Keeping Your Personal Productivity Private

Keeping Your Personal Productivity Private

You can get more done in less time. I don’t think this is lost on ambitious creatives and creators.

I continue to see new tweets, stories, and even courses revolving around having definite boundaries around one’s work schedule, and even keeping to four-hour workdays.

And I think it’s great that there is a growing anti-grind movement, or at the very least, pro-effectiveness movement. Personally, I think pro-effectiveness is the best way to think about it, since what you resist, persists (being anti anything tends to create more awareness for the very thing you’re resisting!).

Further, I like to differentiate productivity from effectiveness, where effectiveness is getting the right things done, and productivity is just getting things done. That difference is huge as applied to keeping your workdays shorter.

Something I’ve learned through experience, though, is to keep your personal productivity private.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with sharing about your productivity in a tweet, story, or course. If you’re trying to build credibility with your audience, you’d better be able to show them how you can get more done in less time. No one is going to believe if you don’t have evidential, or at the very least, anecdotal proof.

It’s with clients that we need to be more tactful.

I had an ugly situation unfold about a year ago, where a client was clearly more interested in how long I had worked on their project than the quality of work delivered. It may seem silly to freelancers, entrepreneurs, or those who live unconventional lives, but much of the world has operated on the traditional 9 – 5 model for a long time and it’s deeply embedded in culture. Evenings and weekends offer workers a rare escape from the soul-crushing corporate grind.

I have bucked convention at every turn, done things at my own pace, and have always taken my own approach to work and life. It’s the only way things have ever worked for me. So, you can see where there’s some tension.

But some people just care more about the hours you’ve dedicated to their project than how good of a job you did. Probably because they never get to work less than eight hours per day.

Which is also funny, because I don’t know too many freelancers, entrepreneurs, or unconventional lifers who haven’t done the 12- to 16-hour grind at times, to get a project done, to deal with a sudden influx in demand, or to put out fires. And that’s the part that most conventional workers don’t know about.

But whatever your processes are for getting things done faster, they should be considered proprietary. No mention of them should be made to your clients. Because this is what they are paying you for.

Whatever your processes are for getting things done faster, they should be considered proprietary. Click To Tweet

It doesn’t matter that you can bang out 2,000 words, design a logo, or put together a commissioned illustration in an hour or less. Only you (and potentially your students) need to know that. What clients want to know is you slaved and pored over their project. They want to know that it was given the proper attention and polish it deserved.

So, be strategic with who you reveal your personal productivity to. In most cases, there’s no value in disclosing such details to your clients.

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The Myth of the 8-Hour Workday

The Myth of the 8-Hour Workday

Unless we’re working at least eight hours per day, many of us don’t even feel entitled to our monthly paycheck.

Yet, I know more than a few writers and entrepreneurs who’ve improved their income and lifestyle by drastically reducing their work hours (I have experimented with this myself with some success).

So, how does that work? Why would you want to deviate from the proven standard? Isn’t eight hours the ideal amount of time to work in a day?

Here are some thoughts worth considering.

Rethinking the Hustle

The 12- to 16-hour hustle has been held as the golden standard by the likes of Gary Vaynerchuk or Grant Cardone. You can even find Entrepreneur and Forbes articles that in essence say while you can’t control much else, you can control your work ethic, and working 80 hours per week will virtually guarantees your eventual success.

As creatives and creators, we tend to side more with this type of thinking than with the standard employment model.

Having tried the hustle, though, I can honestly say it wasn’t for me. Instead of spending more time on a few priorities, I found myself adding unnecessary tasks and projects to my already too long to-do list. So, I ended up being spread out even more. I burned out too.

(I talk more about some of the changes I’ve recently made to my routine later).

I often think to myself – I can appreciate that these known experts have such an amazing work ethic (and in some cases – but not all – amazing businesses). But I feel like they could be exponentially more productive if they a) systemized, b) delegated more, and c) slept more.

SuperFastBusiness founder James Schramko suggests we return to the 8/8/8 model. Eight hours of work, eight hours of recreation, and eight hours of sleep. Even then, he says, eight hours for work is quite generous.

People often say they wished they had more time in a day. But when you split up your day into three equal parts, it’s easy to see you’ve probably got some major time leaks that could be – and should be – plugged.

When you split up your day into three equal parts, it’s easy to see you’ve probably got some major time leaks that could be – and should be – plugged. Click To Tweet

If you’re in the hustle, it’s doubtful you’ve got eight hours left over for recreation. You’re probably not sleeping eight hours per night either. And that, to me, seems like a major disadvantage and a formula for exhaustion, fatigue, burnout, and even mental instability.

But eight hours of work is still quite extensive in the grand scheme of things. Let me show you my work…

Can You Stay Focused for a Full 8 Hours?

If you think you can, try it. Do deep, intensive, focused work (not light admin tasks) for a full eight hours. Lunch break allowed. See how it feels.

I’m not joking. You should give this a try, just so you can say you’ve done it and see how it differs from condensing your workday.

Codebots found that the average employee is only productive for three hours per day, or an average of 12.5 hours per week. That’s about 30% of the time they’re at work.

Now, I know I’m not talking to average people in average jobs with an average work ethic. You’re a champion, and you can get more done in less time.

But we should still come to terms with the fact that we’ve got maybe four to six good hours in us per day. We aren’t machines.

Outside of those four to six hours, we can still engage in reading, meditation, and exercise, which most would consider productive, and would likely add to their overall productivity.

Having this perspective is helpful, as it has us evaluating our task load and prioritizing what needs to get done on a given day. Which is exactly what we should be doing.

The Key to Getting the Right Things Done

I recently shared a little bit about what a day in the life of David Andrew Wiebe looks like.

I’ve already made some adjustments to my schedule, based on some of my recent reading.

First, I’ve recognized the value in what Perry Marshall calls “Renaissance Time.” He suggests spending an hour or two per day, first thing in the morning, connecting with intuition (or spirit) and reading something before Gutenberg.

(More on this in his book, Detox, Declutter, Dominate: How to Excel by Eliminationaffiliate link.)

Although I don’t follow Marshall’s advice to a tee, I do set aside an hour at the top of the day for Renaissance Time. I’ll spend a bit of time meditating and spend most of the time reading. On the odd day, I might go for a walk during this time too.

The more you’ve got to do in a day, the greater the value of Renaissance Time. The takeaway? Prioritize and guard it, not matter what!

That was the first change I made. The second change I made was this:

With all my time blocking efforts, I noticed I was still trying to take on too much in a day. And maybe even being a little too rigid based on how I work best (I like working on multiple projects and multi-tasking).

Instead of saying “this goes here and that goes there,” which is still a basic structure I follow, I’ve been finding that it makes more sense to work on three things per day. That’s it.

I used to think this was a problem. Because inevitably it meant I wouldn’t get around to some priority. But then I realized that if I changed my approach, I’d make more money in less time and create more time for my priorities long term.

The first thing I work on is an article like this. The second thing I work on is an article for a client. And the third thing could be anything else I’ve got on the go – another client piece, a podcast episode, a video, some music, website work, book writing, course creation, or otherwise.

Instead of working a few minutes here and 40 minutes there on these things, I get to give a couple of hours of focused effort into just a few things. And I make more progress that way long term, even if it looks like I’m getting less done short term.

No Matter Your Ambition Level, 8 Hours Should be More Than Enough

Historian and author C. Northcote Parkinson said:

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

That’s Parkinson’s Law.

If he’s right, then it almost certainly means we can accomplish more in less time.

Last year, I experimented with four-hour workdays. And while my clients didn’t seem to appreciate my efficiency (not because the quality of my work suffered, but because they themselves didn’t feel like they could pull off a four-hour workday), I found my focus sharpen like a laser. When I sat down at my desk to work, I was there to work. I systematically shut out distractions and stuck to my hours like my life depended on it.

Eight hours is a lot of time. Especially if you’re adequately systemized and are in the habit of delegating tasks you aren’t good at and don’t want to do. Even if you aren’t, you’d be quite amazed at how much you can get done in that time given half a chance.

So, when you think you’ve got eight hours of work, see if you can condense it down to four hours. If you think you’ve got 12 hours of work, try to do it in eight hours. If you’re crystal clear on what you’re out to accomplish and are deeply focused on what you’re working on, you’ll be surprised to find you can fit more work into less time.

Final Thoughts

I know that, as a creative or creator, keeping to a four- to six-hour workday can be tough. Some days you’re going to go for 12 hours. Some days you’re going to go for longer. Some days you may only work for two hours. And that’s okay.

But just remember that, after a certain point, you’re not effective. Red-eye domain name buyers usually regret their purchases after the fact. And by that, I mean your overall efficiency and judgment tends to suffer when you aren’t adequately rested.

Red-eye domain name buyers usually regret their purchases after the fact. Click To Tweet

If nothing else, go back to the 8/8/8 model. Give yourself a proper eight hours of sleep. Give yourself the opportunity to have a social life. And work the other eight hours – but be disciplined, focused, and crystal clear on what you’re setting out to accomplish. You might just find you need less.

How long do you feel you can focus on work in a day? What has worked best for you?

Let me know in the comments.

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A Day in the Life of David Andrew Wiebe

A Day in the Life of David Andrew Wiebe

David Verney recently commented on one of my Medium posts and mentioned that he’d be interested in reading about a day in my life.

David Verney's comment

Fair warning, kids – I do an insane amount of writing in a day. More than most would say is even remotely sensible.

Anyway, I thought it was a great idea for a post, so here we are. This is what a day in the life of David Andrew Wiebe tends to look like.

8:30 AM: Awake

These days, I start to get tired and even start falling asleep somewhere around 10:30 to 11:30 PM.

Then, I wake up around 8:30 AM, which is good, though I don’t always feel fully rested.

I’ve shared about a morning routine I stumbled on, and this worked well for a while, though more recently I haven’t been following it.

Sometimes I will go for a walk at 8:30, but many times I won’t until later.

So, nothing of especial interest happens until…

9:00 AM – 12:00 PM: Writing & Content Work

This is the first block of the day where productive work happens.

I’m either writing for my own blog, or for my clients. Either way, I’m generally focused on one project at a time, and I’m not jumping around from one to the other.

If it’s an especially productive day, I will finish three or four blog posts during this time.

If I’m not at my best, I might finish one and a half blog posts (but one always gets done!).

Of course, it depends a lot on the word count and depth of research required, too.

Within two to three days, I will have a week’s worth of posts completed.

Sometimes, in the first hour (9 AM to 10 PM), I will go grocery shopping, have breakfast, or simply collect my thoughts for the day.

On a Wednesday, you will find me working on my latest podcast episode (to schedule for Thursday). This work often extends into my second block of the day. Every second Wednesday, I also jump on a video conference from 8 to 9:30 AM with my mastermind.

On a Saturday, you’ll find me handling admin tasks and writing for an hour or two (Weekly Digest).

On a Sunday, you’ll find me planning and writing for an hour or two (#StrategySunday).

Then comes…

12:00 PM – 1:00 PM: Lunch

It’s time to unplug from devices (though I often listen to podcasts) and fuel up.

If I’m especially efficient, I will prepare two meals at this point (lunch and supper). An Instant Pot (affiliate link) comes in handy for this.

Sometimes, I will also take this opportunity to go for a 30-minute walk, but that can be somewhat ambitious in just an hour.

1:00 PM – 5:00 PM: Writing & Content Work

This is where additional productive work happens.

You will often find me handling more intensive staff writing and client work during this timeframe.

To be fair, though, the best writing of the day probably happened already. Some of my writing duties are brainless and don’t require a lot of mental power, so this is the right time to handle those types of projects.

Depending on the day, you’ll also find me:

  • Handling coaching and client calls (but generally only on Wednesdays and Thursdays!)
  • Making music
  • Writing emails
  • Scheduling posts in Meet Edgar
  • Syndicating and distributing content
  • Updating websites
  • Making videos
  • And so forth

5:00 PM – 6:00 PM: Product Development

Most days, my latest post goes live at 1 PM PST. So, in the first five to 10 minutes or so of the hour, I will carry out my daily Medium routine:

  • Import, format, and publish latest story
  • Add the story to a relevant publication (a must if you want to do well on Medium)
  • Share story to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter
  • Follow 50 people who’ve “clapped” for people in my Dream 100 or those who would be interested in the type of content I publish

I’ve got enough of a strategy and infrastructure in place to keep growing my Medium following, so this all happens relatively quickly.

From there, I will work on the latest product I’m looking to launch.

Sometimes this means more content work. But because I’ve already completed a good chunk of content, lately this has meant:

  • Developing my course/membership platform
  • Working on landing pages
  • Creating sales videos
  • Fine tuning sales copy
  • Making sure the funnel and payment processor is working correctly (my builder of choice is 10XPro – affiliate link)
  • Ordering necessities online
  • And so forth

If I’m not doing any of those things, it’s safe to assume I’m writing or making product related content.

6:00 PM – 7:00 PM: Supper

This is a good time to disconnect from devices and maybe get that walk in. It gets dark early where I live, especially during the winter, so it’s nice to get the walk in earlier in the day, but if I’m unable to, then this is the time to do it.

Of course, I will also fuel up once more.

7:00 PM – 8:00 PM: Music

Generally, I like to leave “after supper hours” unscheduled. Rest and recreation are incredibly important to me. Having a social life in 2020, and now 2021, though, has looked quite a bit different than it has in the past, so if I want to work on something else, I can, because there’s always time.

Having said that, music is my passion, and it deserves some space in my life. I can’t always get around to it in block #2, so I prioritize it in my schedule regardless.

And in that sense, working on music isn’t always work. It can be a lot of fun. And I would say that about most of the “work” I do (but we all do things for money we don’t necessarily enjoy).

Because I have so much music and so many ideas, creating focus has always been a bit of a challenge. Right now, one of my focuses is just to document all my ideas, because sadly, I do begin to forget riffs (but I would not say that’s unique to my current place in life).

8:00 PM – 12:00 AM: Unscheduled Time

Social life in 2020 and 2021 has mostly been limited to texting, calling, hopping on a Zoom call, swiping right on a dating app, or going to the occasional dinner at a restaurant with a friend (someone in my pandemic bubble).

I’m planning to explore local Facebook groups as well, to see if I can get a little more connected in my new surroundings (I was living somewhat nomadically until the pandemic came around).

Anyway, this is a good time block for:

  • Making more music (if the spirit moves)
  • Reading (critical if you want to write more)
  • Meditating
  • Cleaning and organizing
  • Additional exercise (I like to knock out some pushups, sit ups, and squats – it doesn’t take that long)

I would love to say that this is what happens most days. And while I usually do at least one of the above, many days I will simply collapse in bed and watch something on YouTube or Netflix, while playing video games (thus why I try to build disconnecting from devices into my routine).

I think this is a horrible time for admin work and errands, which is why I try to build that into my schedule as well (this week I’ve blocked off time for it on Thursday and Friday, which are a little laxer, because I tend to finish most of my work by Wednesday).

Notes

For the last four months of 2020, I was not pulling eight-hour days, especially since I was feeling burnt out after pulling 12- to 16-hour days for a few months (I quickly found out there was no merit to that). So, I would finish my work in four to six hours per day and spend the rest of the day resting.

I find I can perform at a high level during my scheduled work hours. To be fair, I’ve been honing the skill of working from home since 2011. I’ve been working completely from home since 2016. So, I’ve had some practice.

If you’ve never tried condensing your work hours, it might be worth a go. For instance, try to do an eight-hour day in four hours. It’s possible. You just need to focus more, and when you’re under pressure, you get things done faster. Seriously, it’s worth a try.

Focus is a must if you want to strike a balance between quality and quantity, which I feel is an absolute must for creatives and creators in the age we’re in (don’t let perfectionism hold you back!).

One last note. I find it important to practice flexibility rather than rigidity. For example, as I was working on this post, I found out my grandma passed. I’m going to be going easier on myself today as result. Routines don’t amount to much when they aren’t serving you.

Routines don't amount to much when they aren't serving you. Click To Tweet

Final Thoughts

Did you enjoy this behind the scenes look? Probably not as sexy as you thought it might be.

I’m a proponent of showing up to do the work, even if it’s in short spurts, and you can see how my life is organized around that.

But I have a stronger focus on health and relationships now, which I feel outweigh just about any achievements in terms of projects or work. I had that out of balance for a while, and I’m gradually moving towards prioritizing self-care and people again.

What is your daily routine like?

Let me know in the comments.

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Productive Procrastination is a Must in Your Creative Efforts

Productive Procrastination is a Must in Your Creative Efforts

Procrastination is universally bad… or is it?

Well, not if you ask me. Because I procrastinate. A lot.

It’s just a matter of knowing what to procrastinate on, and why.

Not sure what I mean? Let me introduce you to productive procrastination and why it’s a must in your creative efforts.

A Bias Towards Productive Procrastination

I admit. I have a bit of a bias towards productive procrastination.

Emails are responded to late. Bill payments are made at the last minute. My space only gets a thorough cleaning twice per year.

And this has had certain drawbacks, though not the ones you would expect. I don’t have terrible credit. People aren’t constantly on my case about unfinished projects (I finish most if not all on time). And my home is not infested with creepy crawlers.

The main drawback is there are always tasks on my to-do list that take up too much mind space and cause light anxiety if left unfinished. But because they are low priority, I procrastinate on them.

Then, there are some decisions that could have been made that you regret not making. When you use productive procrastination as a tool, your default position is omission. But there’s always that social event you wish you went to, that friend you should have helped, that rare opportunity you missed.

Well, you can’t do it all anyway. And if you’re an ambitious creative, you shouldn’t aspire to. It takes too much work, you don’t get the things you want to get done, and it can even lead to burnout.

If you’re the type that needs to know everything in advance, and things hanging in the balance drive you nuts, productive procrastination probably isn’t for you. But otherwise, it has certain benefits that are hard to deny.

What is Productive Procrastination?

It’s about leaving the less important, low value tasks until later (and in some cases, “never”).

You’ve got to be clear on what low value tasks are to you. To me, emails, texts, voicemails, errands, paying bills, and the like all tend to fall under this category. It doesn’t mean I don’t deal with them. It just means they don’t come first in my day, or even my week.

There are a couple of books that can add a meaningful layer to this conversation.

The first is Stephen Covey’s classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (affiliate link). Covey’s famous four quadrants form the foundation of my prioritization and productivity habits. You can Google “Covey’s four quadrants” to get a good sense of how this works.

The second is Tim Ferriss’ essential, The 4-Hour Workweek, which details how Ferriss was able to run a business as he was traveling the world. And you will find productive procrastination at work in a major way, especially as applied to communication.

Ferriss points out that most communication isn’t an emergency, so getting to it later or never has fewer consequences than you might be inclined to believe.

Now, I said that you should be clear on what low value tasks are to you. But this is of little consequence if you don’t know the opposite – tasks you would consider high value.

Writing is my highest value task, and, true to form, it shows up first in my calendar too. My day begins with writing because it is just that important, so I give it the best part of my day. And all other things can wait until I’m done writing.

Why Procrastinate Productively?

The old model of productivity (productivity 1.0) was just getting things done. And getting things done is a good starting point. It’s worth getting some practice in this area if you’re new to it.

But what people realized was that even though they were getting a lot done, a lot of important things weren’t even being touched. If anything, the urgent seemed to take over available time for the important.

So, then came productivity 2.0. This proliferated in many forms – Covey’s four quadrants, Priority Management, Brian Tracy’s The Science of Self-Confidence (affiliate link), and so on.

In productivity 2.0, we saw a movement towards getting the right things done and prioritizing high value tasks in one’s day. People noticed that, if it wasn’t scheduled, it wasn’t real. So, they started putting everything in their schedule.

Productivity 2.0 strove to put the important back on main stage.

The main drawback of productivity 2.0 was that people ended up working insane hours just to fit everything in! And this led to a net productivity loss, because by midweek, they’d be all out of steam.

To be fair, some managed to find a meaningful balance, and 2.0 was certainly better than the original model.

Productivity 3.0 is where productive procrastination started to show signs. David Allen’s Getting Things Done (affiliate link) methodology, lifestyle design as taught by the likes of Tim Ferriss and James Schramko, and more. Finally, life was put in its rightful place again – taking center stage.

With 3.0 arrived the age of creating the life of your choosing. Many opted for a life of joy and balance, though, and it was available through rigorous systemization.

Productivity 4.0 is doing everything by intuition. Listening to your heart and doing things that feel like a 10 out of 10 instead of a four, seven, or eight. Vishen Lakhiani and Kyle Cease are both proponents of 4.0.

But getting back to the question, the main reason to procrastinate productively is so you can face the blank screen or canvas and finally do the work that matters.

The main reason to procrastinate productively is so you can face the blank screen or canvas and finally do the work that matters. Click To Tweet

Facing the Fear

At first, productive procrastination will probably seem lazy or maybe even fun. But then you realize it’s something else completely. It’s about facing your fears.

Because there’s something scary about launching that course, finishing that album, writing that book, or otherwise.

You probably don’t even realize that fear is the reason you’ve been putting it off. Until you’ve blocked out all distractions and given yourself space to work on what you say is important to you, you aren’t even present to it.

Now that you’ve created the space, you realize you’ve got to face the fear to move forward.

In this case, though, the fear is telling you that you are on the right track. If you felt indifferent, or normal, or sterile, you would probably be working on something that amounts to thumb twiddling.

If you feel fear, you are working on something that has the potential to matter. And it will most certainly matter to you, even if it doesn’t matter to anyone else.

If you feel fear, you are working on something that has the potential to matter. Click To Tweet

Productive procrastination is powerless if not used to face the fear. If you’re not going to do the hard work, you may as well go and check easy items off your to-do list and be happy that you did.

Final Thoughts

Productive procrastination can help you focus on what matters. Just know that this often means facing fears connected to your creative projects.

Some people find putting less important things off until later a little scary, so it’s probably not a prudent strategy for those who are easily triggered by disorganization and incompletes.

If you never seem to get around to the things that matter most to you, though, I suggest giving it a try.

How do you use productive procrastination to achieve your goals? What has your experience been like?

Let me know in the comments below.

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4 Time Wasters That Kill Your Productivity

4 Time Wasters That Kill Your Productivity

So, you want to get things done.

The only problem is, there doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day.

Yet, if you look at some of the most accomplished people out there, it’s not as though they have more time than you do. They don’t have a time machine either.

This isn’t to say you should compare yourself to them. But it is important to realize that time isn’t the issue. How you use and manage that time is.

Time isn’t the issue. How you use and manage that time is. Click To Tweet

Here, I look at several time wasters that can end up killing your productivity without you even noticing. Ready for this? Let’s get into it!

1. Meetings

Contrary to what you might think, I’m not hating on meetings. When they are necessary, and organized, they can have immense benefits for a business, community, collaboration, or otherwise.

The challenge, of course, is that most meetings aren’t. They don’t have an agenda. They aren’t targeted – so, the whole team shows up when they don’t need to be there. And they aren’t intentional or organized.

Understand that if the people in the meetings don’t even want to be there, and don’t need to be there, they are getting absolutely nothing out of the meeting. You are wasting their productive hours. Interruptions, regardless of when they occur in the day (or week), tend to break concentration and flow.

Interruptions, regardless of when they occur in the day, tend to break concentration and flow. Click To Tweet

In my observation, meetings go counter to how we as humans work, too. We’re expected to pay attention for an hour or two, when we know our brains are bad storage devices for information, and our memories are faulty at best.

If no notetaking happens, then it’s even worse. By the way, the onus is on you if you aren’t taking notes, because that’s about the only way I’ve found to ensure meetings are productive on some level.

If you want to be effective with meetings, have a read through Steve Goldstein’s article on Inc. about how to fix meetings.

2. Scanning the News

To say that the media exaggerates is an understatement. There has been more fearmongering, sensationalism, and propaganda in 2020 than any year I can remember.

Scanning the news isn’t going to change the situation. And for the most part, it just makes media companies richer. They get paid for your attention.

Further, it tends to focus you on the negative. And I don’t care how positive a person you are. Spend enough time watching the news and you will come away with doom and gloom.

Per Sara Lindberg on Verywell Mind:

A constant stream of sensational or “disaster” reporting, whether you are exposed actively or passively, can elevate stress levels and trigger symptoms like anxiety and trouble sleeping.

How do you expect to be at your productive best when you’re constantly stressed and are sleep deprived? It’s simple – You won’t be!

I’m not saying you shouldn’t stay informed. But you might need to balance it out with a healthy dose of positivity.

On the Harvard Business Review, Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman say the ideal praise-to-criticism ratio is 5.6 to 1. That means you need five to six times the positivity to balance out the negativity!

If you’re going to watch an hour of news, you’d better be prepared to watch or listen to something inspiring for five to six hours!

If you’re going to watch an hour of news, you’d better be prepared to watch or listen to something inspiring for five to six hours! Click To Tweet

3. Social Media

Author Dr. Joe Dispenza says we often begin our days in the same manner – by checking our phones, reminding ourselves of who we are. And then we expect to have a different day than we did yesterday, when we’ve just gone through the process or reminding ourselves and reinforcing who we think we are.

They say today is mutually exclusive from yesterday, but that’s not necessarily true when you go through the same morning ritual of comparing yourself to others, taking note of what they have that you don’t, feeling inferior, and so on. Your experience of today will be much the same unless you adopt new rituals.

I have known this for years, so it’s not news to me, but documentaries like The Social Dilemma have been making the public aware of the ill effects of social media. It’s been designed to be addicting. And big tech companies have endless data points on us to where they might know us better than our best friends.

The issue about fake news, however, is grossly misleading. By pointing to an extreme example like flat earth, they oversimplify a rather complicated issue. Because frankly I’ve seen more fake news from the likes of The New York Times, CNN, BBC, and so on, this year than ever.

Regardless, the core of it is this:

Social media makes you feel like the hero of your own story. So, it trains you to be selfish. And when things don’t go your way, you compare yourself to others and feel bad about yourself. When you feel bad about yourself, you want to buy something to solve your problem. And guess what’s right there on social media? Products for you to buy.

I’m not saying don’t use social media. I’m saying, if you can, use it wisely.

4. Smartphone Notifications

Does your phone constantly buzz or chime? And do you find yourself checking every time it does?

Like social media, smartphones have been created to be addicting. And the worst part is that they are addictive in all the wrong ways.

You’ve got all your vices right there – social media, news, email, texts… And if that wasn’t bad enough, you can download games and other distracting apps.

We’ve all got smartphones, so I’m not suggesting you toss yours. But here’s a suggestion you may find useful:

Turn off all notifications. Yes. All of them.

Creative work requires concentration, and every time you break it, it takes a little over 23 minutes for you to recover it, according to Blake Thorne on I Done This Blog.

Creative work requires concentration, and every time you break it, it takes a little over 23 minutes for you to recover it. Click To Tweet

If you turn notifications off, your phone won’t be constantly vibrating or notifying you of new messages and notifications. Then you can check your phone when you want, on your own terms. It’s quite empowering.

Don’t let your smartphone rule your life. Turn notifications off and check your phone on your breaks. Trust me, you’ll have more than enough time for texts, voicemails, and so forth.

Don’t let your smartphone rule your life. Click To Tweet

Time Wasters, Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, what might be a time waster for me might not be a time waster for you. And vice versa. So, it’s a little subjective. You’ve got to look at this in consideration of your work and goals.

If you’re a social media manager, for instance, spending time on social media is not a waste of time. It’s your job!

Still, I hope you found the above helpful, and you’re able to get more of the right things done as a creative or creator. After all, it’s not just about getting more done. It’s about getting more of the right things done.

Are there any time wasters I’ve missed? What are your best productivity tips?

Let me know in the comments.

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Priority vs. Productivity – Which is More Important?

Priority vs. Productivity – Which is More Important?

Our heads fill with ideas that actively excite us. If we could, we’d dive right into working on them today.

Then reality sets in. And we’re cast into our daily responsibilities, chores, errands, and of course, work.

The life of a creative or creator isn’t all that glamorous once you realize that creativity often happens in the margin of life, if at all.

But if we can distinguish productivity from priority, we can unleash the idea machine in a more organized manner.

The Anatomy of a “Productive” Day

Tell me if you’ve had days that have gone something like this:

You wake up, make your bed, and get a few minutes of exercise in before meditating.

You’ve got a few urgent emails to answer, so after breakfast, you process your messages. You also check your phone, answer voicemails, respond to texts, and do your usual rounds on social media.

Afterwards, you’ve got a little bit of work to do, so you hop on your computer, put in your remote hours, have lunch, and finish up for the day.

Now it’s time for a little bit of creative work. Finally. So, you work on a song. Or write a poem. Or read a few Photoshop tips online.

After about an hour of that, you have supper, write a blog post, do another round on social media, update your website, answer emails, and wrap up the day by reaching out to your collaborators.

This all sounds very productive. But is it?

Getting Many Things Done isn’t Productivity

If any part of this sounds judgmental, know that I have had many days that have gone exactly as described.

I did this, that, and the other. I got a lot done. To-do items got checked off. Tasks got completed. Emails got answered.

But I’d still finish the day hyper aware of the projects I’d never gotten around to. The things I’d identified as being closest to my identity. The creative pursuits that would bring the greatest results, joy, or fulfillment.

Somehow, those things just weren’t getting done. They were always relegated to tomorrow.

I’d have the odd day where I’d make big progress on things that mattered to me, but I wasn’t consistent.

And we know from Jerry Seinfeld’s example that if you want to achieve something meaningful in your creative pursuits, you don’t want to break the chain.

Changing How We Think About Productivity

The way most people approach productivity is to see how much they can accomplish on a given day, week, month, or year.

And I promise you, it’s possible to get a lot done in a year. I feel like I’ve lived that year over and over since discovering Steve Pavlina’s article, Do It Now – the same post I suggest everyone read if they want a crash course in productivity.

I’ve written 365 songs in a year. I’ve launched two books in a year. And I’m smack dab in the middle of publishing daily blog posts for a full year (today is day 142).

But this is where quotes like the following are thoroughly unhelpful:

Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in 10 years. – Bill Gates

Do you even have a 10-year vision for what’s possible? I would venture to guess you’re in the top 2 to 3% of the population if you do.

Most of us are in the moment. Worried about whatever we’re worried about. Thinking about how the money is going to come in. And so forth.

It’s okay if you’re not seeing 10 years ahead. Mark Manson, author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck (affiliate link) even says we shouldn’t obsess over the extraordinary or try to become like them.

What I’m saying is this:

If getting a lot done is the point, then there’s nothing wrong with this approach. But if the point is to get the right things done, then it’s critical we revise our method.

How to Prioritize Your Priorities

It’s okay if you can’t see 10 years ahead. What you need to identify are the projects that are important but not urgent.

If you aren’t familiar with author Stephen Covey’s four quadrants, then take some time to acquaint yourself with them.

For us creatives, for the most part, it’s going to fall under the category of a book, a series of paintings, an album’s worth of music. Basically, a product.

You don’t know why, but you just never seem to get around to it, am I right?

I mean, sure, you might mess around with graphics in Canva or make an outline for your book, but are you getting any of the real work done?

One of the key reasons we end up putting off the important, non-urgent work is because it’s not urgent. We easily get swallowed up in the world of urgent instead.

And it’s not bad that we deal with the urgent. But it has a way of stealing from our productive working hours. After all, there’s only so much time in the day.

So, What’s the Solution?

The solution is relatively simple, and it can be found in a classic analogy that has been passed down through the years. It has been credited to many people, suggesting that its source is unknown.

Either way, here it is in simplified form:

You have a jar. Sitting beside it are rocks, pebbles, sand, and water.

The question is – how do you fit the rocks, pebbles, sand, and water in the jar?

If you put it in in the wrong order, the jar will certainly overflow.

But if you put it in as follows, it all works out:

Rocks, pebbles, sand, and finally, water.

Rocks are your big projects. Pebbles are your important tasks. The sand represents your smaller to-do items. Water is everything else.

So, if you do everything in the right order, there is more than enough time and energy in the day to accomplish what matters most to you.

If you do everything in the right order, there is more than enough time and energy in the day to accomplish what matters most to you. Click To Tweet

If you do it out of order, and don’t prioritize, you will struggle to get the most important things done.

And always remember – tackling the most important things in your schedule has a way of making the less important things irrelevant.

Tackling the most important things in your schedule has a way of making the less important things irrelevant. Click To Tweet

Final Thoughts

Productivity without prioritization is just getting things done.

Productivity with prioritization is effectiveness. Effectiveness is what most people really want.

And we are most effective when we focus on the few things that matter instead of the many things that need to get done.

We are most effective when we focus on the few things that matter instead of the many things that need to get done. Click To Tweet

If you focus on the few things that matter, you will be able to end more days feeling accomplished. And if you keep doing that, you will hold a product in your hand before long.

What is your strategy for productivity? How do you manage your priorities?

Let me know in the comments.

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