“Where Do You Find the Time?” Six Steps to a More Productive Life

The other day, my very good friend Troy sent me a message on Facebook, and in it he asked me (and this isn’t the first time he’s asked this) how I manage to find time to do all the things I do.

As many of you know, I’m a bit of a Renaissance man when it comes to the arts. I’m a published poet who plays a decent hand at DIY filmmaker, with one solid feature-length screenplay written and ready to shoot, plus another in 1st draft mode, and who’s now trying to squeeze an original graphic story into the comic book arena. Oh, and I’m also the author of an upcoming book Crowdfunding for Filmmakers, and that ushers in a whole slew of new titles, from guest blogger to crowdfunding consultant. And I also try to maintain a solid standing as a loving boyfriend and responsible kitty daddy who occasionally enjoys some time at the café or bar with my closest friends, actors, writers, and acquaintances from Facebook, the real world, and beyond.

Sheesh! Now that I wrote all that, I actually do quite a bit, don’t I? So how do I manage to do it all? Well, here are six steps that I live by, which may ensure a rich journey onto a more productive path in life:

Land yourself a job that doesn’t get in the way I’ve been very fortunate (at least for the past ten years) to have an occupation that doesn’t interfere with my writing and filmmaking endeavors –– freelance professor. I teach at an average of three universities across as many counties in my home state of New Jersey, putting in a max of fifteen hours a week and raking in enough coin to cover rent, car insurance, student loans, and cell phone expenses, plus a little extra for food shopping and an occasional dinner with my girlfriend Marinell. The more responsibilities we have at the office, the more money we’ll receive, but it’ll be at the expense of our free time.

Don’t follow what’s on TV When I was a kid, I followed a lot of TV, as outlined in a prior blog post. That was enough to last a lifetime. Today, you won’t catch me waiting with uncurbed enthusiasm for the next season of Mad Men the way I’d once hurry through my homework to stake it up with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. These days, if I catch any shows at all, it’s usually a quick rerun of Big Bang Theory, an episode of Toy Hunter, or the occasional webisode of The Booth at the End on Hulu. Anything else, like The Walking Dead, I’ll catch up with on Netflix a few months later. How can I live without TV, you ask? Easy: I can’t afford it. And when we can’t afford TV, the only station we can tune to is the Productivity Network, Channel 247.

This was before the “Rabbit Ear” revolution, so my signal-less 23″ tube TV isn’t so outdated.

Use guilt to your advantage Like yin and yang, pleasure and guilt coexist in everyone’s lives. Whenever I have too much of a good time, guilt starts to creep up my spine, and I’m immediately pulled back into my realm of intense productivity. That’s really the secret of how I’m able to do so much in the course of a single day –– I’ll feel guilty if I don’t, and I don’t like the feeling guilt produces. If I sit around looking at LOLCats for longer than five minutes in the course of a week, I feel like I’ve wasted much more than that in the course of my life. We’ve only got so much time to do all the things we want to do in this life, so we should spend the bulk of our time doing them.

Plan your day everyday, and never deviate I plan out each day the night before on small sheets of paper or an occasional napkin from my neighborhood café. Once I get up the next morning, and after I stretch, work out, eat breakfast, and shower, I turn on my computer and start red penning each item on the day’s “To Do” list. If I get to the bottom and they’re not all Xed out, guilt sets in. But if I do (and I always do), I’m free to enjoy whatever else I want to do with the remainder of my day. Notes like this can keep us organized enough to get through the things we need to do so we can do some of the things we want to do. (More on needs and wants shortly.)

Red Xed and ready for the evening ahead.

Choose your significant other wisely Have I mentioned how fortunate I am? One of the most wonderful things that’s ever happened to me was meeting Marinell. She understands my writer’s needs and has been super-humanly supportive of me for the past seven years. That said, and since healthy relationships are a necessity to almost everyone, if you want to remain productive, you should choose your significant other wisely. And while it’s true that we can’t help who we fall in love with, if we love ourselves enough to see whether or not he or she is a help or a hindrance to our creative or productive lives, we can make the proper choice to stay in or opt out of a particular relationship if it gets in the way of that productivity.

Understand the difference between need and want I tend to do only what’s necessary in all things, from my eating habits to my writing regimen. I only travel when I need to. For me, writing and telling stories are as essential as food, shelter, and clothing. What I need is time to write, submit pitches, revise screenplays, and create new ideas. Everything else is want, and while it’s nice to get the things we want, it’s more important to focus on the things we need; and when we get what we need, we can more fully appreciate all those things we want when we finally get them and see them for what they are: gravy on our meat loaf instead of honey on already frosted cake.

There are lots more tips that I have, from avoiding Words with Friends to doing one’s laundry once every three months, but perhaps those can be divulged in a later post or in an ebook I’m tossing around in my head, tentatively titled The Martlet’s Guide to a More Productive Life. Let’s see if these tips prove helpful (and if I can find the time to write it!)

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What are some tips YOU can offer that might help keep people on the path to a more productive lifestyle? Share them in the Comments section.

8 thoughts on ““Where Do You Find the Time?” Six Steps to a More Productive Life

  1. Choose your significant other wisely? I’ve been married 25 years John, is it too late for this step?

    1. Hehe! Y’know, Graham, after 25 years of marriage, I think the choice was wisely made long ago, my friend 🙂

  2. Great article, John! It’s always tough to juggle creative endeavors with work, and for me, work has to take priority more of the time. Tips like these are always appreciated and I look forward to the ebook you mentioned, too!

  3. Three Tuxedos Films September 4, 2012 — 8:49 pm

    Great article, John! It’s always a challenge balancing work and creative endeavors, and for me, work often needs to take priority. Your tips are appreciated, and I look forward to reading more in your ebook!

    1. Thanks for the replies, Susan! Glad you enjoyed the article. Yeah, it looks like at some point I’ll get to work on that little “Martlet’s Guide” of mine, but I’ll probably put out another blog post of further tips, seeing as they seem to be helpful to some folks who’ve read it. Strange thing is for me, I’m even more productive when I have to actively balance my work (teaching) and creative endeavors. Summer slows me down, though it might not seem like it for most people, but when I know I’ve only got four days to get my creative work in, I kick it into a whole new gear, and somehow, it gets done. Interesting, this journey called life. Always learning something new 🙂

  4. Boy do I feel lazy…but inspired too
    Paul (@fuegopazzo)

    1. Hehe! Thanks for giving my post a read, Paul. I’m certainly glad you’re feeling inspired; that’s the whole purpose of this blog post, always pushing the positive in the main of light so we can all move towards it with more efficiency and ardor 🙂

  5. Reblogged this on Friends of Harvey.

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