When it is your job to create art and/or motivate others with your product, it can sometimes be challenging to stay on-task. After all, inspiration often comes within those moments when you are acting naturally, as opposed to when you are consciously creating or trying to come up with that great ideas.
While some creative thinkers prefer a little darkness in their output, undeniably it pays to be clear-minded when productivity is one’s ideal end-game. To learn more about how some inspirational people stay positive and productive, we spoke to 14 people on behalf of PureGrainAudio: Not surprisingly, coffee factored into more than one of these responses. But so did having fun.
Check out a Boone: The Bounty Hunter official trailer
01. Diamond Dallas Page (WWE Hall Of Famer and founder of DDP Yoga)
– As you’re waking up, as your eyes are opening, before your feet ever hit the ground, you have the choice. Is it going to be a good day, a bad day, or a great day? 99 percent of the time, I say it’s going to be a great day, and that’s how I’m going to handle the day.
02. John Hennigan (Lucha Underground Heavyweight Champion and star of feature film Boone: The Bounty Hunter)
– I enjoy the burst of creative energy I get when starting something new, but that frequently results in me piling more on my plate than I can handle. Something that works for me when I’m feeling overwhelmed is setting my alarm 40 minutes earlier than I was planning on waking up — whatever time that is — and making a cup of coffee. I write the day’s to-do list on paper while sipping the coffee, then giving myself 30 minutes of email/social media/computer time during which I try to accomplish as much as possible. Nothing aside from coffee — usually I make a second cup — water, and laptop during the 30 minutes. Having a definitive end to my morning email blitz helps me stay focused on effective concise communication, and after I feel grounded because I’ve sent many of the emails and posts that divide my attention until they’re sent.
03. Blair Goldberg (Broadway actress, currently appearing in “Kinky Boots”)
– When I have multiple things to get done in a short amount of time, as a singer, I sing the list in my head. I sing it in the order I need to get things done, until all tasks are completed. It helps me remember everything because it’s melodic and gets my voice warmed up for the day! It sounds silly but it really works.
04. Ken Page (Renowned psychotherapist and author of “Deeper Dating”)
– This is my single favorite life-hack. It’s based on this wise concept: When you’re trying to improve, don’t start with where you are, start with where you want to be. Every morning, I envision the ‘me’ I’m striving to become; inspired, organized, peaceful. I take a few minutes to get into my zone and I imagine being that better version of me. From that imagined self, I write myself a short note of guidance for the day. The insights I get are always soothing, practical and important. My growth has sped up wonderfully since using this life-hack. I love it.
Check out the video clip called “Headlines for the Hopeful”
05. Helaina Hovitz (Full-Time Editor at Upworthy/GOOD, Occasional Freelancer and Author of “After 9/11”)
– The interesting thing I’ve found is that to maximize productivity, since my job is so demanding, I have to set hard limits on my time barring extreme media emergencies, and protect my downtime. I’m doing more in a 10-hour day than makes human sense and I’m going from 8:30 AM to 6:30 PM most days. So to keep my own sanity, I turn off all of my work chat programs and email and let people know I’ll be back at it same time tomorrow.
After a 10-hour day, you need to reset and recharge, whatever that looks like. It may be a social dinner with friends followed by a bath. It may be hours of mindless Netflix or mindful meditation or playing virtual poker on your smartphone. You have to take care of yourself and your own well-being before you can take care of anything else, and you want that best self to be refreshed at 8:30 AM the next morning. Our modern world has set us up to potentially be burnt out by how available technology makes us 24/7 and we have to pull that plug, as it were. It’s uncomfortable at first, but you get used to it over time.
06. Lisa Niver (Travel Journalist and On-Camera Host, Founder of We Said Go Travel)
– Every morning at breakfast I read part of a book to help me grow my business and inspire my focus for the day. Right now I am reading Unshakeable by Tony Robbins. I read books by nearly all the sharks on Shark Tank and my favorite was The Power Of Broke: How Empty Pockets, A Tight Budget, And A Hunger For Success Can Become Your Greatest Competitive Advantage by Daymond John.
07. Mark Stepro (Drummer for the likes of Butch Walker, Brett Dennen, Hayes Carll, Aaron Tasjan, Keith Urban and The Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon)
– A commonly-held axiom among financial advisors is the concept of “paying yourself first.” All that means is that as soon as you get your paycheck, X percent goes straight to retirement or some type of investment account, before you even have a chance to allocate it to bills, or worse, waste it. Pay yourself first. I’m a musician, which means I’m the last person on the planet qualified to dole out financial advice. However, I always strive to apply that financial principle of paying myself first in terms of a currency more valuable to me than money, which is TIME.
As a musician, my days are structured almost entirely by me. Yeah, sure, I have a gig at 8:00 PM and I need to leave at 7:00 PM to get there on-time, but I COULD in theory sit around and watch Game Of Thrones all day — not really, don’t get dragons and wizards — with no immediate repercussions. That is to say, there’s no employer or daddy figure who is going to MAKE me go practice.
So I try to go get that done as soon as possible during the day, before other obligations creep in fill up my schedule, draining my “time bank.” Bills, trips to the grocery store, emails, administration, errands, even social stuff…that can all wait for a couple hours while I go put in the work. Then by 11:00 AM or noon, boom, I’ve “paid myself” by utilizing my time most effectively, and I then have the rest of the day to deal with regular life. I really need to stick to that principle because every hour I put off going to work only increases the likelihood of more stuff will piling up, and before I know it, I’ve got a million distractions on my plate. That’s why I pay myself first.
Oh, and this concept is attributed almost directly to author Stephen Pressfield, from his book The War Of Art, which is a must-read for anyone interested in this type of stuff.
08. Lucy Woodward (Singer, songwriter and recording artist)
– My morning rituals vary but start with coffee. Boil water, grind, life begins. I look at the list I made the night before — in [the iPhone app] Notes — of everything I have to do immediately; those things are things are asterisked. I have been making lists since age 11.
I browse news apps, quirky health articles and emails all at the same time so different parts of my brain can ‘expand’ at the same time. I have turned off all Facebook, Twitter and Instagram notifications on my phone to simplify and focus my life; thank you, Tim Ferriss. If I can, and I should do this more, I meditate in bed before I make coffee. Make a piece of toast with honey. Game on.
09. David Salidor (Founder of disCOMPANY and publicist for Micky Dolenz, Run-DMC, Debbie Gibson and Project Grand Slam)
“I’m a great believer in regularity. Every day when I get up at 6:00 AM, I head to the computer — arrange my to-do list for the remainder of the day, check all the necessary sites, e-m-ails to send and receive, and then head to the gym and do four miles on the treadmill.
In my 35 years of running my own business, I know full well the benefits of organizing and executing a strategy for each day. I like to complement that strategy with music throughout the day, both old and new, severe multi-tasking, yet with a healthy dose of fun!”
10. Christopher Gonda (Founder of Pure Grain Audio)
“Planning is a HUGE asset. I personally don’t use a planner or diary, but use a combination of mind, email inbox, Outlook calendar and phone to maximize efficiency. I have two full-time day jobs, go to the gym regularly, have a pregnant wife and still make time for family, friends, house chores, chilling and more.
Be efficient. Don’t procrastinate and don’t waste time. Having a beer and winding down with some TV before bed? Great! You could be doing laundry and dishes at the same time. Work and tasks don’t have to be linear. I take breaks from my email/work to make some calls, schedule an appointment, start prepping dinner, etc.”
11. Cassandra Seidenfeld (New York-based actress and philanthropist)
“I used to keep lists of things to do, grocery lists, vacation lists, chores, even lists of lists, and many more lists. I discovered the Things app last year when I was trying to figure out how to manage all my growing lists. Things has revolutionized many facets of organization from the keeping of lists, multi-tasking, reminders, synching info to many devices, sharing info in calendars and emails, to cleaning up notes, planning vacations and tallying renovation budgets with multiple screen viewing capabilities at the same time.
My productivity level has skyrocketed because I and my time are more organized and efficient from using Things. I highly recommend it!”
12. Mark B. Christensen (Founder of Engine Room Audio and award-winning mastering engineer)
“I have a number of small companies that I run, and it seems like there is always huge list of things that need to get done every day to keep things moving. My process begins in the mornings when I wake up and start my commute. I usually wake up with a head full of ideas and remembered deadlines, etc.
I realized a few years ago that if I didn’t immediately ‘write down’ an idea or a thought, my mind would quickly move on to the next issue and I would forget the item in question for a few hours or a few days. I decided to embrace the chaos rather then fight it. What I do is send myself emails from my phone as I’m brainstorming about the current challenges for each business as I ride the tram over from Roosevelt Island. When I get into the office, I make a more organized ‘hit list’ of the day’s priorities based on the emails, and then sit down with my employees and figure out who is going to do what.
This system allows my mind to kind of wander around and be open to inspiration and instinct. I find that I actually cover more ground, and am more efficient, if I’m just sending off these disconnected thoughts individually in emails.”
13. Phil Padwe (Fine artist and graphic designer)
“As an artist I find that ‘productivity’ generally follows one of two paths: either it’s synonymous with creativity during the actual ‘creation phase’ of visual art; or else it’s taking care of the more businessy bits like billing, emailing clients, editing and uploading images, planning photoshoots, compiling reference, learning new software, etc.
When it comes to creative work, it probably sounds oxymoronic but I allow myself the luxury of a nap. The benefits are two-fold. First of all, it’s a nice carrot, in the ‘carrot vs stick’ paradigm. You owe yourself a favor after you’ve let yourself take a nap in the middle of a workday — best boss ever! — and you’re coming at your assignment ‘fresh.’ Bonus: you’ll be up all night because you took a nap: more hours for productivity.
When it comes to the ‘work/work’ stuff…the less creative…a fresh-brewed cup of strong coffee generally does the trick for me. It’s the ritual and not the coffee itself; not the caffeine. Waiting for it to drip, putting in just the right amount of half-and-half…the creaking sounds my old office chair makes when I ease back in it to enjoy the first sip. The heat. All of these things help me to focus, which in the end, is all I need to be productive.”
14. Adam Busch (Actor and frontman of Common Rotation)
– If you want a crowd to quiet down, speak softly. Shout and they’ll only talk louder to be heard over you. But when presented with a calm and quiet voice, everyone shuts up in fear of being exposed or missing out. I call it ‘the open mic trick.’.
If you’re not comfortable asking your friends for help, then you don’t have any friends.
If a person has been talking about moving for over four months, they’re not going anywhere.
If your dog won’t calm down, you should try calming down.
Beware of those who only write back. The best advice comes from those with the least invested.”