All artists know the pain of a blank canvas staring back at them. The unpredictable nature of our creative process often makes the pressure to be consistently productive a nightmare. Not being able to come up with a genius idea is frustrating enough, but a lack of general direction can keep us from performing at our best. Contrary to what a lot of people may think, generating productivity does not equate being confined to a rigid schedule.

For creatives, being productive means making the most out of your time and talent efficiently. Here are some productivity hacks that might tame even the most frenzied among us.

Start on a creative task first

Are you dreading have to whittle down that giant to-do list? Instead of spending your morning replying to e-mails, choose a creative task to work on. You’ll already feel at least a bit more enthusiastic and less intimidated by working on the most fun or interesting thing on your schedule. Many people usually arrange their tasks by difficulty, but beginning with something creative will make you more alert and mindful. Exercise your creativity early to hold off any impending monotony.

Visualize your workflow

Need to re-evaluate your workflow? Try turning it into a graphic. Think of it like a professional Pinterest board (it’s more interesting than it sounds!). The idea is to make a visual representation of how your thought process works: photography methods, visual development, or general problem-solving. It’s something to inspire you and keep you on task, based on both short and long-term goals. You could make a straightforward pencil diagram or make something a little more fancy in Illustrator. Keep it by your workspace so you can easily see it and start your day with clear purpose.

Blind contour by our Creative Director Alejandro Hernandez. Doodling plays a major part in how he stays focused over long periods.

Leave time for doodling or freewriting

Jot down that crazy epiphany you had at 4 am. Write down the details of your most recent dream, or brilliant exhibit design you want to showcase in the future. Setting time aside to float ideas without constraint allows you to think freely without worrying about making a mistake. Often you can produce your most inspired work when you’re creating for the sake of it and without an objective in mind. Backed by scientific studies as well, doodling is a type of passive brainstorm that hones focus, alleviates stress, and makes you more receptive to your own potential.

Accomplish more in the first half of your timeline

Did that creative burst finally come through? Take advantage of that energy and do the opposite of procrastination. Aim to complete most of your work at the halfway point to a given deadline. It’ll save you time to tidy up some parts and comb your work for overlooked mistakes. It gives you a bit of a challenge, and is perfect for Type A’s who thrive under steamcooker conditions. Finishing well before the deadline helps you improve and develop your habits, getting you in the mindset of working smarter, not harder.

Make your computer work for you

If you’re someone who spends most of your time on a computer for creative work, and you don’t mind not having a physical planner, productivity extensions are great alternatives.

They act like a more malleable version of a notepad, and let you jot down to-do lists, break down daily schedules, and set reminders all in one space. Some like Todoist offer multiple options for customizing lists while others like Momentum feature calming images and motivational quotes to give you an extra boost. Some will actually prevent you from navigating to sites that distract you as well.

Photo by Erato // CC BY-SA 3.0

Use the Pomodoro technique

For an artist, working under a deadline is stressful enough, so adding more mini-deadlines seems counterintuitive. However, the Pomodoro or timer method has been proven to help establish a good pace. Usually it’s 25 minutes of work with 5 minute breaks, but do what works best for you to maximize efficiency and prevent burnout. A common pitfall for creatives is time management, such as spending too much time perfecting the tiniest details or getting caught up imagining ten different versions of an artwork. Keeping yourself on your toes with this method keeps you from getting tunnel vision, and forces you to take breaks when you need them.

Write in a bullet journal

Bullet journals are perfect for those who want the feel of a journal with the flexibility of a planner. They can be anything you want and the possibilities are virtually endless; you can plan a weekly schedule, dedicate pages to concept ideas, and reserve a space for doodling. Their versatility and open-ended format makes them especially suitable for creatives. Many people add their own personalized touches, such as photos, colorful highlighters, and post-its directly inside their bullet journals. Its less restrictive structure frees you to design how your week will play out, and might make you actually look forward to work.

Implement an energy-boosting ritual

A morning cup of coffee or tea is part of many people’s weekday routine, but that might only be enough to last you through a few hours. Before you start work, save time to energize yourself with a low-key activity. To overcome sluggishness, it’s important to get physical and mental strength in order. Get in 15 minutes of reading, get in a cardio workout, or listen to your favorite podcasts. It might seem simple, but a few minutes of prepping the day can make all the difference between taking on the day or just getting through it.

How do you stay primed for success? Hit us up @KadenzeOfficial with your productivity tricks. And if your productivity (or lack thereof) feels like it’s getting in the way of your career, we recommend:

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Emily Carr University of Art + Design