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Updated by darren-beauchamp on Sep 29, 2017
Headline for Productivity Rules Tried by Creatives (and True for Everyone)
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Productivity Rules Tried by Creatives (and True for Everyone)

Get up at 4 am, meditate, do yoga on the beach/jog in a park, drink your spinach smoothie and be productive! This is the sort of advice you will find in your typical productivity post. Well, not in THIS ONE. First things first – not everyone is a morning person (and yes, circadian rhythms are a real thing).
Below are some tried and true methods that worked perfectly for people of creative professions (yours truly included), and will most certainly be of some use to you, whatever your vocation is.

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Put Things Strait

Put Things Strait

Spend the last 5 minutes of your working day to put things in order on your desk or computer, so that you find everything neat and ready when you start working the following day. The more things around you are in disarray, the more excuses you have to procrastinate.
Of course, not everyone finds empty desk inspiring. Some are more comfortable when they find themselves in chaos. The crucial thing is – your tools must be within your reach, available and visible. You must not waste your time finding them. If your tools are digital – do not let your time be eaten up by lagging and sluggishness of your laptop. Tidy up your Mac with a pro cleaner app to make it run smoothly, update your software, make sure nothing is clogging your desktop.

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Eat the Alien

Eat the Alien

This is the figure of speech that a freelance ghostwriter and renowned motivational speaker Brian Tracy uses to describe the hardest and most unpleasant task one has to do. She insists you must address such tasks first thing in the morning. Make it your goal the evening before, write it down, so you cannot avoid it or “forget” about it. Pluck up and eat that alien. When you are done with that, everything else will be just a piece of cake in comparison – easy and enjoyable. Thus, you will avoid procrastinating and wasting your time, which you often do if you dread the task that awaits you.

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Pen and Paper

Pen and Paper

If you still use pen and paper to do notes and doodling, you will agree – nothing can beat that warm and fuzzy feeling of achievement when you cross out the finished task or destroy your to-do list when it is complete. No digital sticky notes can be this therapeutic and fulfilling.
Doodling is a great way to explore new ideas and visualize your problems. A know, as a graphic designer I might be biased. You could say I overestimate the importance of this old-fashioned medium, but anyone can benefit from doodling. A friend of mine (she is an HR manager) works with schemes and spreadsheets. Her task is to organize, optimize, elicit patterns and build charts. Before she puts on the computer, she often sketches a quick scheme in her notebook, just to lay out the structure before her and internalize it. She attributes many “a-ha” moments to this simple trick.

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Trick Yourself

Trick Yourself

This thing I borrowed from the Japanese technique against laziness. Initially, the idea is to do something for just one minute a day and then progress gradually. When you need to get things done pronto, one minute a day will not take you far (although it is quite an effective approach for learning new skills). However, I use this method with just a few adjustments.
If there is a task I dislike, something that I keep putting off, I force myself to work on it only for 10 minutes. Whatever it is, you can bear with it for 10 minutes, right? This is a small enough chunk of work to trick yourself into doing it. However, you will find that 10 minutes later you are engaged in the process enough to carry on for much longer than the initial 10 minutes you agreed upon.

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Take Breaks

Take Breaks

Sitting in front of your monitor for eight hours straight is definitely NOT productive. It is grueling. We all have different rhythms and different kinds of problems to tackle, but we sure need rest from time to time to stay focused. The Pomodoro technic is not going to work for everyone because it is too rigid, but you can build your own system based on it. Plan some breaks. I use my fitness tracker. It is programmed to remind me that I have been idle for some time. It vibrates to nudge me gently to move about. I’ve set it to 45 minutes. If I feel I should work a bit longer to finish the task, I can always ignore the reminder. However, I noticed that after you take a short break, you gain a new perspective on a project, you spot mistakes easily, and good ideas come naturally to you.
If you do not want a timer to break your flow, use another indicator. When you feel that you start losing concentration and catch yourself staring blankly into space – it is a high time you take a break. The scheme and its rigidity are under your control, but breaks MUST be incorporated into your workflow if you want to stay productive all day long.

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Have a Trigger

Have a Trigger

To kick-start your work every day, you may want to have a ritual, a thing, an environment – something that is associated in your mind with productivity. Then, when you engage this stimulus, you are set to work instantaneously. This is kind of Pavlovian, but it works because it is so simple.
I have my own “productivity playlist”. Some people use objects (favorite pens or typewriters are widely known thanks to the famous writers). Some even use smells – they have a favorite fusion of essential oils “for concentration”. For many of us, a cup of coffee marks the beginning of the working day. Even as we smell the aroma, we already feel more motivated and more ready to solve problems than before. I do not think that we owe the effect entirely to the invigorating power of caffeine. It is nothing, but a trigger, so if you strive for a healthier lifestyle, you can make that spinach smoothie your trigger just as well!

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Do Plan and Schedule

Do Plan and Schedule

This is The Rule. You may like it, you may not, but it works. Even if you do a quick note to self at the end of the day, listing all your to-dos for tomorrow, you are already one step closer to actually doing it all. If you set a timeframe for each task you are going to be even more motivated. Time pressure is the best tool to make you more productive.
The work is like air – it takes up all the space you give it. You can spend 5 hours to write a 1000-word post. However, if you only have 2 hours, you will find that it is quite enough! Set the reasonable time limits, so you would not feel stressed and overstrained, but keep in mind that the more tasks you schedule, the more you will be able to achieve.