How to be more productive…
Something I have been thinking about a lot during a year like 2020 is productivity.
In mid March much like the rest of the world where I live (Brisbane Australia) went into partial lockdown for around six weeks. Earlier in the month (before the world changed) I had been thinking about what projects I really wanted to work on and complete in 2020. A Six Week Online Course in Painting Flowers was one, and a 12 Week Advanced Masterclass in Painting and Drawing (a follow on from my Original Masterclass ) was another. As well as to finish writing and illustrating a book! (More on this to come!) In short, three very big projects.
And the truth is that constructing, writing, and filming just one course during a period of six to eight months is honestly a very big task. But two? As well as a book composing twenty five thousand words and 250 illustrations? My heart felt that surely it wasn’t all possible in the one year!
Then another thought started to niggle in my mind. Something that would have no financial gain but would bring me a real sense of joy. It was the idea of creating a free online course in painting for kids during the height of the pandemic. This would be something I felt I could do for all of the kids now confined inside their homes all around the world without creativity. I had been so grateful for all of the exercise trainers putting out free content and workouts for kids during this time, I thought I could do the same in painting.
So all in all the aim was to write, create, construct and film three courses in 8 months as well as finish writing and illustrating a book. (More info on this to come I promise!) I sat down and decided that with the world in limbo and corporate collaborations having suddenly stopped for almost everyone including myself, that this was my chance to actually block out all of the noise and go into a deep and quiet creative place, where I know I can be my most productive self.
I decided that I would cut everything else out in 2020 until these projects were complete. Corporate jobs with luxury brands, events even virtual, and projects even within my own business such as new phone cases or art prints would all go on pause or stop completely until after these projects were wrapped. (And as someone who has trouble saying no and or neglecting any part of my own business, I knew I would find it a challenge!)
I decided that even if the most amazing luxury brand of my dreams came knocking in 2020 that I would turn it down. That I would stick to these four projects only and any spare time would be set aside as down time with family, walks in the sunshine and reading great books. (The things I know I need for my own sanity!) Luckily I have the most amazing office manager in Grace who was able to completely take over orders and administration for phone cases and art prints during this time. (And I really do have to note that both the Advanced Masterclass and short course in painting flowers were already outlined and mapped out before the beginning of 2020. So I did have a great head start on those projects.)
And so it began…
March, April and May were solely focused on creating the free painting course for kids and the short course in painting flowers. I worked on them around the clock and nothing else. I started everyday working on the content for each module and left emails until 4pm. A strategy I really recommend. Your emails are not your to do list!
The kids online course released first and thousands of children (and parents) all over the world joined the course. Adding this additional project into my schedule was a lot, but seeing children find so much joy from it made every minute of the work involved worth it. Making some work decisions based on things that don’t involve financial reward are sometimes your best decisions. It’s really not all about the bottom line.
Then back into my deep calm cave of creativity I also managed to create and complete The Advanced Masterclass , as well as my book which will be released in 2021; all by early October, which was two months ahead of schedule. Twenty twenty has been my most productive year to date and make no mistake I have still allowed myself some days to just rest in lounge wear, eating ice cream, watching ‘Don’t Fuck with Cats’ on Netflix. (!!) I have given my soul those days of letting go, being kind to myself and even turning off social media too for two or three day spells.
SO! HERE ARE THE THINGS THAT WORKED FOR ME IN IMPROVING MY PRODUCTIVITY:
1) Write down everything you wish to achieve in one year at the start of it. Then pick the three most important things (or even just one or two) from the list and focus on them only. (Forget about everything else because you can’t do it all.)
2) Decide on what you can’t do. For me in 2020 it was 95% of luxury brand collaborations. What is it for you? I truly believe it is what you say no to (politely!) that will define your path more than what you say yes to.
3) Leave emails until 3 or 4pm each day. Some things will have resolved themselves by the time you get there! Keep your well slept creative self reserved for the projects that matter most to you rather than for your emails and administration. Once inside your emails apply the two minute rule. Ie if you can action this email and complete in two minutes or less then do it. If it will take longer and it’s not a priority today, note when you will get back to it.
4) Be kind to yourself! Remind yourself you did enough every night in bed and tomorrow is a fresh new day. Let go of what you didn’t complete that day.
5) Write shorter daily to-do lists. Five things at a maximum rather than 10.
6) Sometimes set a half or whole day to work on one project only. Switching in and out of projects is really hard on the soul. For example if I am working on my book, I will do a whole day. When I am in the zone of this project and the materials and paints set up, just staying in the headspace of that project only makes for calm and efficient productivity.
7) Move for ten minutes every hour and have a glass of water. You know you need to do this and so do I, but it’s easy to forget. And a stiff neck at the end of a long day of not moving is helpful to no one. Also notice that you are not holding tension in your jaw as you work. Another little thing that can bring on a tension headache!
8) Build in buffer time to your day. Add in 2o minutes between phone calls and meetings so you can take that walk, or reorganise and don’t spend your whole day feeling rushed. Stop everything, close your eyes and breathe for one minute if this does happen. Turning off your phone for a few hours of deep work can also help avoid distraction. You can always call people back.
9) Remember to enjoy it! If these are the projects closest to your heart, then don’t just wait for the outcome. Enjoy the journey of working through it, which will also come across in your work.
10) Set a reward for yourself when you have completed the most important project of the year. It can be absolutely anything! A new perfume, a dinner somewhere special, just something to signify that you did it. Mark it in the calendar and look forward to that feeling of accomplishment.
I hope you found this helpful! And if life happens and things fall apart, or you have a period of time where home schooling your little ones or caring for a loved one has to become your new priority; just be kind to yourself and surrender to that being something out of your control. 2021 will be a whole new year and it’s just around the corner. Your time to do the things burning in your heart will come; after all life is indeed a marathon, not a sprint…
Yours in joy,