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My productivity secret weapon – mega productivity and the GTD system

How do I manage to run a graphic design business and an online store, and still have time to do volunteer work, run two blogs and have time for a social life? Introducing my secret weapon

Getting Things Done by David Allen

The GTD (Getting Things Done) System, is covered in a book by veteran coach and management consultant David Allens. His premise is simple: our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax. Only when our minds are clear and our thoughts are organized can we achieve effective productivity and unleash our creative potential.

getting-things-done-bookIn Getting Things Done, Allen shows how to:

  • Apply the “do it, delegate it, defer it, drop it” rule
  • Reassess goals and stay focused in changing situations
  • Plan projects as well as get them unstuck
  • Overcome feelings of confusion, anxiety, and being overwhelmed
  • Feel fine about what you’re not doing

I’ve read this book twice and it has helped me immensely. It’s an integral part of how I stay productive while I’m self employed. For me, the best tip I got out of this book is to keep a to list and make sure everything is on it. I used to always seem to have ten different things on the go at once because I’d think of something while I was in the middle of something else, and then start doing it straight away because I was worried I’d forget to do it. Now, I keep a notebook next to me at all times, and as soon as I think of something I write it down.

Don’t like to read?

There is also a fantastic videos training program over at Skillshare that covers that principles in book in 15 easy video lessons (and you can watch them all in 90 minutes!) You can watch an introductory video about the program here:

An Online Skillshare Class by Tiago Forte

Personally I’ve read the book twice and I’ve watched the video series, and it’s been incredible how much it has improved my productivity. How you tried the program? Did it help you? Let me know in the comments!

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How to stay productive when you’re self employed

If you’re self employed or have your own business like I do, staying on track can be tough! Especially if you’re used to having a conventional job with a boss, or the fear of being fired motivating you to keep on track. But really, being self employed isn’t that much different. In a sense you still have a “boss” in the form of your clients, your family, and yourself. Not to mention an obligation to stay on track so you can keep earning money and maintaining the freedom and flexibility that comes with self employment!

I’ve been self employed for a couple of years now, and self discipline is still something that I struggle with, but here are my top tips for staying productive when you’re self employed:

1. Have a designated work area ONLY for work

20140801_162257It’s important to have a designed area just for doing work (and only work!) as it trains your brain to go into “work mode” when you enter the room, and it helps to avoid distractions . If you work from home, it also helps to keep some separation between your work and leisure time. If space is a problem, you might like to consider renting or bartering an office or desk.

2. Have a set morning ritual

This helps to keep you on track and trains your brain to go into “work mode” as well. It could be as simple as shower, breakfast, and at your desk by 9am. Other people who work from home physically leave their house in the morning so that they can simulate going to work. For me, getting showered and dressed in “work clothes” really helps to boost my productivity. I’d love to be able to work in my fluffy pink dressing gown, but I just can’t take myself seriously when I try!

3. Make a timetable and stick to it

Sticking to a timetable is challenging, but it’s a great way to keep yourself on track. Tailor-make a timetable that suits your lifestyle and your job so that you’re more likely to stick to it. For me, my work changes everyday, so on my timetable I allocate time for high priority, medium priority and low priority tasks, and I then grade everything on my to do list accordingly. I also have an hour break in the middle of the day so I can have lunch and take my dogs for a walk.

4. Development great time management skills

Developing great time management skills is a key factoring in maximising your productivity. I constantly have a notebook next to me with a running to do list on it, and I have both work and personal tasks on there because I find that keeping everything in the one place works best for me. I use a highlighter to colour code items by order of priority, and I cross things off as I finish them (which feels really, really good!). You can read more about my secret time management weapon here.

5. Embrace your freedom (sometimes)

I know that this contradicts my other points, but being self-employed gives you the freedom and flexibility to manage your own time, and there is nothing wrong with embracing that (s0metimes). So if you’re just not feeling productive, why not take the morning off and work in the evening to make up for it? If you want to spending the day working from the couch while you watch TV – go for it! Just don’t do this everyday because I can assure you, if you’re anything like me, your productivity will take a hit.

Personally I find that as long as I spend the majority of my time sticking to the above points, having the occasional “cheat” day is actually really beneficial because it reminds me of how lucky I am to have so much freedom, and makes me realise that it is worth all the self discipline that is required.

4. Develop a routine that suits your unique self

Don’t feel you have to be at your desk by 9am and schedule your timetable 9-5. If you’re more productive at night and you prefer to sleep in, there is nothing wrong with creating a routine that reflects this. Of course, if you have clients who work 9-5, you’re going to have to at least be available on phone and email during this time. The key is to create a routine that works for you, and allows for maximum productivity, and then stick to it!

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How I completly changed my career path and became a graphic designer

I used to wake up each weekday morning with a sense of dread. Another 1 hour commute. Another 8 hours of mind-numbingly boring work. Another 1 hour commute again. Another evening that I couldn’t enjoy because I was already dreading the next day.

For all intensive purposes, I was “living the dream”. I had a family, a mortgage, an expensive car, a career, a secure 9-5 job that paid well. I had everything that I thought I’d ever wanted. But I was MISERABLE.

There was nothing particularly wrong with my life. My job was boring but it wasn’t awful. I just couldn’t shake this overwhelming feeling that surely there had to be more to life than repeating that same unfulfilling week over and over again for 40+ years. My workmates were just as unhappy as I was. The older ones absolutely hated their lives, and I was following the exact same path that they had. I felt like I was seeing my future and it terrified me.

The turning point came when I was 24 years old. It was the week before I was supposed to start a 5 year accounting course. I hated accounting, but completing the course meant that I’d be paid twice as much for the job that I was already doing, and I’d have regular paid time off work to study and do assignments. Three nights a week I’d have to race home from work, pick up my car and drive another hour to get to uni, but I kept telling myself it wouldn’t be so bad. On paper, it was the best decision I’d ever made. But my heart was begging me not to do it. 

For many years I’d wanted to be a freelance graphic designer. As soon I finished high school I started to study a Bachelor of Arts majoring in graphic design & marketing, but I hated the design subjects (mostly just art history and basic Photoshop skills that I’d already taught myself!) so I decided to change my majors to journalism and creativity writing. After I finished my course I discovered that it was going to be near impossible for me to get a journalism job at the time, so I started to work lots of crazy jobs and eventually found myself working in Accounts Receivable.

I found working in accounts to be incredibly boring, and I still really wanted to be a graphic designer. I had an entire draw full of brochures for graphic design courses, but it just wasn’t practical. I couldn’t juggle full time work and study and all my other commitments without the support of my workplace, and an entry level design job wasn’t going to pay my mortgage. But day one of my accounting course started to get close and closer, and the overwhelming sense of dread that I carried with me almost constantly became so overwhelming I felt like I was going to suffocate. I voice in my head told me that I had to go online and have another look at design courses. I discovered that a 2 year part time design course was just about to start in the evenings, at a TAFE a mere 5 minute walk from my workplace.

My partner didn’t support me, my friends didn’t support me, my workplace didn’t support me – even I didn’t support me. People told me I was I was completely nuts for throwing away a promising accounting career. They told me I was too old to change careers (I was only 24!), they told me that the design industry was too competitive and I’d never make it. But I listened to my heart and I enrolled in the Diploma of Graphic Design anyway.

This time around I absolutely loved studying graphic design. I’d always struggled academically, but I breezed through the course, getting top marks easily. Halfway through the course I discovered that the evening classes were going to be cancelled due to a lack of enrollment, so in order to complete my Diploma I’d have to study during the day. This meant that I’d have to quit my job, which just wasn’t an option. After the GFC hit, I was one of the very few people that had managed to hold onto their jobs, while 60% of people at my workplace had been fired. I was covering three people’s jobs, so working part time was not an option. I couldn’t possibly quit a well paying, secure job to chase a dream that in all likelihood I wasn’t going to achieve!

But once again, even thought it was an extremely difficult thing for me to do, I listened to my heart. I quit my job and started to study full time while living off my annual leave payout and savings. Thanks to my previous hospitality experience, I was able to find a job working nights at a pizza shop. I hated the job, and it paid half of what I’d been previously earning, but it meant that my days were free to study and attend classes, so I had no regrets. I was also doing volunteer design & admin work, which enabled me to start getting freelance design work through word of mouth. I was so happy.

And then my partner was fired.

And then I was fired.

We started powering through our savings and I was terrified. I needed to find another job and I needed to find one FAST. It’s generally impossible to get a graphic design job without at least a Diploma level qualification and a really good portfolio, and I didn’t have either, but I started to apply for every entry-level graphic design I could find anyway.

And then I got my first graphic design job interview! I was thrilled!

I went to the interview and it was a disaster. I was so nervous I couldn’t stop shaking, and I fumbled over the interview questions. My portfolio was awful (looking back at it now I cringe!). The interviewers told me that it needed work, but they could see that I had potential. I thought that there was no way that I’d actually get the job.

But I did!

My First Graphic Design JobMy bosses were keen for me to keep studying, so they were happy to work around my school timetable. Being a part-time entry-level design job, the pay was terrible, but I didn’t care. I was lucky enough to land another part time job working as a lighting technician at a night club, which paid even better than my so called “great paying” accounts job. My partner got a new job too, and we were able to pay our mortgage again.

Time passed and I finished my Diploma and began working as a full time Graphic & Web Designer at the same agency. The years passed and I continued to work for design agencies while also freelancing. I now freelance full time under my graphic design business Flik Graphic Design. Becoming a graphic designer was the best decision I’ve ever made. That feeling of dread and long gone, and I have a job and life that I love!

How you ever listened to your heart and made a DRASTIC life change? Let me know in the comments!

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How to make temporary tattoos look real

1. Use Quality Products

Better quality temporary tattoos tend to look better and last longer. Purchase quality temporary tattoos or make your own tattoos with good quality temporary tattoo paper.

2. Prepare Your Skin

Your skin needs to be clean, dry and free from sweat, oil and hair, otherwise the he temporary tattoo adhesive may not adhere properly which will cause your tattoo to flake off.

3. Choose Your Positioning Wisely

Be careful with placement of your tattoos. Joints and other areas where the skin moves a lot will wear out your tattoo faster. If you choose an area that is hairy, you’ll need to remove to hair. Don’t put tattoos on your face if you want people to think they are real, as tattoo artists generally don’t do facial tattoos.

4. Remove the Shine

One of the tell-tale signs of a temporary tattoo is the shiny adhesive. To reduce this problem, cut out your design with as little border as possible. After you’ve applied your temporary tattoo and it is dry, gently apply a little loose face powder over the top of the tattoo to help set the tattoo and cut out the shine.

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