We all like to think that we’re productive. We all love that rush of crossing off so many little to-dos on our never-ending list of things to do. That is, until distractions derail us so much that we can’t even get started. Or we do get some things done, but we never feel like we achieved productivity. Day in and day out, we sit down to accomplish something, anything. So how can we become more productive?
Over the years, I’ve learned lots of tricks for increasing my productivity. When I first started freelancing, I would keep the to-do lists (with a shocking 20+ items sitting on my list every day that I would never be able to plow through). But I also allowed distractions to steal my precious time away. Days would slip by, and often times, I would find myself doing work late into the night because I couldn’t get my shit together during the day. Now, while I’m not always perfectly productive, I can say that I’ve gotten way better at this whole productivity thing, if this post is any indication.
Anyway, here’s a few tips and tricks I use in order to maximize my productivity.
1. Wake Up Early
Oh man, here’s Alyssa again preaching about why you should wake up early. Although I covered this topic in the past, I can confidently say that waking up early has helped me become more productive. Even though I used to consider myself more a night owl, I typically found it much harder to get work done after around 8-9pm. Sometimes, I can sit down and do work at that time (especially on personal projects), but it’s much easier for me to work in the earlier hours of the day.
I also like waking up early so I can work out and eat a healthy breakfast (usually 3 hardboiled eggs, regular oatmeal, some fruit, and coffee). Being able to work out, shower, and eat a good breakfast all before 8am help me get started on my day, and doing all that helps keep me focused when it comes time to work.
2. Plan, Plan, Plan
I find it crazy that some people just jump into work without planning their course of action. Taking ten minutes to plan your day (either that morning or the night before) saves you so much time in execution. So get out a pen and paper and make that to-do list. Better yet, download Edo Agenda and use that to plan your day.
Personally, although writing down tasks on a sheet of paper helps some people, I don’t really like doing it. I tend to lose papers or tend to start writing down other little ideas and cluttering up my pages. Edo Agenda allows me to write down what I need to do on any day, and allows me to create floating tasks (tasks with no set deadline), organize the order of my tasks (most important things first), and allows me to check off completed tasks. I can also look back on all the tasks I accomplished easily, plus it syncs with my calendar to show me when I have certain events planned. It’s become an integral part of my day!
Once I plan the overall tasks I have to do, then I may write down subtasks if needed. For example, my overall task may be “work on SFX for X game”, but subtasks may be each specific sound I set out to do.
3. Focus on Fewer Tasks Each Day
“But I have so much to do!” you say. Well, you think you have so much to do. That’s why you need to prioritize what is most important. I like to figure out everything I have to do for the week, and then prioritize based on certain factors such as deadlines, the consequence for not doing this task versus doing it, etc etc. You’ll inevitably find that certain tasks just aren’t as important as others, and that you really don’t have 20 million things to do. That’s why I like to break my tasks down into “important” (things that absolutely need to get done that day) and “floating tasks” (things that should get done or are nice to do but don’t really have a strict deadline).
4. Allot Time To Each Task
Productivity is about maximizing your time. After all, a task expands to fill the amount of time you allot for it. Give yourself 8 hours to finish a task and it will take 8 hours. Give yourself an hour and it will take an hour.
When figuring out what you are going to do, allot yourself a certain amount of time for each task. For example, if I need to create a single sound effect, I may give myself 25 minutes to do so. Or if I need to record guitar parts for a song, I may give myself 30-35 minutes for that. I really enjoy putting myself on a timer, because I end up working in a super focused manner and getting more work done.
5. Eliminate Distractions
This one can be really difficult. With social media always right at our fingertips, it’s so easy to get sucked into Twitter, Facebook, Discord, etc etc and not get work done. So whenever I’m working on something, my phone is set to airplane mode (so I don’t hear it buzzing with messages), and is often times sitting on the other side of the room (if it’s out of reach, I’m not tempted to always check it).
That’s not to say that I completely avoid social media. Anyone who follows me on Twitter can see me regularly posting. But when I’m trying to work, my work becomes the much bigger priority. Then while I’m taking breaks, I catch up with my social media.
6. Designate Certain Activities to Certain Times of Day
Even though I do different things each day, I try to keep each day structured similarly. I work out early in the morning, then do some reading. I do work from about 9 or 10-4 or 5 (with breaks for lunch/walks, and little mental breaks after each subtask is completed). But sometimes, my work gets done way before 5 or 6, which is always great because I have a little more time for gaming, reading, whatever I want to do. After dinner, I play games, allowing myself time to play Smash till about 9, then I wind down with a much calmer game (such as Pokemon or Ace Attorney), or even a book, then I go to sleep.
Having these designated times of day for each of these activities keeps me more on task. It eliminates any randomness from my day, that way I can get to my work and get it done before I start getting too tired to work productively. Also, I find that it’s WAY easier to get distracted in the afternoon, so I like having everything done so I can relax a bit around 4PM-5PM.
So here’s the TL:DR version:
- Wake up early
- Plan your day (I like using Edo Agenda on my phone)
- Allot certain amount of time for each task/subtask
- Take frequent breaks (I take breaks ranging from longer breaks for meals/walks to shorter mental breaks between tasks)
- Time your tasks/subtasks
- Put your phone on airplane mode and keep it on the other side of the room so it doesn’t distract you
- Designate certain times of day for certain activities
Hopefully these tips help out with your productivity! As always, I would love to hear about your productivity tips over on Twitter. Thanks for reading!