This is the introduction to my 6 article series about productivity.
If you’re confused right now about why exactly you’re reading this in the blog of a VFX artist, this is the part in which you can learn the context and motivations. For the rest, feel free to read them in order or jump straight to whichever part you’re most interested in, as soon as they’re out. I hope you enjoy!
Preface: "Brute force productivity"
One question I get a lot is “How do you get the time to…?”, as I probably seem to be juggling quite a few responsibilities at once, such as my full-time VFX job, the mentoring groups, tool development, directing and teaching in a masters degree, a blog, a podcast or the online courses. And while the harsh reality is that at this stage this is mostly due to the amount of priorities and interests in my life being madly reduced compared to a normal human being (which allows for most of my time and energy to concentrate on a pretty teeny subset of reality, maybe giving the wrong impression that I’m somehow able to pour that same level of energy into other areas…), productivity also happens to be a topic that has me really intrigued, and both learning about it and making concrete actions towards changing my own system has really had a profound effect on how I operate today.
After so long trying to navigate the overwhelming amount of information online, and far from considering myself any expert, I do feel I’ve arrived at a set of thoughts and practices that, while still evolving, I feel are worth sharing in this moment in case they can help others in a similar crunch.
How it started:
Honestly, most of my life I’ve been simply productive, without giving it second thoughts, which stems from a naturally obsessive focus towards any topic that grabs my interest. But at the same time, not all that comes from this is productive – rather quite the contrary: the dark side of the coin is that this also leads to
spending wasting LOTS of time into details that don’t have any importance at all.
So I’d call this predisposition “brute force productivity”. It severely lacks prioritisation, which I later found to be the other key component to being productive: you first prioritise what’s meaningful and important, and only then throw all the brute force that you want (not brute anymore though) into it. So it seems that both pillars are equally important if you want to stay aligned with your purpose…
Such realisation kickstarted my personal little journey with the topic of productivity, and a big part of it involved jotting down random thoughts and insights in random ways for a long time. So fast-forward to the present and with a few lessons learned, I’ve decided to break down the main points here.
What’s this about?
This article started as a snapshot of my current thoughts on how to establish reliable methods to improve one’s productivity (more about a possible definition of productivity in the next part), to ease with getting back on track anytime I got back into chaos.
This is such a personal topic and there’s no one-size-fits-all (I’d argue there’s not even a one-size-fits-two), as each person feels attracted to a different way of looking at the world. In my case I love simplicity, efficiency and beauty. And technology and automation in equal measure, so this combination probably transpires into the exact setup that I ended up easing into, but it can be completely different to anyone else’s! Still, if only a single one of these points resonates with you or gives you a little idea, it’ll already have been worth it.
The productivity journey has been a mind broadening one for me, and I believe its tendency is to go towards something sustainable, simple and functional enough. Although there’s still a whole lot to evolve and it can surely take a completely different form in the future (without even starting to consider how deeply our processes can change with help of AI).
In the next parts I’ll explore how we can define productivity (which isn’t as straightforward as I once thought), and discuss my favourite tips for refining your own system. Then I’ll be discussing my favourite practices, the tools I use and why, as well as some key references and resources that have contributed the most to my current view on the topic.
This is a very deep rabbithole, which if you think about it defeats its own purpose. Learning about productivity will very easily make you less productive because you’re… well, learning about productivity.
However, the moment I understood this notion and how it involves striking a delicate balance in order not to hinder yourself with overthinking or over-optimisation, this did nothing but increase my interest. I proudly even call it a hobby today! (which by the way also gives me peace of mind whenever I get lost within the topic… because – well, it’s just a hobby). So in a big part I’m still learning just for fun, acknowledging that most of it might not impact my productivity in any meaningful way. But it’ll definitely make me more happy, and that’s good enough.
I hope you liked this intro, although the topic is way off anything my VFX friends would have expected 🙃
If you’d like to know when the other parts are up, read some random thoughts or stay updated on my posts, tools or courses, you can join my (still-upcoming) newsletter. I won’t write often, but when I do I’ll make sure it is condensed and interesting. You can join the newsletter here.