Productivity - noun 1. The state or quality of producing something. 2. The effectiveness of productive effort, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input.
Like most creatives you are probably so busy that time passes you by and you wonder where all of your time went. Or you may find yourself constantly sacrificing your personal life in order to stay on top of your work commitments. At the same time you are probably questioning how others manage to stay productive, and why it looks so easy to those organised folk.
It turns out that setting goals, effective time management and discipline are key to giving yourself more quality time. Recently, I broke the silence and asked two busy creatives (who are as equally organised as they are busy) what their secret is to being and staying productive in their professional lives.
Meet the creatives: Jen Clark, Melbourne A design director and owner of Melbourne design studio Jen Clark Design, Jen Clark has over 15 years experience in all aspects of graphic design, specialising in branding and web design for new and existing businesses. @JenClarkDesign www.jenclarkdesign.com.au
Tanya Ruxton, Sydney A creative type with over 12yrs experience, working as the Head of Teaching, Shillington College, Australia. With a love for organisation, Tanya has run many creative side projects in her spare time, as well as her own graphic design business. @wearemessengers http://wearemessengers.com
Several tips reappeared in Jen and Tanya's answers - these tips appear to be the most universally recognised and most commonly adopted between organised folk. Following are their combined all time top 5 tips for productivity.
1. To-do Lists Manage tasks by keeping and writing lists. Andy's tip: Complete basic tasks as they arise. Jen's tip: The best time to make a list is often when you have the least time to write one. Tan's tip: Write a new list every day or every second day to keep on track.
2. Schedule blocks of time Plan your day in "blocks" (much like Hugh Grant in "About a Boy"). Plan ahead whenever possible by mapping out project deadlines for the following weeks or months ahead. Andy's tip: Keep an up to date calendar. Jen's tip: Set mini-deadlines throughout the day. Tan's tip: Be committed and don't get distracted.
3. Working space Create a comfortable working environment that you enjoy being in and that inspires you. This includes getting dressed as if you were heading to the office if you work from home. Andy's tip: Ergonomics work. Jen's tip: Your space influences your work, it can invoke feelings of vitality, energy and motivation. Tan's tip: Be comfortable, invest in a good chair. Declutter - tidy desk, tidy day.
4. Be realistic Secretly thinking we are Superwoman and can do it all doesn't always work. When opportunities arise communicate your current commitments and capabilities to clients. This will ensure you are not overbooking yourself or feeling overstretched or compromised on time. Andy's tip: You can not always say yes. Jen's tip: Be honest. Tan's tip: Don't over promise. Get a freelancer to help out.
5. Take breaks: When you work solo it can be very easy to work right through the day and night. However by establishing a routine and taking breaks you'll be less likely to procrastinate and find you are more reinvigorated to continue. Seriously taking a break can refresh your mind, your soul and your eyes. Andy's tip: Routine - 10am coffee, 12.30 lunch, 3pm stretch. Jen's tip: Time away from the desk is important. Don't get caught up in the lure of the immediate. Tan's tip: Enjoy your lunch break.
A big thankyou to Jen and Tanya for their sharing their top productivity tips (there are more to come). Now that we have demystified some of those efficient working habits we are a step closer to becoming one of those elusive, productive, organised folk.
Andrea McArthur has a passion for all things visual and a soft spot for organisation. Type is her true love and goes weak at the knees over beautiful design. Andrea works as a freelance graphic designer in Brisbane by day and lectures in graphic design by night. You will find her sharing design related goodness via @andyjane_mc