The Key Ingredient to Productivity
When you’re a performer or working in a performing arts organization and doing #allthethings, it’s necessary to be efficient and productive. And a KEY ingredient to being truly productive is a positive attitude.
Yes, that sounds super-Pollyanna, but hear me out. Even with the best tricks, coolest productivity tools/apps, and most organized space ever, you’re just not going to be as productive if your attitude sucks.
When you’re grudgingly trying to get things done, it doesn’t feel good. If it doesn't feel good then things get put off and put off, and over time nothing gets done.
When you have a better attitude, then you feel the satisfaction when getting things done that creates the motivation that helps continue to propel you forward.
Hooray for a fabulous snowball effect!
So how can we get into this better attitude?
There are a number of ways to do this. Following are a few of my favorites:
Have a solid morning routine.
This is especially important when you work from home or have a schedule that doesn’t fit into the standard “9 to 5” mold. (Which is many of us creatives/performers.) Without a boss to say "be here at 8:30am, showered, presentable, and ready to work," it’s reeeeeeeeeeeeally easy to let things slide. Though lounging in the jammies can be delightful as an occasional indulgence, as a daily occurrence it can really suck the energy out of you and make it harder to be productive.
Keep in mind, this morning routine doesn’t have to be a big, huge to-do. It can be as simple as, “Shower. Put on real clothes. Eat a real breakfast.” It can also, of course, be more involved and include meditating, working out, and whatever else you need to do in the morning to kick start your day.
After all, when you start your day off to a good start, you have a much better chance of keeping it going all day.
Need some ideas and inspiration? The site My Morning Routine has all sorts of people’s routines to check out!
Pro Tip: Did your morning go horribly awry? My go-to cure for a morning that's exploded on me is to have breakfast for lunch and pretend I’m starting my day over again. This works every. single. time. For those I've recommended it to, it's worked for them as well.
P.S. - If you’re able, sneak in a nap too. 26 minutes is the time deemed optimal by NASA. Seriously. NASA studied naps, and their studies showed that a 26-minute nap enhanced performance by 34% and overall alertness by 54%. (source) Let me tell you, the NASA Nap is fabulous. You can even upgrade that with a “coffee nap” which is when you drink a cup of coffee before said nap. Sleep your 26 minutes and by the time you wake up the caffeine will have kicked in, helping you override “nap funk” and get going quicker afterwards. #benefitofbothworlds
Daytime Routines and Practices
Identify your natural rhythms. What are your natural highs and lows through the day? Schedule high focus tasks during the high points and easier tasks during your lows.
Get everything on your calendar. This may sound rigid and trite, but it helps to visually see everything you've got going on. Then you know if you've over-scheduled yourself or been overly ambitious with your goals. Ambition is good but regularly not meeting your goals can be a mood-killer. Set realistic goals to maintain motivation and keep moving forward.
Work smart. We're not made to work 8 hours straight without breaks. Our focus just can't hold up that long. Here are two time-management methods you can play around with to help you remember to take breaks:
Pomodoro Technique. Work for 25 minutes (called a “pomodoro”) followed by a 5 minute break. After 4 “pomodoros,” take a 15 minute break.
52/17 Split. Work for 52 minutes, followed by a 17 minute break. During that break get up, stretch, and do something *completely* different. Of the two, this is the one I prefer.
Pro Tip: this handy-dandy web app called the Marinara Timer will help you keep track. It works as a Pomodoro timer, a custom timer (like for the 52/17 split), and a regular kitchen timer.
Create routines that help focus. What do you need to do to get yourself into the right mindset to work and have flow? I have different routines depending upon what I’m working on. Sometimes I make some tea/coffee, light a candle and play some music. Other times, I pick a TV show I love and have seen a kajillion times as background noise. Really, it depends on what the project needs and then I do what I need to do to put myself in the proper mood and mental framework.
Eat well and move your tush. You're not going to have the most energy and feel your best if you're not fueling yourself well. Now I'm not talking about insane diets or even weight loss. Just eat real, whole foods as close to their natural state as possible. Pay attention to how you feel after you eat them. Do you feel great and energized? Awesome! Keep eating that. Do you feel drained or gross? Don't eat that food anymore or at least save it for a time that you don't need to be productive afterwards.
Been sitting too long? Dance around the house or go for a walk. Sitting for too long stagnates brain and body. Do something to get the blood flowing again.
Meditation and/or Morning Pages. The meditation doesn’t have to be a big thing. Maybe just take 5 minutes (or even only 1!) to sit in silence and take deep breaths. Or repeat some mantras or affirmations that make you feel better. Maybe lounge out and listen to some soothing sounds or music.
Morning Pages is a technique from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. (A book I HIGHLY recommend when you’re feeling creatively stuck.) It calls for writing - by hand! - 3 pages every morning when you first wake up. No judgement. No editing. No thinking about it really. Just write. It’s a way to clean the slate, wipe away the fog, and clear a path for creativity and work.
Whatever you do, taking some time to kick the mental chatter that can be detrimental to so many things in our lives.
Remove, remove, remove. Sometimes getting into a better flow isn't as much about forcing something through as it is removing the unnecessary so that there's nothing blocking the flow. This can be toxic influences such as people, things, and thoughts. This can be actual clutter. Just make sure to let go of anything and everything that is no longer serving you or making your life better.
Find or create a space that supports your work. Working from home can be...challenging. It’s super-easy to get distracted by all the home things. Either create a distraction-free space inside your home or locate a few spaces outside your home that you can work from. I know personally that I can easily get much more done in 3 hours in a coffee shop than I can all day in my home. So I’m always on the lookout for spaces I can #remoteoffice from. Try out places until you find just the right space to help you get things done!
Regular accountability. Find a friend who will lovingly hold you accountable. I know I see more progress in my work when I have someone I regularly meet with and discuss the goings on going on. If you don't have someone who will help hold you accountable, then find someone and help each other. It's important that they be firm but fair, and truly have your best interests at heart.
Find positive support. To go along with that regular accountability you want to find people who positively support you. There's nothing better for maintaining a great attitude then to know you have people who support you, your goals, and dreams. As performers, we’re constantly faced with rejection. It’s important to have a solid support system behind you. Sometimes it takes a while to find them, but you'll know it when you do.