Talking Productivity And Willpower For Designers

Let’s talk productivity.

Productivity only works when you have the willpower to start moving.

No matter how much work piles up, without the burning fiery need to get it done, the productivity engines can’t get started. Like pita without hummus, or Chandler without Joey, productivity falls flat without willpower.

Recently, my wife and her brother flew out for a visit to New York, leaving me to watch over the house and our son — on top of my usual client work. This is how I got everything done — and how I keep myself on track.

How do you get everything done in less time?

Setting Priorities — The Big Picture And The Little Pictures

The only way to get started is to get started.

At the end of every weekend, I make a list in my notebook of my priorities for the week — not just work, my whole life, wife, child, and friends included.

Once I know what the ‘big picture’ looks like, I can break it down into details. Every day gets its own box in my sketchbook, and then I can split my responsibilities by the day — making sure to schedule all of my work, but also the other important things in life.

Sometimes our devices feel so intuitive that we forget that they, you know, aren’t. Writing in a sketchbook, however, is — it’s a hands-on process, without having to turn anything on or enter any passwords.

Keeping Track Of Time

Taking breaks: I use the Pomodoro Technique to stay motivated throughout the day. The Pomodoro Technique is a time management technique based on the belief that the human attention span is only ~25 minutes (shoutout to TED Talks, whose talks each clock in around 20 minutes).

Working with our short attention spans, instead of against, the Pomodoro Technique advocates for dividing the day into 25-minute blocks, called pomodoros, with small breaks in between and occasional longer breaks. This makes work more manageable and tasks more doable.

Finding, Getting, and Keeping Willpower

Some people have more willpower than others. That’s a fact. However, your habits also have a huge impact on how much willpower you have.

This is where your physical starts to impact your mental. Eating a lot of sugar? Not going to do you any favors here. Keeping your hormones/blood sugar regulated, without lots of ups and downs, will help keep your overall energy level in your favor and will make you more productive.

It’s not sexy, but it’s the truth. Eating well, sleeping enough, and exercising have a huge impact on what your overall productivity is going to be like. Taking care of yourself in the details will keep your brain sharp and your nap-needs low.

A Final Word On Productivity and Willpower

Everyone has a different set of tools and techniques that works for them — these are what I’ve found do it for me. As long as you have a system that keeps you organized and focused, you can play around within that to get to your optimized, longest-lasting productivity center.

Post by Ran Segall

Ran is head of product, designer and co-founder at the nuSchool. He's a freelance designer working with startups and a mentor at The Designer's Pricing Class, as well as the creator of the class Marketing For Honest Freelancers.

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