As a creative professional, it is rare to really dive into how to be more productive. It’s the obsession of business people and entrepreneurs; of those chained to desks and working for the weekend, right?
Because you are an entrepreneur! At Film Launch, we encourage all filmmakers, actors, writers, etc., to really take on that YOU are a content entrepreneur.
One component to being a successful and empowered content entrepreneur is to create the freedom to focus on what matters to you without falling victim to the reactionary mindset that is fostered by the current industry set-up.
You wait to be called for an audition, then you jump!
You wait for an opportunity to pitch your project, then you go!
But all of this reaction doesn’t actually allow for deep work, for flow, for creativity.
This is what productivity is really about!
As you continue through your creative career, developing strong work/flow habits that lead to productivity is key.
Before diving into our Top 3 productivity tips for you, let’s address what productivity is not.
It is not adding stuff to your already packed schedule.
It is not falling victim to the hustle mentality that plagues our industry.
It is not buying into the idea that the harder your work and sweat, the more you’ll "get ahead."
None of this is to say that you shouldn’t work hard to achieve the career you want. You should!
But it shouldn’t come at the expense of your health and well-being or through pushing aside your creative inspiration.
Tip #1: Clearing Space to Foster Flow
Your ability to create flow is a function of both your passion for what you’re doing and your ability to produce results!
There may be some areas in your life where you are great at producing results -- making good money waiting tables, doing sales in your survival job, etc. -- but those aren’t where you find passion so they aren’t in that desired Flow Zone.
Conversely, you may be passionate about acting or writing (and even pursuing these professionally) but you still haven’t started producing results, so that passion also doesn’t necessarily foster creative flow.
In a world where we are limited on time (seriously, you only have 168 hours per week) but are able to access limitless energy, crafting your projects, your tasks, or anything you take on, really, to be in that sweet spot of Passion x Producing Results is important.
So, take time to evaluate all of the projects, actions, and tasks you take on each day or each week and ask: Are these both what I’m passionate about AND producing results?
You’ll probably find many things that don’t sit in both areas, and that’s okay!
Here is what you can do:
If you’re passionate about it but it’s not producing results, you can either release that item OR you can seek training and development so that you can produce more results.
If you’re producing results but you’re not passionate about it, you can either release that item, reposition that item, OR replace that item with something that does fit in both categories.
In this case, “repositioning” means creating a new context for that item so you can access the passion associated with it. (This is a great thing to do with survival jobs you’re not quite ready to release, by the way. How will you create a new context for that less-than-optimal job that pays the bills?)
As you start to release items in both buckets, you’re now creating space for deepening your focus and flow around the items (projects, tasks, etc) that you are both passionate about and that live in areas where you produce results!
Tip #2: Using Lists to Your Advantage
Let’s talk about lists for a moment. Do you make them?
Do they seem to grow day after day until you’re overwhelmed by this massive mess of stuff to do, so you just forget about it until you suddenly remember that you forgot something important? (Are you stressed now? Me, too.)
When used with intentionality, lists can be incredibly advantageous.
There are four types of lists that you might consider using in tandem to stay on top of both your day-to-day and your long-term planning.
>>> List #1: Long-Term Goals: A list of your goals for a longer period of time. This could be three months, six months, or even a year or more. Keep this list handy and check in on it once every few weeks to ensure both the items on there still align with what you’re up to AND to ensure you’re taking regular action toward those goals.
>>> List #2 Impact Actions: This is a list of the weekly or monthly actions you’re going to take to fulfill on your career. This could be updating your website, writing on your screenplay, reaching out to potential managers, or more.
>>> List #3 Tasky-Tasks: This is a list of the mundane, boring tasks you do to keep on keeping on. Going to the bank, paying that bill, going shopping, cleaning your house. These are the things to put on this list.
Why? Because we don’t want the mundane tasks to mix in with your Impact tasks. Both are important, but they have different intentionality behind them.
This list is also great for when you’re feeling a bit burnt out or uninspired. Having trouble getting started writing today? Don’t just sit there and do nothing (or worse, make yourself wrong for not taking action). Tackle some tasky-tasks so you’re making progress even in the gaps.
>>> List #4: Your DAB List: DAB stands for Daily Action Breakdown. These are the Impact Actions you’re taking on TODAY to make progress toward your goals.
Marking what you’re taking on each day into a separate, shorter list helps you take advantage of a very important and naturally occurring productivity boost: dopamine. This is a naturally-occurring hormone that is released each time you have a win or achieve something, and that includes crossing things off a list. (Yes, this is why that feels so good!)
And creating a special (shorter) list of what you’re taking on for that day keeps you from feeling like even though you’ve crossed a few things off the list, you’re still under a mountain of things to do. It keeps you focused on what you’ve said there is to do today so you can do it confidently and fully!
Tip #3: Implementing Work Blocks to Deepen Your Creative Focus
Once you have your lists crafted (or before then, even) start to work differently using timed blocks designed to dial in your focus.
The most famous version of work blocking is called the Pomodoro Technique, where one identifies a single task, sets a 25-minute timer, and focuses solely on this task for the duration of the 25 minutes. No email, text, social media, or other distractions; those are off for the full 25 minutes. And no multitasking! Only single-tasking.
Once you’re done with your timed block -- whether it be 25 minutes or longer, but no longer than 50 minutes -- then it is time to take a 5-10 minute break. This is where you might check in on emails and texts to catch up on anything urgent (and I mean urgent). Or better yet, get up, stretch, drink some water, do some breathing or meditation, or connect with someone.
Then once your break is done, dive back in, either continuing your task or refocusing on a new task for the next work block.
Repeat this process a few times but note that highly-focused work starts to have diminishing returns after 2 hours, so it’s best to take a longer break after your four 25-minute blocks or two 50-minute blocks to allow your mind to refresh.
Also remember, these work blocks are best used for your Impact Actions versus Tasky-Tasks -- those items that require highly-focused, deep concentration.
The practice of freeing up your time to focus on what really matters for you is not something you do one time. It is a muscle, a habit you build. And you may find you need to adjust your habits and tactics as you continue to grow in your life and your career as well.
However, take time to try out these tips above and see where and how flow starts to open up for you as you continue forth as a content entrepreneur creating a powerful and impactful creative career.
Joanna Bowzer is a growth marketing and audience development strategist as well as a film and content producer. She is a founder of Film Launch, which supports content entrepreneurs in developing and launching their projects.