 or something like that. That helps them to understand that it’s an emergency.
We don’t necessarily, it would be personal. It would be the person answering or taking that emergency call who would come to get the person. We’re back in the office together as a team, it would be a direct text message if the person’s not in the office. We would text them directly saying, “This person called they need to speak with you.” One thing that is important and you mentioned Slack or Skype, and we use G Chat from time to time. There are all these wonderful tools that make so much of what we do easier or more convenient. If we’re not careful, all of those tools are masters at becoming distractions for us. Even in our 50-minute block, that doesn’t mean we can G chat with each other back and forth or we can text message each other. That’s another subtle thing that we don’t realize how much of that steals our precious moments away from our day. It’s the constant interruptions that distract us and take us away from what’s important.
I have a distraction quiz on my website that people can find out whether they’re a wizard, a squirrel, or a time zombie. It’s all about that is creating some heightened awareness as to all the things that are distracting us. I agree with that in those tools that we hold so preciously, those very often are the instruments that create the greatest distraction. We would have to set rules and boundaries that you talked about around not what blocks of time we have, but also how we use the tools that we have around us and those types of things as well.
They can either be wonderful tools or very terrible masters over our schedules.
I’m wondering while we’re mentioning tools. You got a new phone and you had to delete all the apps off your phone, other than email and your calendar, what would be the number one app or resource that you use that helps you save the most time or use most?
I wish I could tell you some wonderful new app or wizard thing that everyone’s going to be eager to hear about. The reality is this paper planner pad that I use. This is the tool that helps me plan or organize. I use a mixture of this along with Google Calendar, but I love being able to touch or interact with my calendar. There’s a lot of duplication in the effort, meaning what’s on Google has to match what’s in here and vice versa. For me, being able to very easily look at this to be a pencil in notes, or to look forward, flip over a few pages and see easily what’s next week look like. The tactile experience of having something on paper is such a lifesaver.
You mentioned it earlier and I want to bring it back up that different things work for different people. For everyone who’s reading, you mentioned that you looked at what worked for you and what didn’t work. The absolute key is for everybody to get clear on what works and what doesn’t work for them. We can all think about a time when we were super productive and what was present and what wasn’t present. That thinking about it in that way will already help us to see what are some of the things that we need to put in place that we might’ve forgotten or left out. Tell me how the pandemic has changed your work. When I saw some of the things that worked for me in the past, I don’t know why but I stopped doing them. I have this reflection review process where I was able to realize that pretty quickly and get back on to things. That’s what happened is it shook me out of my normal routines and things that I use that I know work for me. Did you have anything like that happened for you when the pandemic came around?
Not for me, Penny. I am very much rigid with my schedule now. When people hear that, they think, “You must be detail-oriented or love your schedule and all these things.” The answer is no, I don’t. It’s against my “natural normal tendency.” Over the years, I have forced myself to understand the importance of being rigid with my schedule. The thing that helped me transition through the pandemic and all the uncertainty and leading a team through the pandemic and dozens of clients maintaining those relationships bringing, was my morning routine. Being steadfast and not changing my morning routine whatsoever. The most important time of the day is before anyone else gets to work. It’s before I leave the house in the morning. It forces me or allows me, to do the most high priority work for myself, not for the company or the clients, but “me time.” That’s the time.
You hear a lot of people talking about the benefits and the value of the morning routine. I agree that the time before everybody gets up, especially before my kids get up, that’s the time for me. Those are the most important that I need to do during that time. I don’t know about you, even more so than what I do in the morning, I’m very clear about what I don’t do. Are there certain things that you know whether it’s in the morning or any time that you’ve got these rules of don’ts?
Just get started, give it a try and see what happens. Click To Tweet What’s funny is one of those don’ts is I don’t check my email first thing in the morning. For years and years, all the experts you’ll hear say, “Don’t check your email first in the morning. Don’t get on social first thing in the morning.” It changes your mental state in the wrong direction, but because of the nature of our business, we’ve been growing a lot over 2020, I kept justifying saying, “I need to be able to see if something came in during the night that I need to respond to.” One of my don’ts now is simply I do not allow myself to check my email until 6:00 in the morning. I get up at 5:00 every morning. I have an hour of other time that I do reading, meditation, or some journaling, all of that takes place. I can check my email right at 6:00 in the morning.
The other thing is I limit that time. You can check your email for 5 or 10 minutes, but my time is limited because I know that by 6:20, I have to walk out the door to go run. If I don’t do that, I’m going to be late coming into the office. The time limits or limiting those activities are forced by the next appointment I have with myself. That’s a very important thing to learn. The employments we have with ourselves are often the most important appointments we’ll have all day.
That’s the hardest thing that people have, they tend to move and push off and eliminate the appointments that they have with themselves. You have built up a lot of discipline over time to follow that. What’s a piece of advice that you have for someone that doesn’t have that level of discipline and tends to cancel and move those appointments that are there for themselves?
First of all, no, I’m not wired this way. It doesn’t come natural to me. I’ve been extremely intentional for years. I’ve been very intentional in building this morning routine or about protecting my schedule. Am I perfect at it? No. There are days that I fall off the bandwagon, like most people I’m sure to do. Three specific things that looking back that I’ve done is one, I decided in advance. I decide in advance every single night, I’m getting up at 5:00. It’s a new decision every single day. I get up at 5:00, seven days a week and I’ve done it now for years.
The next thing that I do, I make the decision for one day at a time. I don’t make the decision to wake up at 5:00 AM for the next year. I make the decision to wake up at 5:00 AM for tomorrow, because often we scare ourselves psychologically by saying I need to start getting up at 5:00 AM. My life’s going to be miserable, trying to get up at 5:00 AM for the next year. If we can decide in advance and commit for the next day, then it doesn’t scare us so much. The final little piece is this. Treat it as an experiment. Don’t treat it as, “I’m doing this forever.” One caveat around this experiment piece is when you start waking up, or for me, I started running a few years ago.
When you start running, chances are you’re going to hate it. You’re going to hate it for quite some time. Getting up early is not fun, especially when you’re used to sleeping in as late as possible, but treat it as an experiment. Give yourself say, “I’m going to try this for 30 days. That’s the length of my experiment. At the end of this, if I don’t like this or see some positive changes out of this, I can give up this experiment.” Those would be the three specific things I would recommend for people.
For those of you who are reading, those three things are great. I especially like that you’re recommitting every day. You can decide and if you feel like sleeping in and you need to sleep in because you’re sick or whatever, you decide that day, I like that. For the 30-day challenge, you could also make a seven-day challenge. You got to get started. That 30 days might scare some people too so start with 5 or 7 days. Start with a small number. What tends to happen is you see the benefits, and then you keep doing it. If you keep taking one day at a time after that, it’s a 1, 2, or 4 years. That’s great advice. Wayne, we’re coming to the end of our time. I want to ask you the question that I ask everyone. I’d like you to let people know where they can find you and a little bit more about your business. First, the question. What is your definition for productivity and why?
My definition of productivity is simply achieving the desired outcome. We think of high productivity, low productivity, we’re achieving a certain outcome. It’s how efficiently, how effectively are we achieving that thing. I’m reminded of the quote. I don’t remember if it was one of the stoics or if it was Marcus Aurelius or Seneca or one of those, but he had that saying, “It’s not that we have a short time to live. It’s that we squander so much of it.” When I think of productivity and life as a whole, what are the desired outcomes that I’m after? What do I want my relationship with my kids to look like? What does productivity look like in that area? My relationship with my wife, what does that look like? What is the desired outcome that I’m after? I can work backwards from there to determine the level of effort and energy I need to put into those things based on that specific outcome.
Where can people find more information about you and what it is that you do?
Penny, the simplest place would be to go to our website. That’s UglyMugMarketing.com on there’s links to social media, my new mail address, our phone numbers, all that kind of stuff right there on the website.
What do you guys do at Ugly Mug? Give us a minute and tell us what you do.
We focus on three core areas. One would be website development. We work with people to build new websites. The second one would be social media marketing, and then the third would be more traditional marketing, everything from radio, television, print, whatever it may be.
Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom that you’ve gained over the years and giving us that perspective from the creative perspective. I love it.
Thank you so much, Penny. I enjoyed our conversation.
Thank you all for being here because these are tried and true types of strategies that are going to support you. Maybe there’s something that you’ve heard before, but are you doing it is the question. Maybe there’s a nugget that you didn’t hear before that could be the difference that makes the difference. Little tweaks sometimes are all that it takes. What are you going to put into practice from this show? Take that 7-day challenge or 30-day challenge. Make it a challenge and implement something new that’s going to work for you to help you to work smarter. We’ll see you in the next episode.
About Wayne Mullins
Wayne Mullins is the Founder and CEO of Ugly Mug Marketing. He’s worked with, inspired and motivated clients from over 100 industries and his work has directly influenced more than 100,000 entrepreneurs. Through his books and training programs, Wayne influences more than a quarter million entrepreneurs each year.
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