How to be Productive: Why Productivity Matters for Creatives
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It’s all about having systems and processes that work for you— compare the work you’re getting done to the time and effort you’re putting in.
Does it feel as if every day passes faster than the last? That you have more things to do today than you had yesterday? And that to-do list just keeps getting longer and longer?
You’re not alone.
The internet has made it easier than ever before to be constantly bombarded with new information and stimulation. It can be hard to stay focused on any task for very long. Our lives have, whether we like it or not, become more complicated and more intricate than any other previous civilization.
But here’s the thing: being productive is essential if you want to create things — whether that’s art, music, a business, or just a really killer blog.
And that’s because when you’re creating something, you need to be able to focus and get into a flow state so you can produce your best work.
And when you can focus and do your best work, you can create things that are not only good but also have the potential to be great.
It’s natural to become sidetracked. Once you’ve learnt to capture focus in the face of distractions, the sky’s the limit. We’re not robots, and it’s natural to be distracted. The challenge is finding the balance between staying focused and being compassionate.
Productivity, systems, and workflow are important words that mean different things. But ultimately, they’re all ways to help us manage our time and stay focused so we can create the best work possible. And that’s why it matters for creatives.
There are a lot of productivity hacks out there that can help you get more done in less time. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to having systems and processes that work for you.
If you want to be more productive, you have to understand what productivity actually is. You need to compare how much work you’re getting done to the time and effort you’re putting in.
In this article, we will talk about how productivity affects our lives and how to be more productive. Time is valuable, and we all have a lot of commitments like work, family, school, and other things that take up time. If we don’t have good systems in place, we will always feel like we have more to do.
What does productivity even mean?
The term “productivity” only emerged significantly a few years ago, but it’s now become one of the most talked-about topics in our personal lives and the business world.
The technical definition of productivity is often defined by the measure of output per unit of input. In other words, it’s a way of quantifying how efficient we are at getting things done. It means being efficient, organized and focused. It means using your time, energy and resources in the best way possible to achieve the goals you charted out.
How did we get here?
Did you know that the term wasn’t even part of our daily vocabulary only a few decades ago? Why? Because, as a society, our work has become different. Going back only 50 years, a major portion of our work was done in the fields. We lived on farms, took care of our land, ate from our land, grew our food, and built our houses. We were more connected to the land, to nature. And because of that, our work pace was very different.
I recently watched the movie Mudbound on Netflix, and I couldn’t believe that rural Missippi, where the year was 1943 (post World War II), still required people to use mules and horses to plow the fields. And that’s not even that long ago! We’ve come so far in such a short amount of time.
In 1950, only 28% of Americans worked in service jobs. Today, almost 80% of us work in the service industry. What does that mean? It means that how we work has changed dramatically in a very short time.
In those days, we didn’t need to quantify our unit of output because if the “work” wasn’t done, well, we would die, and our families would perish. If you didn’t plant your crops in time, you didn’t have food to eat. It was that simple. There were no other options, and there certainly wasn’t any room for “productivity” as we know it today.
You would wake up in the morning and know exactly what you needed to get done that day. Once the day was over, you would know that you had either done what was required or hadn’t. There wasn’t any ambiguity. And because the work was so physically demanding, there wasn’t much room for multitasking — you were pretty much stuck doing one thing at a time, every day, until the end of that, reset and restart.
Now, of course, our work has changed dramatically. We no longer live on farms or work in the fields. And because of that, our relationship with time and productivity has changed.
From the industrial to the information revolution
The industrial revolution of the 1700s kickstarted the productivity movement due to (1) rural peasants moving to cities taking jobs in mills and factories, and (2) treating time as a “resource” rather than an abstract visualization.
The factory workers who used to get paid for a “day’s-worth” of work or exchange of commodities such as a bale of hay, or a piece of slaughtered cow or pig, now get paid per hour. The factory owners then needed to squeeze as much labour as possible from that hour of work. In other words, a factory needs to increase output while decreasing the amount of input (labour).
And so, the focus on productivity was established.
We, as a civilization, then shifted to office buildings, where working behind a desk and working from home became the norm— our relationship with work changed again. Instead of working with our hands, we now work with our minds; we have become knowledge workers. And while this has led to some amazing advances in technology and society, it’s also had an interesting effect on how productive we are as individuals. We are now in the 21st century; we live in a knowledge economy. The work that we do is very different from the work our grandparents did.
In the modern world, endless distractions are vying for our attention. We have constant access to entertainment and social media, we can work from anywhere in the world, and we can easily find ways to procrastinate.
All of this means that it’s become more difficult than ever to focus on the task at hand and get things done. And so, productivity has become more critical than ever before.
We no longer need to be productive to survive, we need to be productive to thrive.
Productivity is now a measure of our success, and it’s something we need to strive for in our personal and professional lives to achieve the things we need to get done.
So, how can we be more productive? How can we make the most of our time and get the right things done?
Why do you need to be productive?
The answer is simple: because it helps you achieve your goals.
If you’re not productive, you’ll find it challenging to get things done. You’ll start projects but never finish them. You’ll procrastinate and put off important tasks. And eventually, you’ll get frustrated and give up.
You don’t give up because you’re lazy or incapable.
You give up because you don’t know what’s the next action you need to take. And you will never know what the next action should be unless you have a system. An unchallenged workflow, where every next action (physical or mental) is drawn out and ready for you to attack at a specific time and place.
When you have a system, you know the following action, making it much easier to be productive. You’re no longer wasting time figuring out what to do next. You’re no longer stuck in a cycle of procrastination and frustration.
So how can you create a system to help you achieve your goals?
What do you need to get started?
Set realistic goals and objectives
Let’s first start by defining what a goal is. A goal is a desired result that you want to achieve. An objective is something you want to accomplish within a specific timeframe.
Your goals and objectives need to be realistic, which means they should be achievable and measurable. For example, “I want to get in shape” is not a realistic goal because it’s not specific enough. “I want to lose 20 pounds in the next three months” is a realistic objective because it’s specific and measurable. “I want to become a music producer” is not realistic either. “I want to finish one song in the next month” is a real goal.
Setting realistic goals increases your chances of achieving them because you have a clear target and timeline to follow. You know what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. You know the “what” and the “when,” the two critical components to getting stuff done. You have a clear vision to follow.
If you want to take a step further, especially for bigger goals, you should define the “why.” Why do you want to lose weight? Why do you want to make music? Why do you want to become a Youtuber?
Once again, if you cannot answer those questions, you won’t be able to push through when things get tough.
Create a (life) plan — an operating system
Once you’ve set your goals, it’s time to create an action plan. This is where we answer the “how.”
So say our goal is to “finish one song in the next month” or “write one article for my blog this month,” you need to break down these goals into digestible parts not to overwhelm yourself and know exactly what to do when you sit down to get started.
You need to include two things when you make your plan: a physical action and a target.
Let’s say, for example, “writing one article this month” could look like this:
- Monday: write one sentence that describes what the post is about
- Tuesday: write five headers for the outline
- Wednesday: write one sentence for the first heading
- Thursday: write one sentence for the second heading
- Friday: Review heading 1 and 2 and see what you can add
- Saturday: Off
- Sunday: plan the writing for next week
Now, you might look at this and say, what the hell, one sentence per day? What in the world would I get done if I’m this slow? This is where research comes in, and a great book everyone should read is called “Atomic Habits” by James Clear.
The book explains that you want to make it so easy to trick your brain into starting the action without thinking about it too much because your brain will always choose what’s easy and comfortable over something that requires effort. And you want to make things easy because it takes 66 days on average to form a new habit. So if you can stick with your plan for 66 days, it will become easier and eventually second nature for you to take the actions necessary to achieve your goal. But even if it doesn’t become second nature, as long as you’re taking action toward your goal, that’s all that matters.
What does action mean, and do you quantify an action?
For our purposes, action means taking a step closer to finishing your goal. It’s the physical or mental activity you do that gets you one step closer to being done.
Yes, you can quantify an action. You can say, “I wrote 500 words today,” or “I spent 30 minutes researching.” The key is not to get caught up in the numbers but to focus on taking action.
The goal is to make it a habit to sit down and work on your project for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. That’s it. The key is consistency, not quantity.
If you can do that, you will progress on your goal, and that’s all that matters.
But what if you miss a day or two?
It happens to everyone. Life gets in the way. It is essential not to beat yourself up and give up altogether. Just get back on track as soon as possible and keep going.
So, by making our goal “write one sentence for my blog post today,” we are more likely to follow through because it’s such a small ask that we can easily do without resistance.
But don’t worry, once you get started, the sentence will come easier and faster, and before you know it, you’ll have written an entire blog post without even noticing.
The key is to just get started.
Let’s take another example, “finish one song in the next month,” we need to break it down into daily and weekly tasks.
- Monday: choose a genre, look for inspiration and draft an arrangement outline
- Tuesday: write a 4-bar chord in the key of Amin for the chorus
- Wednesday: add another 4-bars to the chords
- Thursday: choose and sequence the kick and clap
- Friday: write your hi-hat and shaker loops
- Saturday: sequence the chorus
- Sunday: strip the chorus and start the first verse
Another dimension to ensure your success is adding the “where” to your plan. For example, wake up, sit at the office desk with your MacBook and write the first 4-bar chord progression.
If you don’t know where to start, write down all the possible things floating in your head that you think you need to get done—massive brain dump. Then, break those tasks down into smaller, more manageable steps.
There are two things to help you out: (1) here’s a step-by-step guide to writing a song and producing music that charts out exactly the steps you need to take, (2) a productivity planner that I’ve built that will be able to help you keep track of everything, keep you accountable, and give you the boost you need to stay on track.
The key is to make it as easy as possible for yourself to take action and get started. Once you’ve taken that first step, the rest will come more easily and naturally.
Execute as if your life depended on it
This one is important. Once you’ve set your goals and created a plan, it’s time to get to work.
Whether you are learning to code, studying, producing, or writing, you need to do more or less the same repetitive task daily. For example, let’s take this website. There are so many things to be done. Articles, book notes, courses, social media, community, newsletter, etc., so many targets and goals to hit.
Nothing would get done if we were to think about them all at once. Therefore, in my weekly plan, I have three daily tasks during the week before work. First thing in the morning, sit at your office desk and write two sentences for an article and two for a book note. I timebox those two tasks for 50 minutes. Once those two tasks are complete, I have another timebox to write a 4-bar chord progression. Then I head to work.
Those three tasks are repeated daily before the day really starts. I’ve been doing this for close to a year. It’s now an ingrained habit. When I return from work, I can sit down and work on other things for as long as possible because the most challenging part is already done.
This system works so well because every day, I know exactly the physical action I need to take once I wake up. Another reason is that I make it very easy just to show up and do the work when it’s made super simple, like writing two sentences (even though I end up writing more every time). But knowing that I only have two sentences to write tricks my brain, and it gets done every time. Then, those two sentences eventually become an article, and that article becomes part of a newsletter, and those articles and newsletters eventually become a book and so on.
But it all starts with just showing up and doing single units of work, one day at a time.
It’s not about working hard— it’s about working smart. And being productive is all about working smarter, not harder.
Now it’s your turn. What are some of your goals? What are some things you’ve wanted to do but haven’t had the time or motivation to start?
Take a few minutes and write them down. Then, break those goals down into smaller, more manageable steps. And finally, create a plan of action with time-based tasks that you can execute daily.
How to be more productive
In the book Four Thousand Weeks, the author quoted Mumford: “the invention of the clock is solely to blame for all our time-related troubles today.”
This passage stuck because if we become obsessed with time and productivity, we will add tremendous stress to our life without noticing. However, if you think of productivity as means of getting the right things done by the time you set out for them, then you are thinking through a different lens.
There’s a false misconception that being organized and systemized will make you a robot or less of an artist. But in fact, it’s the opposite. You will become more efficient with your time, and your creativity will have room to breathe.
For someone who has a full-time job, a wife and kids on the way, time simply becomes more scarce. And if you don’t have a plan or system in place, it’s very easy to let months or even years fly by without producing anything substantial.
If you want to be productive, you need to start with your mindset. Change the way you think about productivity and what it means for you. Then, set some goals and create a plan of action. And finally, execute.
Passion + Perseverance = Grit
Productivity is a skill that takes time and practice to develop. But if you’re patient and consistent, you will see results. Your biggest challenge is staying focused. Getting sidetracked or discouraged is easy when you do not immediately see results. That’s when grit comes in. Grit is the ability to stick with something even when it’s hard. Based on Angela Duckworth’s research, grit is a better predictor of success than IQ. She describes grit as “passion and perseverance for very long-term goals.”
Based on that statement, it’s clear that being productive requires more than just intelligence. It requires a passion for your craft and the perseverance to see it through, even when things get tough. Start by developing a growth mindset. Set goals. Then create a system that works for you and stick with it. And finally, don’t forget to work on your grit. Don’t give up once things get tough. Remember, the most successful people are often the ones who have faced the most challenges in life. They’ve just learned how to overcome them. And you can too.
If you can develop these qualities, you will be well on becoming a productive creative. And remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. So don’t expect to be gritty overnight. Focus on something called “deliberate practice.” Push yourself outside your comfort zone, seeking feedback and constantly striving to improve. It’s not easy but it will pay off in the long run. Just keep taking small steps. You’ll get there.
How much time do we really have?
A month consists of 720 hours on average (30 days x 24 hours).
- 8 hours of sleep per day (8 hours X 30 days = 240 hours), you’d have 480 hours left.
- 40 hours of work per week (40 hours X 4 weeks = 160 hours), you’d have 320 hours left. Although it may seem counterintuitive, working fewer hours per week is often more productive than slogging away at the office for 40 hours. In fact, most of your best ideas will come to you when you’re not even thinking about work – while you’re relaxing, commuting or spending time with loved ones. According to research, only 16% of creative ideas originate from traditional workplace settings…
- 2 hours of eating per day (2 hours X 30 days = 60 hours), you’d have 280 hours left.
So the question becomes, what do you do with those 280 hours per month?
A very interesting read, Make Time from Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky, describes how you need a single highlight per day, a single focal point to focus and guard while you beat distractions until you get done.
Another major point they make is that we should focus on what energizes us rather than constantly trying to eliminate our exhaustion. The authors also break down how to plan for highlights, as well as ways to combat common obstacles like overcommitment or lack of motivation.
To achieve your highlight, you need to:
- Highlight: start each day by choosing a single focal point
- Laser: beat distractions to make time for your Highlight
- Reflect: adjust and improve your system every day
- Energize: Take care of your body to recharge your brain
The basic premise is to stop running on your default mode and start intentionally creating time for the things that truly matter to you. This book offers practical and actionable steps to help make that happen. Highly recommend it to anyone looking to take control of their time and prioritize what’s important in their life. Happy reading!
How to get the right things done
We often think about how many things we can get done in one day. We think of productivity as factory owners needing to squeeze every hour from their conveyor belt workers.
If you think about productivity this way, you will fail and burn out.
Because that’s not what productivity means. It doesn’t mean draining your energy to do more in every single moment of your day. In fact, true productivity starts with a reduction and not an increase in things to do. Think reductive and tell yourself: “what is the least amount you need to get done per day to get 1% closer to your goals?” It’s not about getting more done, it’s about getting the right things done.
The goal is to find the right mix of activities that move you closer to your goals without overloading your schedule. This means being thoughtful about what you say yes and no to.
It also means taking time for yourself every day to recharge and refocus. When you’re well-rested and have a clear head, you’ll be able to work smarter, not harder.
Life Areas + Projects + Tasks
Think about your life in sections or areas. For example, work, family, social and hobbies can be considered as life areas. Inside each area, you will have various projects. Some projects will require daily or weekly action (tasks), and some less frequent. The key is having a system that allows you to track your progress and keep moving forward. This could be as simple as a notebook or spreadsheet where you list out each project and the actions required to complete it. Or it can consist of more robust task management tools like Notion, Todoist, Trello or Asana.
Don’t let the fear of not being productive enough paralyze you into inaction. Remember, true productivity is about focus and progress toward your goals, not just checking off as many tasks as possible in a day. Take control of your schedule and prioritize what matters most to you, so you can make the most of your time and energy.
Now that you have your life areas, you can list out the projects inside each one that you want to complete. Think of a project as a repository for tasks or actions that help you achieve your goal. For example, as you’re starting out, have a smaller project: “finish one song in the next month.” You would create a project that lives under the section or area of either work or hobby, titled “Finish one song,” with a due date set a month from now.
Then, you create subtasks under that project for the four weeks of that month, depending on how much time you can allocate to that project per day. For example, Week One’s subtasks could be “create a rough outline for the song,” “write lyrics for the first verse and chorus,” and “find three samples or instruments to use.” As you complete each task, check it off your list. This way, you have a roadmap to follow and can track your progress toward completing the project. And by breaking down projects into smaller tasks, we can focus on what needs to be done now instead of getting overwhelmed by the big picture. As you complete each task and move closer to achieving your goal, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and motivation to keep going.
Getting started solved
The hardest thing to do when starting anything new is … getting started. We thought a lot about this problem. And to solve any problem, you must first understand it. After working on so many projects, we realized it was so hard to start anything digitally these days because of one simple thing: organization. The problem lies in where to start and where to store anything related to that project. Let’s unpack that.
The biggest friction point when working on anything new, creative or that requires any form of digital media is the initial organization and setup. It’s opening a new project file, creating folders, naming them correctly, organizing assets, etc. This can be overwhelming and time-consuming. Questions like: “where do I put this file,” “where do I write my text,” and “where do I add my live recordings” can all run through your head before you even start the project itself.
That is why you need a system. A system that allows you to know exactly where you will create your initial folder and your initial documents and store all the resources related to your project before even starting the project. A system where you will be able to reference any previous, ongoing or completed projects. A digital organization method/system specifically designed for creatives and their projects.
This is where a system like the PARA method, created and popularized by Diego Forte, comes in. It’s a simple yet effective way to organize your projects and tasks within those projects, ensuring that everything related to the project is in one place and easily accessible. PARA stands for Projects, Areas, Resources, and Archives.
In the Projects section, you create a folder for each new project with a specific name and due date. The Areas section is where you categorize your projects into larger life areas, like work or hobbies. Resources are where you store all the files and assets related to a project. And finally, Archives are where completed projects go for reference or inspiration in the future.
This system allows you to know exactly where to create the initial file and store them in the right section under the right folder. It helps eliminate the overwhelming feeling of where to start and where to put things, allowing you to focus on actually starting and completing your project.
So if you’re struggling with starting anything new, we highly recommend checking out the PARA method or finding a digital organization system that works for you. Trust us, it will make a world of difference in your productivity and creative process.
Remember, the goal here is to eliminate the friction and time it takes to set up and organize so that you can focus on what really matters: being creative and completing your project.
Tips for getting the right things done
So how do you focus on the right thing to do rather than getting more done? You simply have to ask yourself the following question: “Will this task get me 1% further in this project?” if the answer is yes, then you are doing the right thing.
Then comes the dimension of reality and the businesses of real life that try to hijack your attention from completing those important tasks. Things like meetings, emails, phone calls, social media notifications and other things can easily distract you. That’s why it’s important to have systems in place to minimize distractions and maximize your focus.
One way to do this is to batch similar tasks together. For example, if you need to make some phone calls, make all your calls in one sitting rather than spreading them out throughout the day. This way, you can minimize distractions and get into a flow state where you’re more productive.
Another way to reduce distractions is to create an information diet. This means being selective about what information you allow into your life. Unsubscribe from newsletters and social media accounts that don’t add value to your life. Be choosy about the books you read, the media you consume and the people you spend time with.
The goal is to reduce distractions and increase focus so you can work smarter, not harder. By being thoughtful about what you say yes to, you can create more margin in your life to focus on the things that matter most. And by taking time for yourself to recharge, you’ll be able to show up as your best self every day.
Turn Off Notifications (Focus Mode)
Most phones have a setting that allows you to turn off all notifications for a set period of time. This is usually called “focus mode” or something similar. When you’re trying to focus on a task, use this setting to minimize distractions.
You can also use apps like Freedom or Cold Turkey to block certain websites or apps for a set period of time. This can be helpful if you find yourself getting too distracted by social media or other online distractions.
The goal is to create a system that works for you and helps you focus on the things that matter most. By being intentional about your time, you can achieve more in less time and feel good about your progress.
We often forget that our brains are extremely powerful. Our insane ability to create and understand patterns distinguishes us from other mammals. If you choose to complete a similar task in a different location every day, you are setting yourself up for failure. You want to make it easy for your brain to create patterns. When you sit down to write or produce, make sure you are sitting in the exact same place every day. In fact, make sure it’s even listed in your action or task due in this way: “Sit down on my office desk and write one sentence for the blog post.”
The goal is to make it easy for your brain to create patterns so you can focus on the task at hand. By being intentional about your environment, you can minimize distractions and maximize your productivity.
Recharge Your Body and Mind
In order to be productive, you need to have a well-rested body and mind. This means getting enough sleep, exercise, and downtime to recharge. When you take care of your body, you’ll be able to show up as your best self and get more done.
It’s also important to schedule breaks throughout the day. If you’re trying to focus on a task for hours on end, you’ll likely start to feel burnt out. That’s why it’s important to take breaks to move your body, eat healthy snacks, and give your brain a rest.
The goal is to recharge your body and mind so you can be productive throughout the day. By taking care of yourself, you’ll be able to show up as your best self and get more done.
Productivity matters because it allows you to get more done in less time. By being intentional about your time, you can achieve more and feel good about your progress. And by taking care of your body and mind, you’ll be able to show up as your best self every day.
Trying to be productive can feel like a never-ending battle. You start off the day with good intentions, but then something happens, and you get sidetracked. Maybe you get an unexpected phone call or get pulled into a meeting. Or perhaps you just can’t seem to focus on the task at hand.
It’s easy to get frustrated when you can’t be productive. But it’s important to remember that productivity is a journey, not a destination. There will always be days when you’re more effective than others. The key is to keep moving forward and to find what works for you.
Why productivity matters for a creative person
Our community here is dominated by musicians, songwriters, producers, and artists. It makes us creative people. People with a vision, an idea of an artistic nature, who want to see that idea come to life and make a change through their creativity.
Productivity matters for creative people because without it, we wouldn’t be able to get our ideas out there as often as we’d like to. We all have different processes when it comes to creating something new. Some of us can sit down and work on a track for hours on end until it’s finished. For others of us, it might take days or weeks to finalize a project. Let’s not even get started with perfectionism.
But what does productivity have to do with creativity?
You see, creativity and productivity are two sides of the same coin. They both require you to be intentional about your time and focus on the task at hand. When you’re being productive, you’re using your time wisely to get things done. And when you’re being creative, you’re using your imagination to come up with new ideas.
The key is to find a balance between the two. You need to be productive to get your ideas out there. But you also need to be creative to come up with new ideas.
So how can you achieve both?
System and workflow. That’s the secret.
The biggest mistake for beginners is to neglect workflows and systems.
You see, you’re not lazy, and you don’t purposefully procrastinate. You are only working against your reptilian brain, the survival instincts that help you save energy to survive. If you go back several years, we didn’t do this kind of work. Our only “work” was hunting, foraging for food, or building shelter. You knew exactly what needed to be done, where it needed to be done, and when. That was survival mode. You hunt to eat and survive. You build a shelter to survive. You didn’t need to plan, and you didn’t need to think, you just needed to do.
Creative work is a lot different, especially when starting. Your brain will automatically want to reserve energy unless it knows exactly what to do when, where and how. This is where systems and workflows come in.
A system is a repeatable process you can follow every time you sit down to work. It’s a set of instructions that tell your brain what to do next, so you don’t have to think about it.
For example, let’s say you’re a musician who wants to write a song.
Your system might look something like this:
Consumption and inception
- Research and find inspiration
- Outline arrangement
- Choose scale/key
- Choose a genre
- Choose a tempo
Execution and creation
- Outline arrangement and structure
- Write a chord progression
- Write the melody
- Write the lyrics
- Pick drum samples
- Write and sequence drums
- Arrange the song
- Mix the song
Coordination and collaboration
- Master the song
- Prepare album art
- Network with label agent
- Get feedback from communities
As you can see, a system takes all the guesswork out of the creative process. And once you have a plan in place, you can start to focus on being productive.
But what about when things don’t go according to plan? What if you get stuck somewhere in the process?
This is where a workflow comes in.
A workflow is a set of tasks you must complete to finish a project. It’s like a system, but it’s more flexible and can be adjusted to fit your needs.
For example, let’s say you’re working on a song and get stuck on the melody.
Your workflow might look something like this:
- Try coming up with a melody by humming or singing nonsense syllables
- If that doesn’t work, try writing out a chord progression and improvising over it
- If that doesn’t work, try looking for inspiration from other songs in the same genre
- If that doesn’t work, try something completely different and come back to the song later
As you can see, a workflow is designed to help you troubleshoot when things go wrong. It’s a flexible set of tasks that you can adjust as needed.
So there you have it! The secret to being both productive and creative is to have a system and workflow. Following a system can take the guesswork out of the creative process and focus on being productive. And by having a workflow, you can troubleshoot when things go wrong and keep your project moving forward.
And now, we will see how these systems and workflows can be made easier with modern tools that help us keep all that information centralized, standardized and organized.
How to overcome procrastination
Labelling things is not a good idea. It’s like assigning an excuse or a reason to justify something. “I’m a procrastinator.” “I have ADHD.” These are not good reasons. They’re just excuses. And when you label yourself, it becomes part of your identity. You start to believe that this is who you are and there’s nothing you can do about it.
As mentioned earlier, you are not lazy. And you’re only procrastinating because you don’t have a clear action plan. Once you have a clear plan of what needs to be done, it’s much easier to take action.
So let’s find a productive way to overcome that feeling and get back on track.
The first step is to identify the task that you’re procrastinating on. Ask yourself why you’re procrastinating. Is it because you don’t know where to start? Is it because you’re afraid of failure? Once you’ve identified the reason, you can start to find a solution.
For example, if you’re procrastinating on writing a blog post, ask yourself why. Are you afraid of what people will think? Are you afraid of not being good enough? Once you’ve identified the reason, you can start to find a solution.
One way to overcome procrastination is to break the task down into smaller steps. For example, if you’re procrastinating on writing a blog post, break it down into smaller steps like this:
- Step one: come up with a list of ideas
- Step two: choose one idea and outline the post
- Step three: write the first sentence
- Step four: write one more sentence
- Step five: move to the next heading in the outline and write one sentence
By breaking down the task into smaller steps, it’s much easier to take action. And once you’ve started, it’s easier to keep going.
Another way to overcome procrastination is to set a deadline. For example, if you’re procrastinating on writing a blog post, set a deadline of two hours. Once the timer starts, start writing and don’t stop until the timer goes off.
The key is to find a way to get started. Once you’ve started, it’s much easier to keep going.
Start small and keep it that way until it becomes a habit. Then take on bigger tasks, and increase the difficulty slightly until it becomes a habit again.
Productivity is a journey, not a destination. And it all starts with taking “atomic” actions.
Think reductive, not just productive
As mentioned earlier, when you’re thinking about cramming more into a short period of time, you’re thinking like a factory worker with your own time. You need to think like an entrepreneur with your own time.
It’s not about doing more but doing less and eliminating the non-essential. This is what it means to be productive, not just busy — be reductive.
How many things can you eliminate from your daily schedule, be it for work, home, or hobby? How much can you streamline, and how much can you automate?
For example, if you’re a web designer, can you use pre-made templates or themes to speed up the design process? If you’re a writer, can you use a text expander to insert boilerplate text? If you’re a producer, use DAW templates.
What can you outsource? What can you set and forget?
In the end, it’s not about how much you can do in a day but how much of your day you can eliminate so that you can focus on the essentials. That is true productivity. And that is why it matters for creatives. We need to be productive to create our art.
Time management strategies for staying productive
Learning how to manage our time efficiently enables us to be more productive, helps us complete our tasks and meet deadlines, and makes us feel better about our work.
One popular time management strategy is the Eisenhower Matrix, which helps us prioritize tasks based on urgency and importance. Another strategy is the Pomodoro Technique, where we break down tasks into 25-minute intervals with short breaks in between. And finally, setting specific and measurable goals can also help us stay on track and increase productivity.
Using these time management strategies, you can benefit from a better organizational system, improved focus, and greater success in your work experience. In other words, having systems and workflows already set up can help make us more productive, creative individuals.
Pareto Principle (80/20 Rule)
The Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, is a productivity tool that can be used in any area of your life. The principle is simple: 20% of the effort produces 80% of the results for any task.
For example, let’s say you’re working on a project that requires 100 hours of work. According to the 80/20 rule, you would only need to spend 20 hours on the project to get 80% of the results.
The remaining 80 hours would be spent on perfectionism, second-guessing yourself, and other unproductive activities. The key is to focus on the 20% that will produce the most results and not waste time on the 80% that won’t.
To do this, you need to identify the task or activity that will significantly impact your project and then focus all of your attention on that.
The 80/20 rule is a great productivity tool because it can be applied to any area of your life. For example, you can use it to:
- Identify the most critical tasks to focus on
- Find the most efficient way to complete a task
- Reduce distractions and unproductive activities
- Maximize your time and effort
The 80/20 rule is an excellent start if you want to be more productive. By focusing on the 20% that will produce the most results, you can minimize distractions and maximize your time and effort.
It can be hard to focus on a task for an extended period of time, especially if you’re not interested in the subject matter.
According to the 80/20 rule, you only need to spend 20% of your time on a task to get 80% of the results. But how do you know which tasks are worth focusing on
The Pomodoro technique is a productivity tool that can help you identify which tasks are worth focusing on. The method is simple: work for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break. After 4 Pomodoros (or 100 minutes), take a longer break of 15-30 minutes.
The Pomodoro technique is great because it helps you stay focused and prevents burnout. Taking short breaks every 25 minutes allows your mind to reset and stay focused for the next Pomodoro. And by taking a more extended break after 4 Pomodoros, you allow your mind to rest and return fresh for the next round of work.
The Pomodoro technique is a great way to stay productive and avoid burnout. You can stay focused and refreshed throughout the day by working for 25 minutes and then taking a 5-minute break.
The Eisenhower Matrix is a productivity tool that was created by former US President Dwight Eisenhower. The matrix is designed to help you prioritize your tasks by urgency and importance.
Tasks are classified into four quadrants:
- Quadrant one: urgent and important
- Quadrant two: not urgent but important
- Quadrant three: urgent but not important
- Quadrant four: not urgent and not important
The key is to focus on the tasks in quadrant one, which are the most important and need to be done right away. These are the tasks that will have the biggest impact on your project.
The Eisenhower Matrix is a great productivity tool because it helps you prioritize your tasks, so you can focus on the most important ones. By identifying the tasks in quadrant one, you can make sure that you’re always working on the things that will have the biggest impact.
Time blocking is a productivity tool that involves scheduling specific blocks of time for specific tasks. For example, you might block out two hours for writing and then move on to another task after that. The key is to focus on one task at a time and not try to multitask. By focusing on one thing at a time, you can minimize distractions and maximize your productivity.
The best way to time block is through your calendar. Schedule specific blocks of time for each task and stick to those times. This will help keep you on track and prevent you from getting distracted by other tasks or activities. You can even set up recurring events for tasks that need to be done regularly.
One important tip for time blocking is to leave some flexibility in your schedule. Things may come up that need your attention, so leaving some open blocks of time allows you to handle those tasks while still staying on track with your overall schedule.
Tools and Apps
With so many apps on the market, it’s hard to know which ones are worth your time and money. I’ve tried out a lot of them in recent years and have compiled a list of my favourites that I use on a daily basis. You can check out my updated list here.