On Being Productive

I don’t consider myself the most productive person in the world, far from it. However, I am more productive than some people (according to them). As discussed in last week’s Evening Drama episode, there are things I do to help me in this aspect, so I thought I’d elaborate a bit more.

If you’re here for a list:

  1. Make things as easy as possible for yourself to be productive.
  2. Breakdown tasks into achievable portions. Scale down large ideas if you have to.
  3. Reward yourself. You’re more inclined to finish off your work if you know you’ll enjoy yourself later.

Long version:

Make things as easy as possible for yourself to be productive.

One of the best ways to make or break habits is to modify the situation. For example, if you want to stop smoking, you could start by getting rid of all your cigarettes. If you want a smoke you’ll have to ask someone for it or go out to buy a pack. If your gym is walking distance compared to an hour-long drive away, you’re more likely to stick with the former. Change the conditions of what you have to do so that you don’t have to go through too many hurdles to stay productive.

For example, if I’m planning to write or draw for the day, I launch WordPress, Google Docs, or Manga Studio on my computer. Knowing that an app is open makes me more inclined to work on my writing or comics because I’ve removed the hurdle of launching it.

Other things that can help – having a nice workspace. Clean up your desk, untangle your wires, make sure you have what you need to work within arm’s reach. If you have to leave your desk to get a tool in the middle of your work, you’re just giving yourself extra obstacles. Do your best to have everything prepared beforehand.

Breakdown tasks into achievable portions. Scale down large ideas if you have to.

Based on how fast you work and how much time you have, set yourself goals that are achievable for the day. If you only have an hour to spend on your projects, it’s more reasonable to write one chapter instead of five. It’s better to output small amounts of work consistently than nothing at all. If time only permits you to draw a single comic panel for the day, then just do that. Don’t aim to draw five pages if you can’t work that fast. You’ll only discourage yourself when you don’t achieve your goals.

If you think your project is too big, don’t be afraid to scale it down. Turn it into bite-sized chunks so you have no issues completing it. If something is too much to handle, chances are, you’ll set it aside until you finally ‘have time’. No, break it apart, and do something now.

I’ve learned quite a lot from my time blogging and drawing Animal Bus. At my blogging ‘peak’, I would write five posts a week, that gradually slowed down to three, then two, and now once a week. To be fair, I was feeling the burnout and I was running out of ideas (I found myself repeating topics when writing drafts). I decided to cut down the amount of writing. This allowed me to spend more time writing longer pieces, something I enjoyed more, which resulted in higher quality posts (at least I think so haha).

When I started Animal Bus, I had a lot of free time. But as the weeks went on and I eventually launched the comic, I found myself with less free time. I couldn’t keep up the full-color vision I had for it. I decided to scale down with imperfect coloring. It still took too much time, so I switched to leaving it black and white. And now, it is manageable. I didn’t think I would be able to keep up with the weekly upload schedule, but since the downgrade to no colors, it hasn’t been an issue. In the future, if I want to color it, I can always go back.

Again, like the first point – the idea is to make things as easy as possible for yourself to turn it into a habit.

Reward yourself. You’re more inclined to finish off your work if you know you’ll enjoy yourself later.

This one is a no brainer. I usually tell myself that I can watch a show, play a game, or have a cigarette only after finishing a task. While it may sound stupid, it works. I trick myself into working for a reward all the time. If dogs can pull off tricks for treats, so can humans. Make sure you follow through and only reward yourself when the task is completed. If not, this method won’t be effective. Just like when a dog knows it can earn treats without doing tricks, it’ll be less inclined to do so – after all, why work for something when it can take the easy way out?


This ended up being longer than expected but hopefully, some of you find it helpful. If you have productivity tips of your own, feel free to share in the comments! I’m always looking to learn new tricks.

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