Productivity is a popular topic these days and of vital import to the freelance crowd, so I wanted to spend a bit of time talking about one of the ways I approach being productive: multiple utilizations. Which is a pretty terrible way to say, “Don’t spend time on anything that fails to achieve or support at least two of your goals at once.”
Don’t spend time on anything that fails to achieve or support at least two of your goals.
What does that mean? Let’s walk through an example and see if it helps to clarify the concept.
Above is a collection of drawings I did for the #smaugust art challenge, and below is a list of all the ways I’m consciously using these drawings and/or the act of making them.
- Time spent in sketchbook – Testing new tools and techniques, staying in practice, learning to appreciate the value of a sketchbook.
- Time spent drawing dragons – Learning the basic shapes of dragons, which is something I expect to be drawing a lot of in the near future, experimenting with various takes on the dragon form, finding the limits of what’s a dragon vs a monster.
- Posting the sketches online – Connecting myself to the online art community, putting myself “out there”, gaining followers, slowly building an audience for my work.
- Use as marketing material – Each smaugust post I’ve made contains a link to Boneshaker Press’s current Kickstarter campaign, allowing me to market our book to a new audience.
- Motivate fellow Boneshaker Pressers – I’m hoping that my participation will help to motivate my peers to take part as well, which furthers the marketing boost.
- Taking part in a 30 day challenge – This is the first 30 day challenge I’ve done, and I’m finding that I really enjoy it. It’s put me in a position to experiment a lot in my sketchbook (or it would have, had I started at the beginning of August, instead of half way through).
- Potential future revenue stream – I’m creating content that can be collected in the future and turned into a product like a sketchbook.
- Prep for a future blog post – I plan to use ten of these drawings as the foundation for a blog post (or series of blog posts) that investigate the various art making programs on the market today, meaning I don’t have to start from scratch for each test.
- Provide content for a blog post on potency – *ahem*
All this directly connected to a few sketches in my sketchbook.
Failure to recognize the value of your time robs you of the opportunity to fully appreciate it.
Keep in mind that I’m not suggesting that you multitask (a neurological impossibility), focus on multiple projects at once (that would be the opposite of “focus”), or have several priorities (going against the meaning of the word “priority”). These are all ways to sabotage your productivity while convincing yourself that you’re productive by virtue of being busy. Busy does not equal productive. What I’m suggesting is that you recognize the potential value of your time and/or your actions, because failing to recognize the value of your time robs you of the opportunity to fully appreciate it, making it much more difficult to use efficiently.
So how do you do this? What’s the secret? I’ll tell you, and for free no less!
Mash shit together.
Stop drawing mental lines between your activities and let things mix up and gel into something more than their individual components. Creativity comes from the surprising interaction of unrelated ideas. Conceptual separation (and focus) is great for when you know what you want to do, when you already have a plan and it’s just a matter of taking the time to execute it. But if you’re trying to come up with a plan you’ll be much better served by tearing down those walls and opening yourself up to whatever comes your way. Then it’s just a matter of being flexible enough to jump on those opportunities when they present themselves.
Or, instead of mashing ideas together you can take one thing you’ve finished and try to mentally shove it into as many of the items on your to do list as possible. Sure, you’ll often find yourself with a “square peg, round hole” situation, but you’ll be surprised by how often things fit together and how much faster it can be to file the corners off your square peg instead of building a round one from scratch. And because we live in the digital age, it’s very rare that the alterations you make will need to be permanent, so you can turn your square peg into all sorts of shapes and still have a square peg when all is said and done.
In all honesty the real secret is to pay attention and to be open to these sorts of opportunities. You’re not just drawing in your sketchbook (honing your skill, discovering new ideas, planning future projects), you’re not just tweeting about your day (building your brand, finding and connecting with your audience), and you’re not just reading a book (research on a particular topic, expanded knowledge base, study of the craft of writing). Each of those activities can have a huge impact on your future, easily bringing you closer to a half dozen of your goals. Admitting that to yourself, and accepting the responsibility that comes with it, will go a long way towards enabling you to pick and choose how best to spend your time. And that is the secret to productivity.
Understand the value of your time, figure out what you need to accomplish, and then make every minute count.