5 Tools that Help Me Stay Productive as a Creative EntrepreneurJan 26, 2023
If you're a neurodivergent, creative entrepreneur, I'm sure you've searched for the perfect combination of stimulation, accountability, and freedom that would make you magically more productive.
I know throughout my fifteen years of trying to build my creative business, I've searched for "productivity tips for creatives" more times than I can count.
But there are just a handful of tools that WORK for me, with my specific brand of neurospiciness. When I say these tools work for me, I mean that if I don't have the ability to use these tools or I suddenly forget about them... no focused work will get done that day.
In this blog post, I'm going to introduce you to my absolute favorite tools for:
- Staying on task with my time
- Staying focused during that time
- Staying focused on what I need to get done each day (even the boring admin stuff)
- Creating a routine that supports me in my life but also gives me the freedom to switch things up
- Creating magical databases that make the behind-the-scenes in my biz and life flow more smoothly
When I was very early in my freelancing career, the board member of an organization I worked with asked me to show him how I kept everything organized and stayed on top of my work. While I didn't realize it at the time... I think he was insinuating that I wasn't very good at my job.
And while my ego would *love* to tell me that he just sucked (I mean he kind of did), I also know my own dirty secret: I was totally overwhelmed by all of the little details I had to keep track of in order to share our message with our audience and gain new members.
Sometimes I would stick to a content strategy for months at a time (when it was my main focus) but then when new responsibilities were added to my plate (like planning events or facilitating workshops) my best laid plans went up into flames.
Over the years I've learned that my productivity system needs to be adaptable to the ebbs and flows of my energy and support me in pivoting when things don't work out exactly as I planned (or when my time blindness leads me to create an impossible to execute on timeline).
So let's get started! Here are the five productivity tips that still stick for me as a neurodivergent, creative entrepreneur.
1. Pomodoro Timers
I can hear the groans already! But really, Pomodoro timers were the first productivity hack that really stuck for me, even if my love of hyperfocusing for many hours and never getting up to use the bathroom or drink a glass of water detests them.
I use tomato-timer.com to keep track of my 25-minute bursts of work and my 5-10 minute breaks. But there are some *extra* rules I've had to implement to make this system work for my brain and body.
First, I try to limit the number of Pomodoros I do each day based on my personal energy. If I'm totally exhausted, I might only be able to do 1-4 sessions of focused work. Even if I'm high energy, I've noticed that if I do more than 6-8 Pomodoro sessions this hack doesn't work anymore because I've pushed my brain to its limit anyway. Rather than trying to fill a full 8-hour work day with back-to-back 25-minute focus sessions, I have to leverage my ability to focus very intensely for shorter periods of time rather than trying to work the same hours as everyone else because "that's just how it works."
2. Focus Music
I'm *so* easily distracted by noise and words, which means getting the soundscape for my work session just right is key to my personal productivity. If my Spotify Wrapped actually accounted for the hundreds of hours I spend listening to focus music on YouTube... well it would be a little embarrassing and for sure eclipse my heavily curated Top 5 artists. I actually avoided office jobs and prioritized freelancing and work from home BECAUSE I couldn't tolerate the noise. Funny twist: I've worked from home for so long that the sound of silence is also aggravating to me now (because it's not real silence... there's house noises and stuff).
Before I discovered I was neurodivergent, I usually listened to a chill lo-fi playlist like this on YouTube, and those worked for me for years. I still listen to them often. Lately, I've been listening to this Autism Sensory Calming Music quite a bit when I'm working, especially if I'm on a deadline and really stressed. I still listen to music I enjoy while working on tasks that don't require as much thinking and decision-making, but I try to make that music really upbeat because the music I listen to during the day has a major impact on my mood. Here's a playlist I created for such an occasion.
3. Habit Stacking
I discovered habit stacking around the same time I discovered Pomodoro timers, and have used this productivity hack for years. The idea is pretty simple: You take one thing you do each day and then you add something you want to do each day onto it.
So if you brush your teeth every morning, you might tack on washing your face.
I have different habit stacks for different parts of the day and different parts of the week. The nice thing about these habit stacks is that even if I don't execute the routine at the time I normally do, I can still execute the routine at another point in time. These habit stacks have actually helped me feel a greater sense of safety and control when I've been traveling or experiencing greater chaos.
I really simple habit stack I do most mornings before work is: Take my dog on a walk, make the bed, unload/load the dishwasher, unload/load the laundry, water plants, make coffee.
I know, I put making coffee at the end where a lot of people would put it at the beginning—but that's my reward!
4. Creating a Notion Dashboard
While my first three hacks are longstanding parts of my daily life, I've only been using my Notion Dashboard for a year. BUT, this is REALLY the tool that took all of these hacks and put them in motion to creating something much more powerful.
If you're searching for ways to keep your content calendar, creative plans, product launches, and all of your research notes organized, you'd think that you've gotta have at least ten notebooks and a binder to organize them all (or a fancy, expensive, customized software system). It can be pretty crazy-making, especially if you end up spending a lot of time and money only to feel like it wasn't really worth it.
I've tried so many ways of organizing my to-do's, my scripts, my drafts, my research notes, etc, and NOTHING worked for me (even as a full-time social media manager for several years). I was just out there flying by the seat of my pants most of the time, until I found Notion.
I get into how I set up my dashboard and even share a FREE template in this video.
5. Creating Magical Databases
Okay, this tip is cheating a little bit, because in order to execute on this tip you'll need to get your brain wrapped around tip #4. Trust me, it's well worth it.
If you've ever said, "my brain is like a spiderweb," or "If I could just get all of the connections that in my brain onto a piece of paper, people would see how genius this is," then you NEED to learn how to set up magical databases in Notion.
What if you could have a SYSTEM that shows you all of the connections you've made between a book read and a random thought you had while sitting in your car and working up to going to the grocery store? What if there was an actual way to take all of the amazing brilliance that's in your brain and have it accessible at your fingertips every day?
It IS possible in Notion, and I show you exactly how I would set up my Notion from scratch inside Building Your Notion Grimoire.
Your brain isn't the problem, it's the support your giving it to execute on your genius ideas that's coming up short.
If you've had success with some of the tools I mentioned in this post, be sure to give Notion a try. It will be well worth it in the long-run.
Or if you're more of a jump right in and take action kind of person (me too), get started on Building Your Notion Grimoire and get access to all of the basic templates I've created to give you a head start!
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