April 14, 2017

10 Easy Ways to Explode Your Productivity Plans

As a creative, you might think of yourself as a creative mess sometimes ūüėČ

Ideas everywhere. Plans that last for years that you don’t know where to put into your schedule.

You know the drill.

So even though your right brain goes nuts with its creativity you need to reel it in every once in a while. Giving it a plan to achieve its creativity is key. You want to let the creativity loose, but doing so in a structured way makes it easier for you to actually achieve some semblance of real work.

So, in this 10Weekly we’ll talk about some ways you can plan your tasks better in order to reach maximum creative output.

1. Use Your Calendar

For me, if it’s not on the calendar it won’t happen.

I don’t only use my calendar to schedule actual meetings and places/times to be, but also as a tentative to-do list of the things that are most important.

There’s no need to fill up your entire calendar. Just set broad tasks for the entire week about what you want to accomplish. If you’re a busy creative then the rest of the calendar will fill itself up as the week goes along. You’ll think of new things to do and it’s helpful to jot them down on the calendar, even if it’s just to take the task off your mind.

2. Have Different Calendars for Different Things

The generic way to use different calendars is to use different colors for different categories or jobs.

I do it a little differently.

I use different colored calendars depending on the importance of the task.

  • Normal Calendar – Where I dump all my tasks.
  • Goals and Milestone Calendar – Where I put my deadlines of what I want to accomplish before a certain time. I might have milestones months into the future. But once I put them down I try to work my way towards that milestone instead of just having a vague one in my head.
  • IMPORTANT Calendar –¬†For those things that I absolutely cannot miss.

Another way I’ve done task breakdown is to make a monthly meeting with myself where I discuss what I want to accomplish that month. Then I break that down into 5ish tasks per week and put them all on Friday. At the beginning of the week, I schedule those tasks make my entire week revolve around making sure I get closer to my monthly goal.

I don’t always do this, but maybe this process could work for you.

3. Use Task Management Software

I use Trello to break down my tasks and my creative year-long strategy.

If you have a team it’s a great tool to keep all your team members abreast on what’s going on.

There are plenty of task management software out there, but Trello’s free and really versatile so it’s an easy sell for me.

4. Use Wunderlist to Keep Track of Ideas

The thing about ideas is that they actually get in the way of your thought process.

Especially if you’re working on something else like…

Oh damn it, now I have to write this idea down.

Case in point, while I was writing this I got a really good musical idea that I needed to write down before I forgot.

So I pulled out Wunderlist, found my Someday/Maybe folder and wrote it down so I could get back to work.

(Update: I’m editing this a day after I wrote this and I needed to go back into my Someday/Maybe folder to remember what that idea was. It’s still a cool idea, but it shows you how terrible we are at remembering things).

Ideas get in the way but don’t ignore them. Write them down to work on later.

5. Use a Journal

If you’ve been reading 10Weekly for a while you might know that I use the 5 Minute Journal.

I’ve since changed to the Freedom Journal from John Lee Dumas. It’s not necessarily¬†better per say, but it aligns more with my productivity and achievement goals.

It’s more of a work/task journal than a personal journal so it’s what I’m currently using.

I highly recommend some sort of journaling habit to keep you on track towards finishing your tasks and achieving your goals.

6. Prioritize Your Tasks

In theory, a to-do list is infinite. There’s always more stuff to do and more things to add to your list.

However, the trick to inching closer towards your goals is to prioritize your most important tasks to do right away.

If there’s¬†no priority, or if¬†everything is¬†equally important then you’ll freak out and do the easy stuff that doesn’t help you finish your tasks.

I don’t remember who coined the Three Most Important Tasks but it’s a good idea to make the first three things on your to-do list every morning the most important tasks that get you closer to your goals.

You usually have the most focus and energy at the beginning of the workday. So, if you get things done that make you feel accomplished before noon you can waste away the rest of the day doing bullshit tasks and still feel like you had a productive day!

7. Have Filler Tasks

Speaking of bullshit tasks, it’s actually good to keep a long list of tasks you can fall back on when your brain is fried and you can’t do any more creative work.

Maybe that last chapter of your novel really drained you creatively?

Maybe you’re all rhymed out after that last songwriting session?

Maybe you just finished a major design project for a client and you can’t look at Photoshop for one more minute!

If that’s the case it’s good to have another task-list in….I don’t know….Wunderlist maybe? that can fill up the rest of the day.

Think of these tasks as “Creative Spackling.” You’ve already built and painted this beautiful wall and there are just a few places where you need to spackle the paint to make it perfect.

Maybe not a perfect analogy, but I’m sure you get the point ūüôā

8. Go Analog

When you’re¬†too digitally connected, you might have a hard time resisting the urge to procrastinate on Facebook or check your email every five minutes.

If that’s the case, try doing things outside the digital realm.

Make your to-do list on a small piece of paper.

Outline your content in a notebook instead of online.

Even just disconnecting from the internet and forcing yourself to work outside the cloud can skyrocket your productivity.

9. Reflect and Replan

Piling through tasks without thinking about what you’ve accomplished, what you’re currently doing and what you need to do next is a recipe for disaster.

Sure, you’ll get a lot of stuff done, but you’ll have no sense of accomplishment.

You’ll have nothing major to check off your list.

Instead, regularly reflect on what you’ve accomplished, how that aligns with your overall goals and how you can plan to succeed moving forward.

I do this in multiple ways:

  • Year-Long Strategy
  • Six Month Checkpoint
  • Monthly¬†Planning Session
  • Weekly Task List
  • Twice Daily To-Do Lists

The twice daily to-do list is something I’ve been doing recently. In the morning I create a plan of what needs to happen before lunch. Then before lunch, I prepare another to-do list of the most important tasks that need to be done¬†before the day is done.

If the morning has been especially taxing I sometimes finish the day with a random assortment of filler tasks.

Other times I simply ignore the work and spend time on the reason we’re being so productive in the first place:

10. Add Personal Tasks

Make sure you have room for personal improvement in addition to your professional goals.

Don’t neglect your hobbies and non-professional passions.

Make time for your habits, personal time and having fun.

I personally like being productive, but I also like taking the time to read comic books, slackline, play piano and have fun with my friends.

As I’ve said before, 10Weekly was thought up to solve your work/life balance. If you don’t have a life, there’s no balance.

That’s it for the week, but I wanted to ask you a favor before you left.

I’ve started posting some of my old 10Weeklies on Medium. I’d really appreciate if you took the time to follow me and recommend my articles there.

Please check out this article, hit the heart icon on the left to recommend the article and be sure to follow me for more content like this.