I’ve written about productivity before on this blog and all three links in this sentence will open up new tabs to past posts. As someone with attention and focus issues, I’m always looking for ways to stay organized and on task. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you probably noticed that I’ve been bulletjournaling since May. I’ve been meaning to do a post on that, but then I had a lot of thoughts, and so many feelings, so here we are.
This is going to be a four-part productivity and creativity series of posts. I’ll post once a day over the next four business days. Don’t look for a particular strategy there: I’m away at a book festival this weekend and I want to be around to talk about these things with you all. It’s purely selfish. I typed that “shellfish” at first. Do you see what I mean about attention and focus issues?
The first post will be about productivity loops, how to watch for them, and how to get out of them without denying yourself the truest pleasure of diving into productivity blackholes (while reading about productivity…this blog series *might* be exactly what I’m warning against). The second post will be about routines, and how I set a routine as a writer with a demanding full-time dayjob and mental health issues. The third post will be sharing some other resources for whom these posts aren’t working. And the fourth post (Monday) will be about bullet journaling and how I use it as a Person and as a Writer.
Because we all know Writers aren’t People. We are Cylons, sitting amongst you, eavesdropping and stealing bits of your life and dialogue. Now you know.
Welcome to Part One.
What’s the productivity loop?
Where productivity research and exploration becomes a means of procrastination.
Yeah, that’s right. I’m calling us all out on it. I’m as guilty as the rest of you.
This isn’t saying all productivity research and exploration is bad. Sometimes your brain needs downtime. I believe thinking and walking and daydreaming are all writing-tasks, and so productivity research and exploration also fall into this category. I believe journaling and making to-do lists and making lists and doodling and handlettering things to be vital to all types of people, including creative types.
But you know what I’m talking about. At some point, it crosses the line and you’re just avoiding doing the productivity tool yourself, or being productive yourself. Trust me, I know. I can spend literal hours on Instagram and Pinterest looking at bullet journal layouts I’ll never use because I’ve figured out my system and I like it. If I was only looking at the bullet journal hashtag when I needed to set up layouts for a new month and wanted to try something new, that’d be one thing. More often than not, though, I’ll find myself doing it when I should be writing. In time that I dedicated to writing.
So I try to be more mindful about when I’m using a work-related task as a path to procrastination instead of a path to productivity. This involves some self-awareness, such as checking in with myself. “Is this the right time to do this? Is there other time in my schedule to do this? Do I need this right now instead of writing because I’m burning out? Or am I just being lazy?”
And it involves a little bit of check on my lack-of-self-control. I added Instagram to the list of blacklisted sites for the app I use to block certain parts of the internet. Without the app, I wouldn’t get anything done. And sometimes, I need to add more websites to it because I find places to procrastinate that aren’t Twitter or Facebook, the original two sites I blocked. Now I block most major newspaper sites to which I’m subscribed (because the news, y’all), Instagram, Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.
I’ve also started scheduling time into the end of my month for me to indulge in Instagram bullet journal layout drooling and productivity blog reading. I’ve found that it helps me a) stay focused b) have fewer excuses c) actually implement some of the ideas I find because I’m setting up next month’s journal at the same time d) set goals for the next month.
It’s important to note that not all of your not-dayjob time should be Productive with a capital P. You don’t even need to be productive in your procrastination. You also need to eat, sleep, take a walk or go outside for fresh air, watch good tv, watch bad tv, read books, etc. That’s also productive. Being a human being is productive. Your Productiveness does not have to equal a certain amount of output. You do not have to prove you were productive to anyone (as long as you’re doing the work you’ve been paid to do, because that’s also important.). You don’t have to justify the use of your free time.
Let me say that again. You do not have to justify how you use your free time. (Click to Tweet This)
You as a creative person are allowed to have free time!
But Designated Productive Creative Time is not free time. If you do designate time from your day as Productive Creative Time, and you find you’re spending more time learning how to be productive in that creative time than actually being productive in that creative time, maybe check yourself before you wreck yourself. Try moving that research, that blog reading, that Instagram rabbit hole into another part of your day, and use your creativity time to do whatever you actually meant to do in that time. Because the thing about productivity is…you can read about it all you want, and redesign your bullet journal as many times as you can, and order all the stickers, and use all the planners, and fill in your calendar, but if you aren’t doing what you want to do, then…it’s not working.
Trust me. I know. I feel much better at the end of the day when I’ve written my words than if I didn’t write my words but I read blog posts about how to write more words.
So disrupt the productivity loop. Don’t let learning to be productive come in the way of actually being productive. Don’t let researching creativity and being more creative get in the way of actually making creative works.
And I’ll see you tomorrow with a post about routines, and what works for me as a writer with a full-time dayjob and mental health issues. Thanks for stopping by!
If you like this, please share it! Because the more people I distract by talking about how they shouldn’t be distracted, the more amusing this whole thing will be 🙂