“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.”— Bruce Lee
Being more productive in your life and work doesn’t have to be difficult.
By making a few simple changes to your lifestyle and habits, you can work and create more efficiently, confidently and regularly.
Here are ten simple steps to increase and improve your productivity...
1) Remove Distraction
“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.” — Winston Churchill
Facebook, Twitter, eMail, television etc. There’s no question that in our age you are probably more prone to distraction than previous generations. If the type of work you do allows you to, don’t just log out of all social media etc., turn your entire Wi-if off. Work time means just that.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” — Benjamin Franklin
Writing down a schedule for the coming day can greatly improve productivity. Planning your day needn’t take long (five to ten minutes should do just fine). Consider scheduling the most difficult or most boring tasks first; it gets them out of the way and allows you to look forward to the tasks you enjoy.
3) Put similar tasks into groups
“Simplicity boils down to two steps: Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest.” — Leo Babauta
Rather than go back and forth between tasks, try bundling them together. Rather than working on task A and then breaking it up with task B only to go back to task A, consider completing a single task in one go rather than staggering it.
4) Take a break
“There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.” — Alan Cohen
Taking regular and scheduled breaks can help improve concentration. Physical and mental rest can help you maintain a high level of performance. On the other hand, working too long at a task will lead to fatigue. Your breaks needn’t be long, just five minutes can make a dramatic difference to your levels of productivity and can restore your powers of concentration.
5) Set Time Restrictions
“Often it’s better if you impose rules or restrictions on a project. Requirements can force you to be creative in unusual ways.” — Lisa Mangum
Putting constraints on your time can help you to focus — you will be less inclined to procrastinate if you know you’re on a deadline. Clock watching will increase your productivity and focus your attention on the task in hand.
6) Don’t worry about being perfect.
“Have no fear of perfection — you’ll never reach it.” — Salvador Dali
Perfection, more often than not, is in the eye of the beholder. Spending too much time trying to perfect a project will only eat into your time and energy; time and energy that could be spent on another project. Forget perfectionism and instead, aim for greatness.
7) Stay Organised
“How many things are there which I do not want?” — Socrates
Keep all your documents in relevant and separate folders (whether physical or digital), and keep any tools or equipment you may use in their relevant places in order that you can access them freely and without wasting your time searching for them.
8) Master Any Skills You Need
“Order and simplification are the first steps towards mastery of a subject” — Thomas Mann
Rather than waste time and get frustrated trying to use, for example, a computer programme for your work, take the time to learn how to use it before you actually do. Read the instruction manuals, watch a YouTube tutorial or ask a colleague. The time spent learning will be far less than the time spent in trial and error.
9. Spend Time On Your Work Space
“Create and maintain a beautiful environment and surroundings in which to live.” — Bryant McGill
Where you work and the conditions in which you work will ultimately effect your productivity. Make sure your space is conducive to clear thinking and that it is inspiring. If you have a choice, it doesn’t matter where you choose to work, as long as it is comfortable, clean and free of distraction.
10. Be Inspired
“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” Maya Angelou
Study, follow and read about the great achievers in your field. A lot of people may find it intimidating at first to read about those who have achieved greater things than themselves, but remember; you’re not looking to compare yourself, you’re looking to find out how they achieved what they did. Ask yourself what worked for them and what didn’t. Ask yourself how and when they worked. Apply what your learn to your own life.
Elon Musk (born 1971) is the South African-born Canadian-American founder, CEO, and CTO of SpaceX; co-founder, CEO, and product architect of Tesla Inc.; co-chairman of OpenAI, and founder and CEO of Neuralink.
"Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough."
"Persistence is very important. You should not give up unless you are forced to give up."
"It's OK to have your eggs in one basket as long as you control what happens to that basket."
“You want to be extra rigorous about making the best possible thing you can. Find everything that’s wrong with it and fix it. Seek negative feedback, particularly from friends.”
"People work better when they know what the goal is and why. It is important that people look forward to coming to work in the morning and enjoy working."
"Work like hell. I mean you just have to put in 80 to 100 hour weeks every week. [This] improves the odds of success. If other people are putting in 40 hour workweeks and you're putting in 100 hour workweeks, then even if you're doing the same thing, you know that you will achieve in four months what it takes them a year to achieve."
"I think most of the important stuff on the Internet has been built. There will be continued innovation, for sure, but the great problems of the Internet have essentially been solved."
"When Henry Ford made cheap, reliable cars, people said, 'Nah, what's wrong with a horse?' That was a huge bet he made, and it worked."
“If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it.”
"Don't delude yourself into thinking something's working when it's not, or you're gonna get fixated on a bad solution."
"Creativity takes courage.” — Henri Matisse
1. Set Goals
Writing down your goals is the first step in achieving them.
It has been proven that people who record their goals have a greater chance of achieving them than those who don’t. As the motivational speaker Tony Robbins has said, “If you talk about it, it’s a dream, if you envision it, it’s possible, but if you schedule it, it’s real.”
Just as you should write down your goals for yourselves, announcing your plans to friends and family, e.g., on social media, gets you into the feeling that you cannot let people down. It doesn’t matter what you want to create, tell everyone about it and get creating! It will make you feel like you have something to deliver to them.Announcing your plans solidifies them and makes them concrete.
2. Start Anywhere
Taking a blank page, raw materials, picking up an instrument, and finding a starting point is what stumps many a potentially creative person. They start their project but quickly run out of steam and come to a halt, not knowing how to progress.
Beginning a project is daunting and the end can seem far away.
So why not start at the end?
Or in the middle?
If you’re thinking of writing a song, rather than start with your intro, why not write the chorus first, or the last verse? If you’re thinking of writing a novel, rather than start by writing ‘Chapter 1’ on the top of your blank page, try writing ‘Epilogue’ instead.
Remember, creativity is a process. It is a series of actions that result in an end.
Or a middle or a beginning.
If you want to know where and when you should work, ultimately that’s up to you. Just remember to be consistent in your schedule.
Routine is important because art requires dedication and persistence.
It is a common misconception that creativity happens as an “Eureka!” moment and that the artist is suddenly struck by inspiration and produces a finished masterpiece.
Waiting for inspiration will do you no good, you have to get to work regardless of whether you’re inspired or not.
Life will always get in the way. Life can be distracting, but that’s just the way it is.
Rather than complain about the distractions from work commitments, family, children, chores, etc., try identifying your non-essential time, i.e., the time you waste.
So don’t sit around writing for inspiration — knowing you have to work can be inspiration in itself.
4. Take Note
Notebooks are a great way to capture your ideas on the move and when you least expect them. Trying to store ideas in your memory will lead to problems.
Your memory can fade, but writing doesn’t.
An idea can strike at the oddest and most inconvenient of times, so mark it by recording it.Writing in your notebook regularly will leave you with a collection and wealth of ideas of which, some will be great and others won’t. Eventually, you’ll have collection of seeds and a thread of ideas that you can cultivate into anything of your choosing.
Your notebooks or sketchbooks will become a storage farm of your ideas. Your ideas have to be nurtured.
Your ideas don’t need to be fancy, or neat and tidy, they just need to exist.
5. Restrict Yourself
Have you ever tried to begin a project and were so overwhelmed by the amount of tools, ideas and resources at your disposal that you just gave up?
Ideas and tools are simple. Trying to attach and combine too many of them at the same time is dangerous -they can clutter the thought process.
There are many possibilities in art, but having too many to choose from can lead to problems.
Remember, it’s not your tools or ideas that are important, it’s how you use them.
Try limiting yourself to just a few.
Try creating a work of art everyday for a week, a month or a year, and share it with the world. Constantly having to create something new will allow you to get into the practice of constraining both your time, tools and your judgemental thought.
Constraining yourself will help you focus your attention.
6. Make Mistakes
Mistakes and errors are a part of the creative process. Difficulties and frustration are just a natural part of creating a work of art. No work was created perfectly in one draft.
We do though, as in all aspects of our life, tend to learn from mistakes, knowing how to handle the situation differently the next time the same problem occurs.
It’s how you learn from your mistakes, not the mistakes themselves, that matters.
Don’t be afraid of making mistakes and don’t reject them entirely.
You may find that something you didn’t intend to do works better than what you originally had in mind.
Why not try creating something intentionally bad?Write a terrible poem, make an object that doesn’t serve its purpose, write a song that sucks. You can be guaranteed that your next effort will be many times better!
Off-days and bad works are part of the process.
Don’t let them get you down.
7. Just Do It
Naturally, we won’t always want to work, even if we enjoy what we do.
Frustration, disappointment and boredom are all part of the creative process. With practice though, it becomes easier, and you’ll eventually find that once you start you won’t want to stop!
You have to be determined to do something rather just wanting to do something.
Just wanting to do something results in nothing.
You just have to do it.
Finding even just a few minutes a day to create or sketch or jot down ideas is better than going to bed at night and regretting that you didn’t do anything that day to get your work off the ground, let alone finish it.
Talking about doing work won’t achieve anything, neither will dreaming about.
Action is required to produce.
8. Ask Questions
A major part and requirement of being an artist is asking questions. Asking questions about the works of others and of your own work means you are aware of art in a critical sense.
Asking questions helps you to develop as an artist.
Try reading the first page from a book that you haven’t read before and imagine how the story continues. Then, carry on reading and question why the author did it his way rather than yours. You can try this with music, film, products, etc.
Ask yourself from time to time why you are making the decisions you are making and if there is more than one answer to your question.
Question the work of others.
Why did the maker create it this way, what were his or her intentions and did they succeed in their task? Question its purpose, look or sound.
Ask yourself what’s missing in the world and fill that void with your own work.
9. Don’t Obsess
Sometimes, you can get so wrapped up the details of your work and in trying to make it perfect, that you lose sight of the original vision and prevent yourself from finishing the piece.
If you find yourself struggling to finish, ask yourself if there is anything more that that particular work needs.
If you can no longer add to or take anything away from your work, it may be time to declare it finished.
Perfection is mostly about completion.
Being the best shouldn’t be your goal. Your goal should be getting better at what you already do.
Make art, but sometimes you’ll have to accept that it may be out of your control.
If you don’t believe in your work, how can you expect others to?
Every great artist doubts themselves from time to time, but the only way to remedy this is to keep on going.
If you constantly give up on your work and yourself, you will fall into the habit of giving up.
And giving up often means that you won’t acquire the skills needed to finish your work.
There will be many times along your creative route where will you doubt what you are doing, and this is natural, because creativity is a process. Creativity is about joining the dots, (albeit very slowly and arduously at times).
People have art that they both like and dislike, but what should matter to you as an artist is that you are happy with your own work.
Opinions are subjective.
After finishing a work, step away from it for a while, put it in a drawer or somewhere you can’t see, feel or hear it. Revisit it a week or two later and you’ll find you’ll be less attached to it and more able to judge it for the work that it is from a more objective viewpoint. You will be able to give it a more honest assessment.
Don’t compare yourself to other people, make work that you like.
Be confident in all that you create.
Your work is unique to you.
After all, it was you who made it.
Adapted from the book You Can Create! 24 Ways to Unlock Your Creative Potential and originally published at ThoughtCatalog.com