Productivity hacks for creatives and marketers: part two

January 5, 2018

By Sam Davies

New year, new you.

Bet you’ve heard that (highly original) phrase rather a lot recently, eh? *Yawns*

Forget the unrealistic goal setting (and cancel that new gym membership). Instead, focus on the things you can change. Like increasing productivity, one simple step at a time. 

Don’t know where to start? Never fear, we’ve got you covered in part one of over here.

Or dive into our second offering below.

You can read it while enjoying your new vegan-inspired, Kombucha-infused, chia-seed green smoothie with added coconut oil. (Or, like us, while tucking into the leftover posh M&S assorted biscuit tin. Might as well start as we mean to continue.)

Think outside the inbox

McKinsey Global Institute study discovered the average employee spends 13 hours a week on email. Now, I failed maths miserably, but I’m pretty sure that’s the best part of two days. Two days that could be spent creating, innovating, planning and delivering actual billable work.

It brings a whole new meaning to the term junk mail.

The average employee loses nearly two days of work a week to email.

Turn your email notifications off once in a while. Set up a polite but firm not-at-desk message explaining that you are immersed in a project and will dip into emails at set times throughout the day.

And should the powers that be argue that clients simply shouldn’t wait an hour or two for a reply, ask them to do five things:

  1. Write down that statement
  2. Read it out loud  
  3. All have a little laugh at its ridiculousness
  4. Reassure them that you’re not suggesting a ban on emails
  5. Ask them to research the numerous corporations who have actually profited from limiting email usage, like these ones. 

Get some perspective

Oh, if only I had more hours in a day!

I call bulls**t.

As someone very wise once remarked, we have the same number of daily hours as Clooney, Beyoncé et al. (Ok ok, albeit less nannies, cooks and PAs. But you get the point.)

Personally, if I had more time I guarantee it’d still be spent feeling overwhelmed and/or procrastinating.

To paraphrase efficiency master David Allen

Time is not our issue. Space is.

We’ve all been there – where a flash of inspiration just ‘happens’, with seemingly zero hours put in.

And it ‘happens’ thanks to what Mr. DA calls ‘Psychic Bandwidth’.

In other words, flashes of creative genius come as a result of space to think.

When you’re running from pillar to post, you’re not in control. When you’re not in control, you’re not focused. When you’re not focused, you can’t make decent decisions, and you certainly can’t be creative.

Instead, your creative energy is being used to patch up. To get the banal done. To react. To just about keep up with the daily mess.

Treading water in a cesspit of the minute and mundane is not the way forward.

You need to come up for air. To breathe, think and focus. (And dry off.)

You need distance to be innovative.

It’s during those times of clarity, those moments away from projects – the ones that occur after a good night’s sleep, in the shower, on the toilet – where the true magic happens. The magic that will ultimately solve that creative problem, or win that pitch, or bring in the big bucks.

More often than not, investing more time in the more distant ‘thinking’ and ‘planning’ actually results in far less, but far more potent time ‘doing’.

That’s productivity right there.

So, if you really want to move the needle, get space. Particularly of the head variety.

Easier said than done we know. But as luck would have it, there are some brilliant blogs, books and apps out there to help.

Not the usual ten-a-penny ‘get all your ducks in a row while optimising innovative solutions through blue-sky thinking’ marketing crap.

Real, applicable tips and tricks from masters of the productivity trade.

Find some headspace here.

Get things done here and here.

Learn to prioritise here

The power of lists…and frogs

Mark Twain once advised: "Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse can happen to you for the rest of the day." While we don't condone the daily consumption of helpless amphibians, he has a point.

According to Brian Tracy's best-seller 'Eat That Frog', your Kermit should be the most challenging undertaking on your to-do list – the one you're most likely to put off. Suck it up and get it done – having it sitting there, croaking all day will only drain you of energy and focus. So, take a look at your list first thing every morning. Circle that beast of a task. Then devour it! Everything else by comparison will be a breeze.

Speaking of lists, optimise them with web app Wunderlist. This free tool syncs across all your devices so you'll never have to sort through multiple notes jotted in multiple notebooks again. Lists can easily be reordered, shared, categorised and sub-categorised with set reminders and recurring to-dos.

The daddy of all personal organisers however, is arguably Evernote. Think of it as your digital filing cabinet for everything. And we mean everything. Scan and save a web page in its entirety in one click. Take written and voice notes away from the office and sync with your desktop. You can even tag your resources to appear in multiple folders much like blog categorisation. For some, Evernote is a little overwhelming. But for others it is the ultimate in paperless organisation.

Projects – whether solo or collaborative team efforts – needn't be a big unproductive mess. There are some great collaborative online project-management tools out there such as Basecamp and Trello which are extremely easy to use and useful for tracking day-to-day tasks, whether for multiple large-scale enterprises or small freelance jobs.

So, if you find yourself short on time, short on focus or short on inspiration, don't despair. It's all part and parcel of the job, and can easily be remedied.

And if all else fails, here’s a devilishly brilliant catalogue of procrastination sites