4 Tips To Get More Done As A Creative
Updated: Dec 8, 2020
Hey friends and welcome back to the Alex Makes VR podcast. In today's episode, I want to talk about how to get more done as a creative. A lot of you starting your business or your freelance journey, even established creatives listening to this will know that one of the biggest enemies of any creative is, time. We only have a finite amount of it. So how do we make the most of it? So in today's episode, I'm going to dive into four key tips, I would say that don't involve sacrificing sleep or your social life. Although I'm not gonna lie, I've definitely done that in the past, and that will help you get more done as a creative. If you've got a subject or a question for future episodes, then you can hit me up on social media, it's @alexmakesvr on all platforms.
This is a full transcription of the podcast episode. Alternatively you can listen to the podcast here:
Okay, let's dive straight in with tip number one. This one is a really powerful one and if you can wrap your head around this and it takes a bit of trial and error to get it to work in your own life, in your own schedule, but if you can nail it, if you can manage to incorporate it into your life, it will be a game changer, I promise. This is a concept that I learned in Tim Ferris’s Four Hour Workweek, aka my Bible, because I do reference every other episode. The number one tip for getting more done as a creative is single tasking. Single tasking - it is so much easier said than done. We all know as creatives, especially when you're working on a small budget, when you're a small business, when you've just started out, when you're a freelancer who's got everything to do yourself, you've got to do your own marketing, you've got to do your email outreach, you've got to reply to emails, you've got to do your accounting, you've got to, you know, you've got to actually learn the skill of photography or VR or coding, whatever it is that you do. You've got to modernise, you've got to keep up to date with industry news, you've got to be networking, you've got to keep on top of those WhatsApp groups. There's so many things that come along with having a creative career, and especially a creative career, if you work for yourself. It's sometimes really easy to fall into the trap of multitasking and regardless of what you may think about multitasking, you think - oh if I multitask, I'm gonna be able to get more done but actually, the brain power that it sucks up to be able to switch tasks is taking more away from you, it is reducing the quality of your work, it's going to reduce your capacity to be more efficient and more creative long term. The number one tip I can give you is to single task. Now, people do this in all different ways…for example you could time block. So you could say - okay, for two hours this morning, I'm going to write a chapter of my book, or for two hours this morning, I'm going to learn how to do HDR bracketing with my particular camera or whatever it might be. So you could block time and save those two hours, where I'm not doing anything other than that. And that includes responding to personal messages, checking Facebook, answering phone calls, like nothing. Unless it's an emergency, you shouldn't be doing anything during that set time block, as the only way that you can get into what they call ‘the flow state’, into that kind of deep work, where you really get into a task, and all of a sudden time just seems to fly by because you were just so in the zone. That's what it is. That's what single tasking does. It allows you to unlock that kind of flow state and you can't get there if you're constantly jumping around tasks.
The way I like to try and do this, as someone that does have so many varied tasks on a week to week basis is, I like to split up my days, based on tasks and to be honest, I used to be quite rigid with that but I found recently, that it helps to just be able to swap them around at the last minute or sometimes I'll wake up and be like - you know what? I’m so knackered today, I was supposed to be creative today but I just know that I'm not going to get my best creative work done. So I'm going to switch out and have an admin day. I basically theme my days aka I'm going to be replying to my emails, reply to my comments, reply to you, you know those where where you just clear everything? On another day I'm going to be setting tasks, for my contractors or I'm going to be doing all of that managerial stuff. On another day, I’m going to do creative. So that day, I'm going to be recording podcasts, I'm going to be writing scripts, I'm going to be writing newsletters, I'm going to be writing posts. All of those kind of bits and bob, so that way I can kind of stay in that state, my brain doesn't have to constantly switch. There's so many studies that prove that single tasking, especially in this day and age where our attention is constantly being grabbed at, it is a form of a superpower and you will get so much more done, you will feel a lot more productive. You know those days when you feel like you've definitely been doing stuff all day, but you couldn't actually say what you've done? You don't feel like you've made any progress? Those are the days where you've constantly been task switching usually. Whereas if you have these deep focus, single tasks, time blocked, so whether it's a full day or whether it's just an hour in the morning or whether it's a hour after lunch or whatever it might be those two hours, those eight hours, you don't check your phone. If you're going to check your phone you schedule when you're going to check your phone, but know that as soon as you do, as soon as you break that state, it will take you…I think scientists think around 20 minutes to get back into that flow state. Super, super helpful tip, this one genuinely changed my life. It’s the one thing that I read and was like - oh my god, I feel like that is potentially going to be the key to making me feel so much more clear headed, it's going to mean I'm going to get so much more done. Weirdly, I got more time back from single tasking too because instead of wasting eight hours jumping around doing lots of different tasks, by focusing in on one particular task, and absolutely smashing it getting it done, within an hour or two, I felt on top of the world, I've just accomplished this big task that I wanted to do today and now anything else is a bonus. I've literally just took what I thought was gonna take a whole day and I've done it in an hour. Quids in, amazing. Now what I want to do with the rest of the day is a bonus. So highly recommend single tasking.
Okay, number two, understanding that done is better than perfect. This one, I did a whole episode about it previously, it's so important as a creative to remind yourself, that done is better than perfect. That script that you've been writing for the last year, that photo that you keep retaking, because it's just not quite the perfect composition, that edit that you've gone back to for the seventh time. Just finish it. Just put it out into the world, whatever it is that you want to accomplish, whether it's posting on social media more or getting more client work, or whatever it is, done is always better than perfect.
Isn't it funny that as a creative, if a client deadline is Friday at midday, you will deliver a photo, a video, a VR game, whatever creative outlet it is, you will deliver that by Friday at midday, whatever it takes, even if it means staying up all night to get it finished, you will finish it. And they'll always be that part of you as a creative, but it's always like - oh, I could have been better. I wish I did this, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, they'll always be those little demons in your head. Because after all, that is the curse of being a creative person, but you'll always get it done. When it comes to your own work, though, because you've not got a deadline, that's really, really hard to do, it's really hard to say, you know what, enough is enough. So, maybe try and get an accountability partner, maybe set yourself a hard deadline and make yourself accountable to it, whether that be you know, you tell someone that you will get something delivered to them. So it might be - for me, it might be a draft of the script, I'm going to deliver it to you on this day, at this time, please block out an hour in your calendar to you know, read through it. Therefore, I know I have to hit that deadline, you know, like create these like things.
f it's just a case of you just want get better at something, if you just want to put something out in the world. Don't be that person that sits on a piece of work for five years, and then sees other people posting and like - oh, I could have done that. Or I have that idea, It’s like cool, but that person actually did it, that person put it out. And you know, you see something a lot, and I had a similar idea to that, but I feel like I could have done it better. But actually you couldn't have because the only way too, the only way for you have to have done it better is if you'd actually done it. You know, I've definitely…this is a bit of a ramble but I've definitely been that person in the past and then I realised you know what, though? Anyone doing anything creative is a goddamn miracle, like in this day and age where the creative industries are so under scrutiny, they're so under fire, and money is so hard to come by because so many people can do it and you've got these big monopolies in these tech companies and you know, the distribution systems aren't the same and although there's so many benefits to that, there's also so many downsides. For anyone to make something creative these days is a goddamn miracle. It's amazing. So even if something is a bit naff fair play to the person that actually got off their ass and actually made something, fair play to the person that has been posting on social media every day for the last five years, even if they've you know, not got the subscriber count that they want because I tell you what, it’s bloody hard, isn't it? If you're listening to this, you know how hard is to get anything done but that's the truth - done is always better than perfect. Especially because a lot of the time we have this idea of what perfection is, but we'll never actually be able to achieve it, perfection itself is a myth. It's totally subjective. Unless you're doing something that's so personal to you, it’s such a personal project and actually, you're not doing it for anything other than to just, you know, it's a lifelong piece of creativity that you want to make and put out into the world on your deathbed. Unless it's that situation, there's no excuse. Done is better than perfect. Put it out into the world, stop judging yourself, stop holding yourself back. By saying, you know, it's just not quite right, just, I promise done is better than perfect. There's a great quote, I can't remember who says it but the quote is that art is always abandoned, never finished, every artist feels the same. Every creative person feels the same, just put it out.
Okay. Tip number three, is delegate if possible. This one, I'm still learning, I have contractors who work for me and I still struggle to delegate, I still find it really difficult to know which tasks to give someone else to do because I'm just so used to working by myself, I'm so used to having to do everything by myself. I'm also so used to the way that I do things, so it's really hard to start delegating, but I swear to you, if you do have someone that you can delegate to, it will make your life so much easier. The key thing with delegating is to take time, think about what your number one superpower is, think about the number one thing that you love to do, the thing that you're passionate about, the thing that you think you're probably the best at that one thing and just think anything else, give it to someone else to do, whether that be off the top of my head, and I you want to create a a pitch deck but graphic design isn't really your strong suit, you actually want to be going out there having client conversations, then outsource that, like get some one else to do it. It doesn't have to be like an employee, it doesn't have to be someone that you pay loads of money, you could find, you know, a free template version and ask your creative brother to have a little tinker with it. And you could get an intern who really wants the experience of working on creative projects, themselves, like whatever it is, just take away as much as possible. That time that you spend on stuff that isn’t the number one thing that you're the best at. For me, I’ve realised that the number one thing I'm great at, I think I'm the thing, even if I'm not the best at it, the thing that I love to do, the thing I'm passionate about is things like this…like recording the podcast, being creative, being a kind of a marketer, and having conversations with people and clients and you guys like that's the thing that I love. So the things that I don't love are editing the podcast, or scheduling the newsletter or things like that. I like to use my brain power to kind of like, try and build my client base, I like to help people because I know that, that's my superpower. So everything else possible, I outsource or I get a contractor to do it. Whether that be a bookkeeper that keeps on top of all of my accounting, or whether that be someone that designs, the templates for the social media posts that I do, like whatever it is, if it's not my superpower, it's not something that I consider myself to be the best at or not something that I'm super passionate about, I will try and delegate to someone else. And again, easier said than done. I'm still definitely guilty of taking on things and doing things that I shouldn't really do. I should be outsourcing or I should delegate to people that are kind of on contracts with me to do because that's what I'm paying them for but sometimes I can't help myself because I'm a control freak but that’s the number one thing that I would say, I wish I'd done sooner. It’s the one thing that I would say to anyone who's a bit more advanced in their career and has maybe a little bit of extra money that they can delegate to other people, because the weird thing about delegation is you think that it's going to cost you money. To some extent it does to begin with, because you're having to invest in something that's not making a return directly, It's not like a client where if you spend on marketing, you're definitely going to get client work back and make the money back. Like sometimes you have to spend money on delegating, knowing that long term, it's going to make you more money, or it's going to help you be more creative, is going to help you get more done, because you're freeing up your time to do the thing that you're great at. So that is number three.
And the last one, it's a simple one so I'll try not to ramble too much about this one. The last one, is to just not judge yourself. Sometimes you're not going to get as much done as you think you should. Sometimes you're going to hold yourself to unrealistic standards, sometimes you're going to feel like you want to get more done, and you just can't, because there are circumstances and sometimes you're not going to have the motivation to get more done. Sometimes you're going to start a project and then forget why you wanted to make the project in the first place and you're going to come unstuck and that's okay. All of those things are okay. Don't judge yourself. Sometimes you're going to feel like you're 10 steps ahead, sometimes you're going to feel like you're 100 steps behind. Sometimes you're going to want to sit on the sofa and rewatch Desperate Housewives for the first time in a decade. Hello, that's my life right now.
Sometimes you're gonna feel super motivated, but you're in a global pandemic, and you can't actually leave the house to do anything you want to do. Like something, sometimes life takes it out of your hands and sometimes you just might not be in the mood and that's okay. Don't judge yourself, because actually, the number one thing you can do, I guess as a creative to get more done, is to listen to yourself, is to know when is the right time to hustle and to go hard and to get as much done as possible. But mainly to also know that if you go hard every single day for a year, even if you don't feel like it, or you are feeling really crap, or you're a bit sick, or something else is going on in life, and really, you know, you should be there for your spouse or for your family or your friends, but you chose to instead do the creative stuff. Because you know, when you told yourself you're gonna get more done, then what's the point? Like, what's the point in that? You will end up not enjoying the creative work that you do. So don't judge yourself. Sometimes you're going to be on fire creatively and sometimes you're going to want to take a step back.
Okay, so let's quickly recap…so those four tips:
Number one is single tasking. Single tasking is the new multitasking.
Number two, understanding that done is better than perfect. I'm speaking to you perfectionist. Done is better than perfect, just get it done.
Number three is delegate if possible, if possible. If you're at a level where you can afford to, even if it's just a small amount to someone on Fiverr, or to, you know, getting an intern or a uni student to do jobs. Delegate as soon as possible. This is the one thing that I wish I'd learned sooner.
Number four is don't judge yourself because we're all human. At the end of the day, one of my favourite quotes ever - in 2 billion years, the sun's gonna implode and it will wipe out the entire solar system and nothing that you or I or anyone that ever lived on this earth will matter really, because we'll all be dust. So don't worry about it. Don't judge yourself. Just have fun. Enjoy your life. Do what makes you happy, be passionate and know when it's time to take your foot off the gas pedal.
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