Me the Machine
I’ve been at this self-employment adventure for 160 Days now. I freaking love it.
Needless to say, it is VERY different than my old 9-5 jobs.
(Also, why are we kidding ourselves and still calling it “9-5”? It’s 8-5. Eesh…)
I knew it would be life-giving. Being able to invest totally into your passions is an AMAZING thing.
But I gotta say, approaching productivity is quite the beast. The stakes are way higher.
You are the machine. You won’t go anywhere unless you go.
So a big part of this adventure so far is learning how to keep this machine running at maximum capacity. Learning “How do I, Kyle, work the best?”
It’s kinda like when you’re learning how to “do school”. Are you a note-taker? A visual person? An auditory person? A record-yourself-doing-stupid-stuff-because-this-class-is-painful person? (ahem…)
In school you learn how you learn. Or at least you should. It’s not so much the material that’s important. Learning how to learn is way more crucial.
Well, it’s been kinda the same thing with self-employment (but fewer pointless classes). I’m learning how to set myself up to be as productive as possible.
I know some of you wonder what a typical day looks like for me. It’s honestly pretty different everyday, which I love. But there’s definitely some consistent things I try implementing.
I’m pretty dedicated to not giving advice concerning building a business quite yet. I haven’t been in the game long enough. Once I get a few years under my belt, I’ll share for sure.
But in the meantime, I can definitely share things I’m learning. Hopefully there are some tools here that will be helpful for your adventure.
So these are some of the things that I’ve learned help me have great, productive days.
What would you be most productive at right now?
I am working on a ton of different projects. And each one uses a different part of my brain. Writing fiction has a different mental (and emotional) output than figuring out mechanics for our table-top game. Writing a blog post is different than coding our website.
What’s great is I don’t have to feel like doing everything all the time. Instead, I check in and see where my heart and mind are most inclined at the moment. In other words, “What do I feel like doing?”
If I’m not in the mood to do anything (which rarely happens), I try to find something mechanical and brainless to do that still needs to get done. Logging receipts is a great one. It takes almost zero mental activity and yet still needs to get done. Sometimes it takes a bit to get the engine running, in which case I force it till I feel like it. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen a ton though.
Do one thing for one block of time. Then the next thing.
My schedule is typically a blank canvas these days. So I have Google Calendar open a lot. Throughout my day, I am filling it up with what I am doing. What I’ve found super helpful is committing to do one thing for a set time.
For instance, “For this next hour, I know I can be most productive writing this blog post.” So I put it on my calendar and then do it. If I’m on a roll and it takes longer, I add time. If I’m dying on the inside, I tell myself “Just keep going. You’re almost done.” And I push till the time ends. Then I re-evaluate and figure out what I would be most productive at next.
Since I have so many things going on, this has been huge to help me give undivided attention to one thing. And then I can look back at my calendar and know that I spent my time well.
Some things can be edited later.
The mentality that I can always edit things later is huge. For instance, to prep this post, I started by “verbally vomiting” for thirty minutes. This gave me a rough idea of what this post would be about. I didn’t stress about word choice or reading flow. I just wanted the ideas and general structure. This way I’m not stressing out over the weekend trying to figure out what to say.
Once I got all the ideas down, I went back another day to polish it up. Again, this is that process of checking in with myself. Creative writing is very different than editing and I rarely feel like doing both in one sitting. And I was able to be the most productive knowing I didn’t have to.
Get Inspired. Work. Repeat.
This one has been huge. Reading and watching video essays is huge for me. It honestly keeps me going when I feel like I’m running out of steam. Reading a book on screenwriting makes me want to write. Watching video essays on YouTube make me want to do whatever they were talking about. Listening to podcasts makes me want to pour more of my life into this company.
I think having heroes is also big. Having those few people, real or fictional, to motivate you to be like them. Or even the idea of them. Do I want to be exactly like Walt Disney? No. But the idea of him inspires me to invest in creativity.
If you don’t connect with any of these, that’s totally realistic. You’re not me. You’re you. You’re going to operate very differently than me.
But I think it’s important to find those things you can go back to regularly to recharge your batteries towards your work, not just an escape from your work.
So get inspired and get productive, y’all. Learn how you learn. Learn how you work. Then do it!