Trying To Be Productive Every Single Day

As creatives, we can all agree that there are those moments when you seem to have achieved creative nirvana – ideas are flowing, designs are looking good and every line of code you write just works perfect – you’re in the zone! Unfortunately, there are also those times when everything is out of whack – zero inspiration, no ideas and it seems like you can’t get anything done.

For the last couple of weeks, I have been forced by health issues to work more from home than at the office which makes it even harder to concentrate and get work done. I have thus come up with a few steps to make sure that, barring any health issues, I can work at 100% and make up for any lost time.

Disclaimer: This works most of the time, but it’s by no means perfect.

1. Ensure you have a clean, organized workspace

Anyone who works from a dedicated workspace will agree with me that they have this uncanny ability to easily get cluttered, which then stands in the way of getting things done.

My clean workspace; If only it could stay like this

My clean workspace; If only it could stay like this

I enjoy working on a clean, organized desk as much as the next person and find it very hard to come up with anything creative with clutter around me.

FIX: I set apart 5 minutes at the end of every day to ‘reset’ and organize my desk. This ensures that when I set to work the next day, I have a nice clean workspace; everything in its place.

2. Always ‘Reset’

Like your workspace, your working computer can easily become too much to handle – you open a couple of interesting stories from your RSS feeds, then you receive an email from a client who needs some design work urgently so you jump into Photoshop, then you realize you need to download some social media icons so you open some more tabs in your browser, you finish that and fire up your code editor for that project you were working on, then get a Twitter notification…the list goes on!

Always shut down your computer for a clean slate the next day

Always shut down your computer for a clean slate the next day

At the end of the day, you end up with so many little things that need your attention so you hibernate your computer and call it a day; only to start off the next day with the same mess. Do that for a couple of days and you easily get overwhelmed. With each new day, there is so much backlog from the previous one. Confession – am a huge culprit of this one!

FIX: Always close apps/tabs as soon as you’re finished with them. This way, the only things you have open are those that you are working on. To top it all, at the end of the day, shut down your computer, DO NOT hibernate. When you resume the next day, you’ll have a clean slate to tackle the day’s agenda.

3. Create tomorrow’s TO DO LIST… today

There’s nothing that can kill productivity than having lots of things to do but not knowing where to begin. The human mind easily gets bogged down and you may end up procrastinating or doing that which may not necessarily be of highest priority.

You’ll start replying email, then open that notification from twitter which contains a link to 9GAG, then get a call that a project needs changes, jump into Photoshop and effect that, then go for that client meeting you had slotted in, back at your desk, you read a blog or three and before you know it you’re day is done. It was a busy day, but in reality you didn’t accomplish that much!

The trick is to prioritize what needs doing and focus on only one task at any point in time.

FIX: At the end of each day, spare a few minutes and write down the top five things that you have to do the next day in order of priority. This way, when you start working the next day you’ll already know what needs to be done. Also, if your day veers off after only accomplishing one task, then you would have finished the most important item of the day.

4. Get creative *insert your idea here*

Most people have their own way of getting their mind ready to work. Some take a jog early in the morning before settling in for the day, others have that one music playlist that cues them to get focussed…my workmate, Huston, for example, is ready to code in the morning after a hot cup of tea, 3 mandazis, and a samosa! (Psst…you did not hear that from me).

Get creative and figure out what gets the creative juices going then you won’t have to worry about getting focussed.

A few more tips:

  1. Try the Pomodoro technique to knock things off your to-do list.
  2. Schedule your meetings and administrative work for the afternoons, or when creativity is usually low

All in all, I hope you picked up a helpful tip or two from this post. I’d love to know how you get ready and focussed for work. Do share in the comments!

  • Hellen Nafushfush Wangila

    Mmmh I have learned something! Will take a tip!

    • Brian Wangila

      Glad you learnt something :-)

  • awesome workspace….i have seen you use sublime text, me too. get some awesome sublime text packages from github!1

  • Murad Swaleh

    I really need to learn no. 2 and 3. Thanks for sharing :)

  • Neat-seeking Missile

    The pomodoro technique is a doozie! I use it every single day when I’m working, learning new stuff from any of the n books I’m reading at any given time, or reviewing stuff I’ve studied before (in Anki, of course). It just works. Check out “Clockwork Tomato” on Google Play. It’s a nice free app that does the job quite well.

  • Victor Muthoka

    I LIVE on #3 or else my world would crash burn.

  • DeBlitz

    … Unfortunately, there are also those times when everything is out of
    whack – zero inspiration, no ideas and it seems like you can’t get
    anything done. I know am late for comment … Looking for inspiration
    … and I just happened to find a line that really expresses what and
    where I’ve been for the last three months … daamn!!! Thats quite a
    long time right … am self taught you can understand.

    Any way thanks for the great piece … anyway I just found what I really need :

    RESET.

signed. martians.™