Productivity tips for busy creatives

Updated: Apr 3, 2019


Before we get started I just want to acknowledge that being productive can save you a lot of time to use for more fun things, but it doesn't have to be your life's goal. I meet a lot of people obsessed with productivity, shaving minutes off of every task. It is easy to stop appreciating things happening day to day. Maybe you recognise the feeling of getting stressed out when someone wants to have a chat by the coffee station because it is throwing off your perfectly crafted plan. Needless to say, you might miss out on a nice chat or even a new friend. Therefore, I want to make this post about all the things that bring less stress and more freedom to your work-life balance.



OVERVIEW:

  • What kills productivity?

  • How to become more productive

  • Resources and tools

What kills productivity?


The best way to get more productive is to figure out what is holding you back to start with. I find that there are two main reasons for procrastination.


The first reason is being unclear on what you need to get done. This often happens when you feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work and experience workload paralysis. They key here is to recognise what is happening, take a deep breath and decide what is actually is important. Not knowing what to tackle next can also be a result of collaboration or taking directions from someone else, like a projects manager. If you are not setting your own goals, or if you feel there could be a better way to plan a project, address this and suggest a way that would work better for you.


The second reason is being reactive. We all fall in to this trap. A client calls and wants to have a chat about a project, you see new notifications on social media and you bounce between projects to feel more productive. Multitasking has actually been shown to make us less productive. The constant interruptions makes it easy to lose your focus and makes us slower at the task at hand.


How to become more productive

Treat yourself

It might sound like a contradiction, but I find this is a great way to get more productive if you usually hate planning. Find something that motivates you and use it as a reward system. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Use an app like Epic Win to harness the power of Gamification

Make good habits that actually work

I have found that the most efficient and comfortable way to get more done is to use 3x10 minute sessions throughout the day. One in the morning, one mid day and one right before you leave work. This is how it works:

  • Before you leave work and when all the information is still fresh, make a list of the things that have to be done the next day. Try to keep the number to a max of five. You can also choose to add tasks that would be nice to get done but are not crucial.

  • When you get to work the next morning, look at your list and make a rough plan for how much time each will take. Make sure to schedule in short breaks and lunch.

  • After lunch when you have a clear head, check your progress and make any adjustments.

This is just one example that has worked for me. The important thing is to create a structure that helps you relax and avoids the constant stress of trying to tackle everything at once.


Get rid of vanity tasks

You might be familiar with vanity metrics, meaning data that makes you feel good but is not actually driving sales. A typical example is likes on social media. The same thing can easily happen with work tasks. Instead of tackling that big important task you feel uncomfortable with, you fill your list with easy to-do’s that don’t actually bring you any further towards your goals.


Be a good boss to yourself

It is easy to overwork when you manage yourself, but try to take an outside perspective. If you were the boss, would you ask someone to work until 9pm? Hopefully not. Any business runs best when the people working in it feel comfortable, rested and supported. I think this is especially true in creative fields where our minds are usually the most important assets the company has.


You might have heard of Parkinson's Law that states that tasks tend to take up at least the time allocated. Set an end time and stop working when you get there. If you have work left, really consider how urgent they are and try to be as strict as possible.


Divide and conquer - find collaborators with complimentary skills

Everyone has their own strengths. Start by considering a tasks that usually takes you too much time and where you might feel out of your depth. Then consider your network of colleagues. Do you know someone who is better at this task than you and who might need help with one of your specialities. This can be anything from simple work exchanges to realising it's time to hire someone to help you out.


Enter “focus mode”

To help avoid reactive behaviour, try shutting down any distracting tabs such as social media and email. I found that checking my email four times per day avoids the stress of constantly checking but is also often enough for people to feel they received a quick response.


Online team collaboration chats often have a “do not disturb mode” or like Stride’s new “focus mode” where you can mute all new messages and automatically let your team know what you are working on in the meantime.


Streamline your everyday tasks

I am a big fan of creating templates for regular tasks like proposals and setting up your invoicing and contracts to run more or less by themselves. To figure out what could work better, try tracking your time for a month and keep a lookout for tasks that could be made easier.


Resources and tools


Ready to get more productive? Start by considering your work life now and how you would like it to be structured in a typical day. What is working towards that goal now and what is holding you back? Here are tools to overcome the most common productivity problems.

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