(Originally published on my old blog.) Art by Lorra Te.
My relationship with productivity has greatly changed in the past 2 years.
You see, I've always attacked my to-do list like an overly aggressive Type A person, which quashed my creative side in a little corner, sulking like the sensitive mopey artist that she is.
Most of the time, we associate 'creative people' and 'artists' with messiness and lack of structure and having their own flow -- but you know, productivity is not just for straight-edged, go-getting, Type A people. Creative people can be their own brand of productive.
So, here are my 5 productivity hacks that help me get into a more creative mindset every day.
Happy Productivity Hack #1:
Wake up and just breathe.
If there's only ONE thing I want you to get from this post, it is this:
Want to start your day right? DON'T touch your phone first thing in the morning.
I start each day with a thank you (it changes everything) and at least five minutes of meditation.
I know that most of us, when we think about meditation, we think of gongs, and running water, and chirping birds in the rainforest -- and that woo-woo is just not our cup of tea.
So fine. Let's not call it meditation, and instead, call it MINDFUL QUIET.
Because that's really just what it is. This first 5 minutes of each day is when I allow myself to be still and just… breathe. Be honest, how often do we allow ourselves to do that?
Happy Productivity Hack #2:
No gadgets until after breakfast.
This is the hardest thing to get used to doing. I remember my very baffled friend asking me, "Weirdo! What do you do at breakfast then, if you don't have your phone?"
And I was like, "I dunno… I eat?"
And then we realized how ridiculous the question sounded.
Before, I used to waste so much time in bed, scrolling down Instagram & Facebook & Twitter, not realizing I've wasted A FULL HOUR in bed since I opened my eyes.
So this no-gadgets productivity hack has made it easier for me to get me out of bed in the morning (less tardiness, too!).
TIP: Invest in an old-school alarm clock so you don't need to use your phone for it!
Happy Productivity Hack #3:
Do one 'FCT' (Fun Creative Task) first!
A lot of productivity gurus advise to "Do your MIT (Most Important Task) first thing in the morning," and I really tried to stick to that -- but it was such a struggle for me.
I discovered that devoting 15 minutes (just 15 minutes!) to do something creative with my hands (read: not online!) helps me clear my head, and gets me in a less frantic, and much happier mindset for the day.
I’ve noticed that when I start diving straight into my to-do list and my e-mail right off bat, I become stressed and harried very quickly & early in the day.
ESPECIALLY when it comes to e-mail checking: sometimes, you get caught up in other people’s requests in your inbox, that it overrides your entire to-do list, or worse, your entire day!
So after breakfast, just for a quick 10-15 minutes, I write using a pen and paper (sometimes just ideas, random thoughts, journaling), or take out my paints to do brush lettering (as you can see on my Instagram), or sometimes -- I just fix/rearrange/re-fold clothes in my drawers.
Another good read: World-renowned author and speaker Brene Brown also wrote about a similar concept, which is blocking off "white space" in your day -- a period of totally unscheduled time.
Happy Productivity Hack #4:
Make time for exercise.
I don't workout to lose weight per se, but it's because I love how working out releases the endorphins which really, really help me feel happier, less stressed, and gives me more energy!
Also, working out is that rare time when I get to NOT think about work and just focus on what I’m doing: usually in other activities, your mind can’t help but wander to your to-do list, your ideas, etc.
But when I’m working out, especially if it’s a tougher workout like Insanity or boxing, all I think about is surviving the next rep/round!
You know what the winning combo is? Exercise and THEN the shower after it. It’s like, endorphins + clear head + that proverbial shower Eureka moment in one! (Trivia: It's usually in my post-workout showers where I come up with ideas for my next projects.)
Workout Recommendations (the bottom two don't have gym costs!):
- I love doing yoga especially on extra stressful days.
- On days you feel really tired, just do a quick round or two of the 7-minute workout.
- There’s also a lot of fun cardio workouts on YouTube, so there’s really no excuse to not exercise (and no need for any fancy gym memberships)!
Happy Productivity Hack #5:
Unclog the brain before you sleep.
I used to think about work until my very last waking moment and so I'd wake up in the morning and find myself holding a Sharpie and my bedsheet full of pen marks. Not fun.
Now, every evening, I cool down the whirring parts of my brain by reading a fiction book, or watching a TV show (for me that's either Person of Interest, Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, Jimmy Fallon YouTube videos) until I fall asleep.
If you notice, my "hacks" are not really about structure, apps, or processes.
Much of what's in my productivity system these days is about what makes me FEEL HAPPY -- because I've found that the happier I am, the more productive my day is.
There are so many new productivity hacks and apps out there today, but at the end of the day, it's all about finding and creating a system that works for you.
And just so you know: these things only work if you actually APPLY them versus just READING about them!
Please let me know if you've tried (or will try) any of my personal hacks and how it works out or how you've tweaked it!
Are you also guilty of wasting an hour on Instagram every morning? What other tricks/approaches have been effective for you?