Ever find yourself feeling overwhelmed and stuck in the middle of a long to-do list because there’s just so much to do?
Same. As a creative with an ever-wandering mind, a long to-do list is never really my friend but here are six basic tips I use to stay productive and power through any project.
1. Get plenty of sleep
I know this seems so basic it’s silly but your brain really does perform better after a good night’s rest. According to the National Institute of Health, “It [sleep] affects growth and stress hormones, our immune system, appetite, breathing, blood pressure and cardiovascular health.” Research shows that lack of sleep increases the risk for obesity, heart disease and infections. … Your body releases hormones during sleep that help repair cells and control the body’s use of energy.”
Decide on your waking time for the next day and be sure to head to bed with enough time for at least seven to eight hours of sleep. If I want to be up at 7, I’ll get in bed at 10:30 pm and put my phone face down in silent mode, on my nightstand.
Prioritize your deadlines AHEAD OF TIME. Look over upcoming deadlines or time-sensitive material to help give yourself a more realistic grasp on time and how much time you have to complete each task. Depending on the amount of work or the scale of a campaign, I break up the tasks that make up the overall project and then create a step-by-step plan on how I can realistically tackle each step.
Focusing on an entire project at once or only looking at the load of work as one big task can be daunting and make you feel anxious. A quote from a counselor that has stuck with me since high school (yup, high school), is “focusing on a career choice/life choice is like trying to sail through the ocean: instead of focusing on the big ocean as one, take each moment carefully wave by wave until you’ve conquered through.”
Be realistic with yourself and start with the biggest tasks earlier in the day. I find tackling the bigger tasks in the quiet of the morning produces better results and decreases the chances of distractions like emails, calls or texts while working.
3. Keep things neat
Clutter can be one of your worst enemies when trying to be productive! Not only does clutter make you feel anxious but the lack of having a space or enough space dedicated to creating can hinder your workflow.
I’m speaking from experience when I talk about how clutter can decrease my productivity levels. Keeping a neat workspace and only allowing the items you truly need to have on your desk will help keep you on track at tackling that to-do list. Get rid of the extra noise or organize your space before you sit down to work. This leads right into tip number four…
4. Remove all distractions
If you’re anything like me, the smallest distractions can side track you completely! I love being able to multi-task and consider it a talent but when I need to truly focus on staying productive in a large-scale project, the work I produce is always better when I can give it my full attention.
If I want to be productive, I put my phone on silent, or in some cases airplane mode, and turn off all notifications that are linked between my phone and laptop: email, text and call notifications. If turning these notifications off for long periods of time aren’t realistic for you, turn them off for twenty or twenty five minutes at a time and give yourself a few minutes in-between to check notifications.
5. Time yourself
Allot certain time frames for each task but be realistic when doing so. If I need to shoot photos for a client’s campaign, I separate the time needed for transportation, space set-up, shooting and set break-down. Most times, completing all three tasks usually take between an hour to an hour and a half but again, depending on the scale of the project, be realistic with the amount of time you’ll need.
If you find yourself needing more time to complete a project, re-organize your timeframe and see what or why it’s taking longer to complete your task and adjust accordingly.
When I first started on focusing how to be more productive, I found I wasted so much time on the little details. Finding these wasted moments helped as I was able to cut out inefficient or unproductive actions which gave me so much time back in my schedule. If you haven’t tried timing projects, give it a try and see what you learn about yourself!
6. Stay hydrated and well fed
Nope, not kidding at all when I mention both hydration and smart snacking! Staying hydrated is one of the most basic actions we can provide our bodies with. You should be aiming to consume enough water to match half of your body weight in ounces. Stated directly from Harvard Medical School in their Health Letter, “properly hydrating “is crucial to staying healthy and maintaining the function of every system in your body, including your heart, brain, and muscles. Fluids carry nutrients to your cells, flush bacteria from your bladder, and prevent constipation.”
Not only is staying hydrated absolutely essential but so is feeding your body nutrient-rich foods. Well fed in this sense doesn’t just mean being full but means providing your body with nutrient-rich foods that enhance, replenish and fuel your everyday bodily functions. When you think of food as an opportunity for your body to fuel and heal itself, your snacking options change.
Instead of grabbing a soda or a bag of chips from the vending machine, pack a snack full of nutrients (think minerals, vitamins, fiber, healthy fats, protein and carbohydrates) to keep you feeling fuller for longer. Processed foods are high in sugar and are made with harmful ingredients that destroy our body from the inside out. The Harvard Business Review puts how the food you eat affects your productivity: “…some foods, like pasta, bread, cereal and soda, release their glucose quickly, leading to a burst of energy followed by a slump. Others, like high fat meals (think cheeseburgers and BLTs) provide more sustained energy, but require our digestive system to work harder, reducing oxygen levels in the brain and making us groggy.”
Make the smart decision and pack a healthy snack and bring enough water to help stay productive through your work projects.
Tools I use to stay productive
Apps on my phone: Gmail, Google Calendar, Files, Google Docs, Google Drive, Dropbox, Sheets, Trello and CloudApp
Staying hydrated: My 32 oz. Nalgene. I refill this Nalgene three to four times throughout the day and even though yes, it is bulky to carry around, I find it so much easier to keep track of my fluid intake than by using a glass here and there.
Everyday go-to snack: a superfood, plant-based protein bar. I’m a huge advocate of using superfoods and love fueling my day with REDD bars. They just released two new flavors: Cinnamon Roll and Matcha Almond. Find more about them by clicking here. Their bars are low in sugar, high in protein and packed with superfoods. Needless to say, I’m a big fan! Like their brand suggests: Radiant Energy Deliciously Delivered.*
Give your body the rest and attention it needs. Sleep, hydrate and eat well enough to provide your body the support it needs in helping it be the best YOU you can be. Prioritize your tasks and work in a neat, distraction-free setting. Give yourself time to perform each task to the best of your ability. Don’t forget to celebrate each achievement and recognize your progress throughout the way.
*the mention of REDD Bar in this post is not at all paid for or sponsored