Productivity is a goal for most of us, regardless of profession. Even if we’re spending a quiet weekend at home, we still want to feel productive, like we didn’t let a day just slip by without making some kind of progress.
At the same time, an overemphasis on productivity can lead to overwork and burnout, which is antithetical to achieving your goals.
Despite it all, top-level professionals working in many different fields have worked out how to be incredibly productive while also still taking time to relax and recharge, which of course then feeds back and enhances the work.
Nicole Simone has more on her plate than most, as a recording artist (under the name Late July), actor, screenwriter, and the founder of Redemption Paws, a charity that rescues at-risk dogs and finds them foster homes and ‘forever homes.’
When we looked into Simone’s professional output, we wanted to know even more. One of the biggest questions we had was a simple one: how does she do it?
Following a conversation we had with Simone, we now have a better understanding of how she’s able to manage her time and energy to keep her career moving at full speed.
Here are some opening thoughts from Simone on her path to success.
“It’s been a lot of consistency and just showing up every day to do the work, even on the days when you really don’t want to. It’s all about how you learn and grow. I like variety, but I do dedicate portions of time each day to doing the same thing, and I feel like it’s paid off.”
And it definitely has paid off for Simone’s career. She’s released numerous EPs and singles over the last ten years, she starred in the original web series “On a List”, and her nonprofit Redemption Paws has rescued over 3,000 dogs since its founding.
Then there’s Simone’s impressive social media presence, which also helps to promote her different projects.
For anyone out there who’s trying to find ways to be more productive and make time for the things they love, this article will be a unique look into how one artist has managed to do just that.
Once upon a time, there was a popular belief that strict, moment-to-moment scheduling was the secret to time management.
The era of personal organizers, in particular, painted a portrait of a future where professionals would have detailed schedules set weeks in advance, using this high-end tech as a kind of career compass.
These days, there’s definitely no shortage of productivity software and scheduling notifications, but for a working artist like Simone, there’s actually a strong push and pull between structure and more freeform scheduling.
For example, a big part of Simone’s process involves taking stock of short-term and long-term tasks at the start and end of each day.
Based on the status of each project, she can then plan accordingly. Another factor she takes into account is what she feels prepared to handle: an important consideration when trying to prevent burnout.
Even during the busier times, Simone makes sure to take care of herself and those close to her.
“I triage everything in the morning and before I go to bed. I prioritize myself and my dog before I get too caught up in the day. Some days I like to do the hardest tasks first, and other days I like to do the things I’m most excited about first.”
The goal here is to make progress on different fronts each day, even if the strides are sometimes relatively small.
Few things kill productivity like that nagging feeling of not knowing exactly how to move forward.
You were moving along just fine, getting things done, feeling great. But uh oh, all of a sudden, you’ve hit a wall. For whatever reason, you just can’t work it out. There must be a solution, but you haven’t found it yet, and now the time lost is making you feel even worse.
So how can you avoid this awful cycle of wheel-spinning procrastination? Your mileage may vary, but for Simone, one of the best options is to look for answers outside of herself: learning more about the subject and maybe even asking for advice from folks in the know.
Specifically, Simone takes a careful approach to her charity work. If she isn’t sure about something, she’ll speak with someone who has some valuable insights to share.
“I’m far more analytical when working on Redemption Paws. I’m constantly consulting professionals and then giving the organization direction based on that information. I think no matter what, you have to be in a learning mindset. Curiosity is key.”
Of course, if you find yourself in a similar situation, you don’t necessarily need to track down peers, though that can definitely give you a new perspective. Exploring your curiosity might just mean Googling around for a while to expose yourself to new ideas and possible solutions you hadn’t considered.
The real benefit here is that you can hold onto your momentum, rather than wearing yourself thin trying to go it alone.
Roadblocks happen all the time, but professionals find ways to keep going.
The social side
Ok, so it’s no secret that social media can be a huge time suck. Just think of the last time you hopped onto Instagram or YouTube, planning to stick around for just a few minutes. Without even noticing, whole hours can pass, and wasting that kind of time never feels good.
But what if we look at social media from a different angle? What if we look at it as an opportunity to share compelling stories about the work we’re doing?
As we mentioned earlier, Simone has been very successful on social media, and very smartly, she has found ways to use that success to feed into her various projects, especially her charity work.
Social media has proven to be a great way to bring greater awareness to Redemption Paws– not just the organization’s name and branding, but also to the behind-the-scenes of the charity’s work. This helps to de-mystify the rescue and adoption process.
Simone feels that sharing real stories is an incredibly powerful way to communicate with large audiences that might not be familiar with how Redemption Paws operates.
“People inherently connect with stories. It’s the oldest form of entertainment. Telling the stories of the dogs and why they deserve homes has been important to Redemption Paws’ success. People think these dogs just magically appear, but they all have some origin that we do our best to explain.”
Finding ways to leverage social media to the benefit of your own career can be powerful, and if you can do it successfully, you’ll start to see these platforms in a new light: not just as simple sources of entertainment but as tools for communication.
Time management is really about finding what works for you. We all have different careers, different hobbies, different schedules, and different home lives. There aren’t really any one-size-fits-all solutions to make you more productive.
That’s why it’s so important to share ideas and techniques: so that you can sample as many of them as you like, experimenting to learn more about your own needs and preferences.
Maybe you thrive under a strong sense of structure, or maybe you work best when you’re free to juggle multiple projects at once. Maybe you’re a team player who needs to be surrounded by supportive collaborators, or maybe you need to work alone.
Through it all, your compass should be your own source of motivation, as Simone explains here.
“With time management, I think searching for what motivates you is important. Setting aside cell phone-free time and working in timed intervals can yield greater results in the overall picture. It’s amazing how easily distracted we’re conditioned to be, so paring down and doing one task at a time has become important for me.”
In fact, here’s a quick exercise for anyone to trying to increase their productivity: during the course of your normal work routine, whatever it happens to be, ask yourself at the end of each day how productive you think you were.
It’s probably going to vary from day to day. One day you might feel like most of the effort was wasted. Other days might feel very middle of the road.
But on those days when you feel like you were more productive than usual, ask yourself what changed. Were you using a different schedule? Did you take multiple breaks? Were you working with other people? Were you making steady progress through a to-do list?
The idea here is to keep track of the specific techniques that really click. These are techniques that you can go back to in those moments when you’re feeling stuck.
The best news of all is that once you get into a groove, your productivity can turn into a positive feedback loop. You’ll feel good about what you’ve already accomplished, and that can inspire you to keep working towards the next goal.