I am a productive person. And I’m proud to say that without any hesitation. I’m not saying what I produce is always good content. Some of it’s good. Some of it’s great. And the rest of it… well, it is what it is.
But the point is, I’ve made a habit out of productivity. And some of my friends and peers have started to notice. Many have started asking me what my “secret” is. There is no secret. I work at being productive. I’m proactive about it. I pride myself on it. I practice it.
So I began looking at some of my own habits that I use to help continuously create content, and here are a few of the tips and tricks I came up with that could maybe help you do the same.
Please note, I could get really detailed and nerdy about a lot of these. I chose not to in this article for all our sakes. But if you have any specific questions about something, please feel free to contact me and we can discuss different benefits of different apps. (Insert cue to push up giant, thick glasses)
Like any other habit, you need to give yourself every advantage to be successful. And that means investing in the right tools. I use Evernote, Google Calendar, and a physical personal calendar every day. You’re going to have to do some personal trial and error before you know which tools will work best for you. But if you’re going to get serious about your productivity, look into the tools that productive people use. You can simply peruse the“Productivity”section of your local App store. Don’t expect yourself to get more productive without the right tools just like you wouldn’t expect yourself to get in better shape without actually going to the gym.
2. Write Everything Down
Get a notebook and keep it with you at all times. If you don’t want to physically write something down, make sure you have a device you can at least record the idea before it’s gone. This is vital.
I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve had an idea come to me in a flash- a concept, a title, a connection, anything- and I think, “I’ll remember that,” to only later remember that I had an idea I wanted to remember but nothing else. I hate that feeling. Not because my idea was the best thing that could have ever happened, but because that idea never got a chance to be good or bad. It died before it got a chance to really live. And there’s nothing I hate more than wasted potential.
So write it down in a small notebook. Put it on a Post-It note. Talk to yourself in a Voice memo. Do something before you lose that flash of inspiration. The more you remember from those moments, too, the more frequently they come around. So when you’ve got a problem you know needs some work, you can trust that the answer will come—and you’ll be ready to write it down when it does.
3. Force Yourself to Focus
In a world filled with distractions everywhere, this is one of the most difficult productivity habits. Just now, after I wrote that sentence, I wanted to go check my Facebook profile again (I changed my profile picture today, guys. It’s kind of a big day for me.). But I didn’t. I forced myself to focus. I actively practice the habit of staying on task even when I don’t want to. No, I take that back- especially when I don’t want to. That’s the most important time to push through.
If you only have one hour out of your busy schedule to focus on your Magnum Opus, don’t let it slowly get carved down by mindlessly meandering meaningless articles or staring at social media (even if it is profile pic change-up day). Even if there’s something else you really do need to do- like respond to emails- don’t do it during your creative time. Otherwise, you’ll slowly dwindle away at your precious time and you’ll never get to what you actually wanted to do. Then you’ll get frustrated and it’ll be harder to sit down and tell yourself to write next time because you’ll associate the feelings of frustration with writing and it’s all a vicious cycle until you grow old and bitterly sad because you never got the chance to actually create the wonderful things you’re meant to create on this earth.
Maybe I’m being a little dramatic but you get the point. When I get into my zone, I warn anyone who may need me in the next hour that “I’m going in.”Then I put my phone on “Do Not Disturb”and throw it across the room. And I shut off my WiFi and play classical music. And if I need to, I set a timer. Then I force myself to sit there and type something. Anything. Just put words on paper. Judgement can come later. You’ll find after a certain amount of time, you’ll forget about all the ways you tricked yourself into focusing and you’ll just stay in the zone without realizing how much time has passed. And when that timer surprises you and you can see how much you accomplished in one small chunk of time, it’ll feel fan-freakin-tastic.
That method allowed me to- in one month- write a 10-episode web series while simultaneously creating a draft of my first full novel, doing daily vlogs about the novel’s progress, continuing to write regularly for this site and my own blog, while doing stand up and sketch comedy regularly and still holding down a full-time day job.
4. Time Manage
If you know me, you know I’m a little anal-retentive about my schedule. But you also know I’m organized and reliable, and that I get a lot done. And all that comes from my ability to manage my time really well. If you can learn to focus, you can learn to respect when it’s time to do certain tasks. If it’s time to write, write. If it’s time to respond to emails, do that. If it’s time to chill and hang out with friends, do that.
I color code my schedule. I maintain a Google Calendar that has basically my ideal schedule for the week and a personal calendar that has not only my schedule but other creative tasks I want to make sure get done. I update both of them regularly. I’ve found a system that works for me. You’ll have to do some trial and error to find what works for you. But once you do, you can simply trust that you’ve made time for everything you need to do.
I don’t find being extremely structured in my schedule to be limiting at all. In fact, I find it liberating because it allows me to be more present in whatever task is at hand because I know I’ve made time for everything I need to do throughout the week.
I hold myself accountable for the goals I’ve set for myself. If I’m consistently having to add something to the To Do list, I take a long look at why it’s not getting done. Which means constantly re-evaluating my priorities. If it’s not getting done because I keep staring at Facebook and wondering why so and so wrote such and such on blah blah’s wall, I need to practice my focus better. If it’s because I’ve taken on too much and simply cannot get to it, that’s a different evaluation.
I also have learned the value of collaboration. If I get the ball rolling on a project and am lucky enough to be able to collaborate with some of my incredibly talented friends, I know that they’re depending on me to do my portion of the work. And because I care about them and know I’ve promised them something, I’m more likely to do it.
Even if you don’t have a specific project you’re working on but just a set of goals, find a like-minded individual. You two can keep each other’s goals in check, remind each other of your progress, and continue to challenge and push each other to your greatest potential.
6. Study the Best
Like anything else, productivity requires practice. If you want to be productive, practice it and study it like you would anything else. One person I suggest is Michael Hyatt. He’s got a fantastic blog and podcast where he gives helpful hints all the time. And he produces a lot of content so he not only talks the talk, but he walks the walk.
And I’ll bet you anything he, like me, probably walks a little faster than most folks because he’s got things to do. As should you. So get to it!