10 Simple Tricks to Improve Productivity
Whether you're stuck with some serious "artist's block," have no motivation to work at all, or you just can't seem to get a good flow going, you're probably frustrated with your lack of productivity. As creative people, we tend to get easily frustrated when we sit down to work and nothing happens. Productivity is important for everyone, but especially for those who create things with our hands or our imagination - it's vital! So what do you do when you feel like your productivity is failing you? Here are my 10 simple tricks to increase your productivity. Try one out today, or try them all over the next few!
Clean up your work space! You don't need to be a neat freak, but having some kind of organization is essential. I know that sometimes I get wrapped up in my work for days upon days, and my work space turns into a nightmare. I can't find what I need, I have no space to work, and I keep sticking my elbow in that same blob of paint. So after a few days of neglecting my "creative office," I have to sit down for a few minutes and get organized. It's almost a guarantee that not only will my newly clean space feel refreshing, but getting organized sparks my brain and it says "oh man, you had THIS sitting here the whole time! Let's use it!" Whether you're a painter, a writer, or even a chef - take the time to boost your productivity by organizing your space from time to time. You'll be more efficient, you'll be able to work faster and you'll feel more accomplished.
Stop multitasking and FOCUS! I don't know why our society thinks that doing six things at once is a sign of success. It's not. Sorry, but I would rather be able to do ONE thing really well...than do ten things at once with 1/10th the effort. If you want to be truly productive, you have to learn to say NO sometimes, and "not right now" a lot more. You have to have singular focus on the task at hand. If that means leaving the house for an hour to go write, do it. If it means shutting the door to do some painting, do it. If it means having dad take the kids to the park for the afternoon so you can get something done, make it happen. Turn off the tv, put your phone on DND, get into your newly organized work space and get FOCUSED on what you're doing! Quit trying to cook dinner while you paint! Quit multitasking! Now when I say "multitasking," I don't mean working on more than one piece at a time. That is not multitasking, that's ultra productivity. While the paint on one dries, you start the first layer on another. That's super productive! By devoting your full attention to the task at hand, you allow your mind to fully engage and your work will be better, you will complete things faster and you will amaze yourself. Trust me, the laundry can wait. That text can wait for a response. The kids will be fine for the afternoon. The world will not stop turning simply because you decided to focus on YOU for a little while.
Change your Scenery. If every time you sit down in your work space you feel less and less motivated to actually work, maybe it's time for a change. If you have the ability, move your work space to another room. Getting a new view may inspire new feelings. If you can't move rooms, try shifting your body position - rearrange your furniture, move your chair to a different corner, change the direction of your light source. If none of that works for you, here's an idea - go somewhere outside your norm! Take the sketchbook to the park, take your laptop to the cafe down the street, take your paint and canvas to the patio. Seeing the same sight day after day can make your creative hobby become so much of a routine that your productivity suffers because your energy and excitement levels start to tank. Change it up and get more done!
Create a Playlist. Music is a must! Anytime I'm painting, I have music on. When I draw, I can be watching a movie or a tv show, but when I paint, it's music. Music, for me, sets a mood in a different way than a show or movie ever could. I feel like my paintings are more of a "mood" thing, instead of the realism that my drawings bring out. There's something about music that just WORKS with that. The mood of my playlist can directly affect the mood of my piece. For example, if I'm trying to create a calm, tranquil seascape painting - maybe listening to AC/DC isn't going to be the best idea. Create yourself a few "mood" playlists. Check out a few of the ones on Spotify. Find sets of songs that get your blood flowing and you enjoy listening to, but make sure they're not distracting you from what you're doing. Save the "makes me wanna dance" tracks for a different time :)
Set a Time Limit! Look, I know - you're busy. So when I said you need to stop multitasking and focus, you probably freaked out. "Doesn't she understand I have all of these things to do and I'm lucky I even get time to do this creative thing?!" Trust me, I understand. And you know what - I'm busy too. I'm a dual business owner, I work a full time job, I create art, I have a relationship, I have family, I enjoy reading, I have a social life and I get a workout in every single day. I understand busy. So how do I manage to get everything done? By setting time limits. I schedule everything. EVERYTHING. I know what time I will work out, I know what time I will get my reading done. I know what time I have to cook, and I know exactly what window of time that leaves me to work on my art. I set time limits based on the time I have available, and I use that time to get to work and - you guessed it - focus. When you set time limits or time frames for yourself, you allow yourself to get focused and get work done without having to neglect everything else around you. Don't leave it to chance. Much like I recommend with my fitness followers, you have to make your creative/productive time like an appointment with yourself. Treat these scheduled appointments like you would treat a dentist appointment, hair appointment or even a job interview. Schedule it, and treat it like it's important - because it is!
Start with what's hard - Get the tough stuff out of the way ASAP. Quick book recommendation - "Eat That Frog." If you've read it, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, I suggest it. Think about it - when the hard stuff is out of the way, everything else seems effortless. When I have a new commissioned piece, I will always start with the hardest part first. In realistic sketches, it's usually a face. If I get that out of the way (and even better, when I nail it on the first attempt), everything from there on out is easy! The hard stuff can be intimidating, and it can be tempting to save it for last because it IS intimidating! But think about this - if you absolutely dominate every other piece of your project, but you leave the hardest part for last, you're going to have that moment of hesitation. "Oh man, all that's left is the _____! But that's the hardest part. I'm not ready...maybe tomorrow. If I do it today, I'm afraid I'll ruin it. Maybe I'll wait on this last part until I'm 'feeling it' a little bit more." But who knows when that will be? Tomorrow? Next week? I have paintings and drawings in my house that have been unfinished for a year or more because I was guilty of saving the hardest part for last! So no matter what the task, start with the hardest part first. Get it out of the way early so you can fly through the rest and get stuff DONE!
Take breaks, but never quit! Not feeling this project after working for an hour? Trying really hard to find some kind of flow by your brain just won't go? No big deal - take a break! Come back to it when your brain is in a better place. Or how about the flip side of that? Been working for about 12 hours and you're starting to realize you're in a "no food brain fog" or your eyes don't want to focus anymore? Good lord you need a break! Taking regular breaks from our work is essential. They recharge our mind, reset the energy and hey - it allows us to do things like, you know, eat. And I love food. Sometimes the breaks need to be forced - like in that 12 hour scenario. But other times, the breaks will show up just at the right time. Take them. If you've been working on the same project for six weeks and you just don't want to look at it anymore, take a day or two away from it and work on something else or just take the day off. We need to recalibrate ourselves from time to time to let our productivity keep flowing. Come back to the project when you've given your brain the mini vacation that it deserves.
Find your golden hour If the only time you have available to get your projects done is from 5-7pm every day, great, get to it. But if you have a few chunks of time during the day where you could work on something, this tip is for you. For every task, we have what I like to call our "golden hour." It's the time of day when our brains focus the best on what it is we're trying to do. For example, my "golden hour" for fitness is between 10 and 11 am. I have the most energy, I'm mentally focused and I tend to have the best sessions. So anytime I'm able, I get my workout in at that point. Now of course, on weekdays or days I have plans that interfere with that time, that's not a possibility. I have to pick a different time based on what I have available. But if my golden hour is available, I'm ON IT! For my artwork, my "golden hour" ends to show up right around 1:30 or 2:00. Again, on work days it's a little bit inconvenient (but hey, sometimes I just doodle for a few minutes to satisfy the urge) but if I'm able to for one reason or another, I will tend to start working on creative stuff at that time. The golden hour is the time of the day where your brain and your body are most in sync with regards to a certain task. It's the time of day where you think, "man, I can't wait to get to my space and ___________!" Not sure what your "golden hour" is? Find out! Try scheduling certain tasks for a few different times of the day. For one week, try early mornings. For another week, move it to the afternoon. For another week, try the evening or late night hours. Whatever times you have available, try it out. I can guarantee that one of these times will work better for you than the others. Once you've figured out what time of day is best for you, try to get your work in at that time as often as possible. Again, it won't always be possible or even realistic, but if you have the chance, take it! When our brains and bodies want to do something at the same time and we have that time open, it's a rare feeling. So embrace it!
Set EXCITING goals! Why are you doing what it is you do? Why do you paint? Why are you learning to play the piano? Why do you want to write a novel? WHY are you trying to make time to DO what it is you want to find the urge and motivation to DO? Whether you were conscious of it or not, by deciding to wanted to do this thing you have chosen to do, you have set a goal. It may have been as simple as "I want to learn to paint because I loved it when I was a kid and I always thought it would be cool." or it could be something like "I want to write a novel because I know I have the potential and talent to be a best selling author." So take a minute and make your goal CLEAR to yourself. Sit for a moment and think about what goal you have when it comes to your task. Think about WHY it EXCITES you. For example, when I start a painting that isn't a commissioned piece, I set a goal like "I want to paint this Key Largo street scene so I can give it to my mom for her birthday in November and see her face when she receives it." or "I want to use this Blackhawks painting as a raffle piece to help me promote my art to the community while raising money for _______." Set a goal that makes it fun, challenges you, and excites you. Sign up for a recital before you're "ready" to perform. Tell someone you'll submit your novel for publishing by a certain date. Set a goal that seems a little bit scary but still excites you enough to push you to work hard and stay focused.
Share your stuff and accept feedback. There's this thing about social media - it's great because we can get instant feedback...and it's awful because we can get instant feedback. It allows us to get that feedback, both positive and negative, in a matter of minutes on everything we share. Think about it - why did you post that picture of your lunch? Because you wanted to show off what awesome thing you just ate and you wanted feedback (likes, comments, or even silent jealousy). Why did you post the picture of your son in his goofy hat? Because you wanted people to say "aww how cute" or "wow he's getting so big!" We share things because we want the feedback! Whether we're actually asking someone to tell us what they think or we're just "throwing it out there because we feel like it," if we're sharing something with other people, we are inviting feedback. Every status, every photo, every share, every tweet...they're all asking for FEEDBACK, whether intentionally or not. So you know what? Start sharing your work! If you're an artist, post a photo of your stuff on Facebook. See what people think, hear what they say, and maybe you'll get an interesting idea or tip from a fellow artist. You can ask for it, or just post it and see who reacts. Are you an aspiring musician? Post a short video of you playing your instrument. Even if you're not "great" yet, seeing that you're giving something a shot is worth sharing! And again, someone you know may be able to give you advice or tips. Not only will sharing your creative ventures invite feedback from others, but you'll be surprised how much more often you'll hear "that's awesome" or "I didn't know you could do that," than "Why did you post this? Sweet lord you're not good, just stop." (And if someone says that to you, unfriend them! Because that's rude.) And also, by sharing your own adventures in creativity, you will, in turn, inspire others to possibly try some new things. And when you see other people using you as inspiration to do their thing, doesn't it motivate you to keep working? It's creating a cycle of inspiration and paying it forward - and that's pretty cool! So take the positive feedback and embrace it. Take the negative or criticisms (constructive criticism, of course) and use it to fuel your productivity, your passion, and your inspiration - of yourself and those around you.
Creativity, art, music, writing, cooking...whatever it is you do - the key is always to "just start." But once we start, it's not always an easy flow. Hopefully these tips will help you reengage your mind and get that productivity flowing again when you come to that "stuck" mentality. Try out a few or all of these tricks. And if you have any that you use, I'd love to hear about them! Find me on Facebook, Tweet me, or comment below!