How to organize your day for maximum productivity and happiness

by Vasco Duarte

Creative workers and concentration, they go together like abstinence and Charlie Sheen. I find myself staring out of the window most of the time and I’m not even real. According to Einstein ‘Genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work.’ I think the same goes for creativity, so it’s time to get back to work. But how?

The secret to success?

My dear friend Maarten Volders is what my mother would have called a human bouncing ball. He’s wild, he’s impulsive, he talks faster than Sebastian Vettel drives his Red Bull Formula 1 car and he’s very easily distracted. Oh, and he has real issues starting up in the morning. He is, you could say, the archetype creative knowledge worker. The strange thing is, he’s one of the most productive guys I know. He is Happy Melly’s Mad Scientist, he’s in charge of the Dare events and he writes blog posts that, although he always says he can’t write, are fun to read. Does he have a secret? Well, sort of.

Get addicted to your routine

Maarten realized that if he wanted to conquer the world, he needed to do something. And since natural order wasn’t an option, he created it. ‘Get addicted to your routine,’ is what he advices. Not routine in a heavy, dogmatic kind of way, but a lightweight version that helps you to focus, but doesn’t hold you back. Creatives need some space in order to come up with those brilliant plans. First tip: make sure your checklist is up to date and keep it flexible. If you like to know more about how to use a checklist in an effective kind of way, try this blogpost on noop.nl on how our Chief Ecosystem Officer uses Remember the Milk.

The Ultimate Guide to Breeding Slugs

Maarten’s second tip: block time. Find balance between ‘being always available’ and ‘getting things done’. Being mostly available but not always works fine, you’ll see. Maarten likes to do the things that need focus in the morning, but that’s up to you. If you feel better (and sharper) in the afternoon, pick that timeslot for work that could use extra concentration. It’s important that you think about what kind of work you should do when. Also, people that blog or do something similar want to keep in touch with what’s new. But before you know it the Internet dragged you from the latest articles on FastCompany to The Ultimate Guide to Breeding Fighting Slugs in Honolulu. A good Internet reader keeps you from distraction, I like Feedly a lot, but that’s me.

Kill the noise. Or embrace it


The next thing Maarten describes is: kill background noise. He means apps, mobile devices and so on, but also children, barking dogs or the sounds of the x-rated video production company two doors down. On the other hand, my ghostwriter works best in a crowded bar, since the busier it is around him, the more the fanfare in his head tunes down. Again, do some research: what works for you? Maarten likes an empty desk against a white wall, while others prefer a rustic coffee table facing a crowded bar. What most people agree on: move around. You can even have different places for different kinds of work. Eventually your brain will recognize the place and slip into work modus.

Celebrate success

But being creative is more than work. Give your brain a rest sometimes. Walk your dog, pet your cat, do a little dance or do something else that doesn’t involve much thinking. Also, Maarten tells us, ‘Open up to serendipity’. Think about why you do what you do. Talk to strangers, listen and tell stories. You never know whom you run into. Last, but certainly not least, celebrate success. I wrote about that before, remember that virtual pie story?

Make sure your checklist doesn’t turn into a never-ending story. It should be a tool that helps you make a difference. Enjoy that part. You’ll see it will make your work more worthwhile.

Do you have more tips to be more productive? Please share them in the comments!

Photo by nnecapa


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