A guide to staying focussed, productive, balancing work and life and getting sh*t done.

When you think about the creative process, productivity is not always the first thing that comes to mind. However, it is important to treat it as a tool that allows you to think more holistically and strategically about projects and desired outcomes. Ultimately, the less cluttered your day is with unimportant tasks and general noise, the more you can focus on what is important.

Our Head of Production, Marta Szymanska shares ten ways in which you can level up your productivity.

Data is king.
Every day we get distracted by dealing with fires, many ad-hoc assignments, meetings that should have been an email, as well as ever-alluring procrastination. This reactiveness and wastefulness take away our ability to focus on long-term thinking and getting done the work we need to do. You can help yourself by tracking your time to visualise how you are spending your day. Write down an honest list of everything you do for at least a week. This will be your first step to reevaluating your daily actions and give you a clear picture of what you are doing.

List and prioritise.
Now that you have all the necessary data, how are you going to rebalance and keep your focus? Nothing has yet replaced a simple ‘to-do list’, whether it is a clean physical piece of paper, post-it note, calendar or an app. As long as you can easily access it at all times. Be specific (purpose, due date, etc.) and mark the importance (colour coding, scale of 1-10 or simply the order). With your focused attention, you can start adding value where it is most important.

Scheduling tips.
The way you plan your day will make a big difference to your productivity. You should start the day with the most demanding project, when you are fresh and not yet fatigued. If you have similar tasks, try grouping them together to save your brain from constant recalibration. Balance your daily list: give yourself a break and tackle easier tasks in between harder ones. Most importantly: don’t try to multitask! Do one thing at a time and do it well.

Cultivate healthy routines and habits.
In the current situation, we need to find motivation and remember to cultivate and build new routines and habits. It is important to stick to your daily cadence such as having lunch at the same time, doing regular and scheduled stand-ups and team reviews, and finishing work on time.

Discover the power of ‘DND’ (do not disturb) and whenever you can, try working in 60-90 min intervals where you are not interrupted by Slack, phone, emails, or social media. At the end of the day take 5 minutes to reflect – what could have been done better and try to incorporate it into the next day.

Create your own reward system.
How about a coffee every time you cross off 3 tasks? Maybe a 15 min walk, desk yoga, chat with a colleague, a few minutes to read the article you saw this morning? Whatever it is that can recharge you and help being productive for the hours to come. Maybe you can take the rest of the day off if you’ve delivered a whole project or a big part of it?

Use deadlines to your advantage.
Even I could run a marathon, but in what time? The art is not to do something but do it in a timely manner.

Apply sprint mentality to your process and break projects into digestible actions, which means setting short time limits and reviewing work regularly (i.e. critiquing your moodboards every 30 min). It will prevent you from losing track of your goals, feeling overwhelmed, and completing each task will feel like an accomplishment.

It is about moving things forward and not solving everything at once. Fight the common misconception that the more time you spend on something, the better it will be. Deadlines help stop you from procrastinating or overthinking.

Work less.
You simply cannot operate at full speed all the time. When you feel like you are hitting a creative wall, try to think outside the box. Take a little break, talk to a colleague about your conundrum, read an interesting article, look at inspiring art. Creativity likes company – organise a brainstorming session with your colleagues or call a Spotlight review. There are many tools that keep it possible, even if you work from home. Conference calls can be supported by screen sharing, digital walls where everyone can add their reference and post-it notes, online decks that everyone can input to simultaneously.

Organise your space – physical and digital.
Your working area should be clean and organised but also aesthetically pleasing. You spend so much time at your desk – make it yours. When working at home, try to separate your working and living spaces as much as possible. If possible, pack your workstation away for the weekend.

Don’t ever assume you are the only person who can do the job. Learn to delegate work and don’t micromanage. Give feedback and teach your teammates how to fish – that is true leadership. Delegating probably won’t be fully successful every time. Don’t get discouraged and think about all the time you’ve just gained back.

Reflect on your progress regularly and make the routines work for you, not vice versa. The most important thing is to ask yourself: does it help me get shit done and also focus on long-term career goals?