Balancing work and life was a major challenge for me in 2015. To be honest, I felt like I failed miserably at it. I promised myself that 2016 will be different. If there is one thing I learned last year, it’s that trying to be TOO productive is actually counterproductive. It’s also a surefire way to kill your creativity. Since my entire livelihood depends on being creative, something had to give. I needed to find a way to balance work and life while increasing the right kinds of productivity. The tasks that made me better at my job.
I’ve learned a lot over five years of running Pretty Opinionated (that’s right, she turns 5 this year!), but it took me years to actually learn to follow my own advice. I’m sharing my insight with you with easy things you can do to increase your productivity and be more creative this year. I’d also love to hear any tips you have on balancing work and life!
Tips to Be More Creative & Productive
Define Your Unique Creativity and Productive Goals
First things first, you have to decide what “being productive” really means to YOU. Not to me, not to that great author who wrote that 500-page book you’ve been reading about being productive, but to YOU. What do you really want to accomplish this year? Try to avoid vague goals. Everyone wants to make more money. Every blogger wants more traffic. These aren’t your unique to you. For me, my goals are:
- Spend more time writing and less time thinking about writing. I tend to get lost in the brainstorming process, coming up with ideas that never go anywhere because by the time I’m done writing down ideas, I’m too mentally fried to actually write!
- Take three pictures just for fun every day. I have years worth of blog photos and so few “just because” photos. By taking pictures for fun, I’ll learn more about my camera and photography. I’ll also be brainstorming ideas in a different way, because you never know what thousand words a picture will inspire. Even if I don’t learn anything, I’ll at least have some work-life balance. You can’t take pictures of life without actually living it, after all. This is one of my favorite for fun pictures. I attempted a photo shoot with my kitten. Attempted being the operative word there! Kittens are very squirmy!
- Declutter with a purpose. My house is outrageously cluttered, mostly because I don’t feel like I have time to declutter. I feel like organizing cuts into the time I can spend writing or actually doing fun stuff. So rather than just saying “I’ll get organized,” I’ve decided to give it purpose. I’ll combine organizing with decorating, I’ll use my organization tactics as inspiration for blog posts, I’ll go through all Jake’s old baby toys and give them to my friend. That way, decluttering becomes more about increasing productivity AND increasing creativity.
Now you try! Sit down and write down your goals. Then write down WHY you’ve made these goals, and specific ways to tailor them to your personality.
Never Let An Idea Go Unnoticed As I said, I spend a lot of time thinking about writing. I brainstorm all day, every day. I came up with five different ideas just writing the first tip. You’ll drastically increase your productivity and creativity if you give every idea- even the strangest ones- their due recognition. Write them down in a notebook or spreadsheet. Make a voice memo to yourself on your phone. You don’t have to write anything complicated. Sometimes I just scribble down a word or two to trigger my memory later.
Out With the Old to Make Room for the New
I don’t love cleaning, but I do love shredding. I find it very cathartic. It’s like meditation for me. Yes, I’m that girl that absentmindedly shreds napkins at restaurants. Throughout the year, I toss everything I get on paper into a decorative box, then deal with it when I have time. I usually declutter the box about once every other month. During my January purge, I get rid of all the checks that I’ve deposited through mobile banking, press releases from the holidays and random papers related to Jake’s schooling, insurance, etc. I shred all that paper with my Fellowes 79Ci shredder, especially anything with my personal info on it, like those checks. The fact that I can shred up to 16 sheets of paper at a time (even with staples still attached) over a 20-minute run time makes me feel really productive. Since my mom lives with me and answers phones for my brother’s law firm, she needs quiet during the day. I can achieve my zen-like state of shredding in near silence with the SilentShred™ Technology. Since the 79Ci is energy-efficient, that zen-like state isn’t shattered when my electric bill comes.
I’m a speed cleaner, meaning I try to go as fast as humanly possible when it comes to any task that involves cleaning and decluttering. It drives my mom nuts because she’s afraid I’ll hurt myself (mostly because of my klutzy gene and the fact that I have actually fallen both up AND down the steps during speed cleaning). Thankfully, the Fellowes 79Ci has a patented SafeSense® Technology that stops the shredding if my fingers get to close, and a 100% Jam Proof System so I don’t end up slowing down the works. It even lights up to let me know if I’m trying to stuff too much paper in it. Learn more about the Fellowes 79Ci, then find it at Amazon and Office Superstores for a suggested retail price of $239.99.
Break the so-called rules if you need to!
I learned long ago that when I try to be too regimented and follow all the “rules” for productivity, I end up getting nothing accomplished. That rule about being an early bird and getting all your work done before noon? I can’t even think before at least 10am! I also can’t think linearly, so I rarely start posts with an intro (I go back up and write it somewhere in the middle). It doesn’t really matter how you get things done, as long as you’re getting them done while achieving a work-life balance in the end.
Increasing your productivity and creativity doesn’t have to be a major challenge. It’s really about focusing on what works best for you. Follow your own instincts, even if they go against all the advice out there for how to be more productive.
Tell me your best tips for being more productive and increasing your creativity! I’d love to hear them!