Ali Abdaal’s secret for being productive

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Imagine the scene:

It’s 9 PM, and you’re about to switch from your Clark Kent day job to your Superman side hustle.

But instead of feeling like a hero, you feel more like you’re about to melt and become one with your sofa.

You’re mentally deep-fried, your ideas feel as fresh as yesterday’s fries, and the fun of creating is lost in the grease trap of exhaustion.

But wait, there’s a plot twist!

What if those post-9-to-5 hours became your ‘prime time show’, your ‘creative happy hour’?

This is not a drill; it’s about rekindling the romance with your passion project. Imagine feeling as excited about your side hustle as kids feel about snow days (but less cold).

Redefining Productivity: Square Pegs, Round Holes, and the Oil of Joy

Something has been wrong for the longest time in the productivity world: hard-draining work is a necessity.

It’s as if you needed to walk on a path of broken glass and nails before reaching the beach.

The Square Peg Syndrome

Let’s face it: trying to force creativity after a long day at work is like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube in the dark.

You know there’s a solution, but good luck finding it when your brain feels like it’s doing the mental equivalent of running a marathon in flip-flops.

This is the ‘Square Peg Syndrome’ – pushing yourself to be creative when your mind is as responsive as a snoozing cat in the sun.

Because the traditional view of productivity is like an old, cranky schoolmaster – it insists that you sit down, shut up, and churn out work, irrespective of how you feel.

But let’s be real: creativity is not a faucet you can just turn on and off. Treating it as such is about as effective as using a hammer for a screwdriver job – wrong tool, buddy!

How can you expect to give your best in this situation?

The Round Hole Revelation

Now, picture the ‘Round Hole’ – it’s a place where things flow.

This is where you want your creativity to live. It’s like that feeling when you’re in the zone, ideas are flowing, and time just flies by.

The big revelation here is that fun, joy, and ease are not just ‘nice to haves’; they’re essential for genuine creativity and productivity.

That’s in the title of Ali Abdaal, the famous productivity YouTuber, in his recently released book “Feel Good Productivity”.

After trying so many systems, hacks, and tools, he reached the point where one missing element of productivity was just that: fun.

Greasing the Peg with Joy and Ease

So, how do we grease that stubborn square peg of forced creativity?
The answer lies in the oil of joy and ease.

It’s about shifting your perspective from seeing your side hustle as another daunting task to viewing it as your playground.

Think of it like this: when you’re having fun, you’re relaxed, and when you’re relaxed, your creativity flows as freely as a jazz improvisation.

Yes, you need to work hard to make it, but in my view, hard is not the opposite of fun. Hard as in intense and consistent effort.

But what does it look like in practice?

Practical Tips for Adding Joy and Ease

Redefine Your Creative Space: Make your workspace more inviting. Add some plants, set up mood lighting, or play your favourite tunes. It’s like setting the stage for a great performance.

Like Ali Abdaal, I listen to music.

It sets a good mood and gives some energy. Depending on what I want to do, and the type of work, I’ll go from some lounge jazz to heavy metal.

Be careful though to pick something that isn’t too distracting and to alternate with moments of silence.

Music uses a part of your brain and you also want to keep your full power to the task at hand instead of visualizing yourself singing on stage, hitting those drums hard or letting your fingers run on a guitar neck (often this one for me).

Gamify Your Tasks: Turn your tasks into a game.

Set challenges, rewards, and maybe even a little competition with yourself. It’s like turning your to-do list into a treasure hunt.

I like to set a timer or use an hourglass. A microchallenge to finish before the sand runs out.

Take Joy Breaks: Schedule short breaks to do something you love – a quick dance, a chapter of a book, or a few minutes of meditation.

Don’t, please don’t check your social media: you’ll get a flow of distracting thoughts and you’ll struggle to focus back on your task.

I walk, look through the window, do a few push-ups…

The aim is to give your brain a mini-vacation and your body some movement – good for your health and energy levels.

The Art of Consistency: Party Hats Required

Consistency: More Than Just Attendance

When we talk about consistency in the realm of side hustles, it’s often mistaken for just punching the clock – showing up, day in, day out, like a human metronome.

But here’s the twist: real consistency is about how you show up, not just what you do.

It’s like going to a party – you can either be the wallflower who’s physically there but mentally in a galaxy far, far away, or the life of the party, wearing your party hat and breaking out your best dance moves.

The Misguided Marathon Mindset

Many of us treat our side projects like a never-ending marathon – a test of endurance where the only goal is to keep moving forward, no matter how.

But let’s face it, running a marathon without enjoying the scenery gets old fast.

You start to wonder, “Am I running towards something or just running away from stopping?”

Embracing the Party Hat Philosophy

This is where the ‘Party Hat Philosophy’ comes in.

It’s a simple yet radical idea: make each session of your creative endeavour feel like something you’re excited about.

It’s about finding small ways to celebrate the process, not just the finish line.

Just like a good party, it’s the atmosphere, the music, the people (or in this case, the ideas and the process) that make it memorable, not just the fact that it happened.
And the satisfaction of achieving something, even a tiny task.

Success is nothing but a succession of achievements in a given direction.

Practical Tips for Consistent Enjoyment

Theme Your Days: Like themed parties, give each day a creative theme.

Monday could be brainstorming day, Tuesday for drafting, and so on. It adds an element of novelty and fun to each day.

There are different ways of doing this and as always, you need to experiment to find what works for you instead of trying to fit in someone else’s work style.

Right now, I testing this theme days and that’s a reason why you’re getting 6 different micro-newsletters each week on different themes.

Reward Systems: Create a reward system for consistent efforts.

Finished a week of tasks?
Treat yourself to something nice.
It’s like giving party favours to yourself for being a great host to your creativity.

Why would you treat others better than yourself?
If you do (like me), you may have to reframe your mindset.

You’re doing something difficult, so give yourself a break and a pat on the back!

Or some chocolate! 🤤

Social Sharing: Share your progress with a friend, in public, or in a community.

It’s like having guests at your party, cheering you on and enjoying the journey with you.

That’s why it’s an important element of every community you’ll find online. I’ve been in a few of them and there’s always a space to share your wins. It’s motivating for yourself and others to see what you’ve accomplished.

To be honest, I’m not too good at that, work in progress!

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Finding Joy in the Process: From Oatmeal to Michelin Stars

Let’s eat the road now.

(yep, I wrote that on purpose)

The Bland Oatmeal Dilemma

Your creative routine has become the equivalent of a bland bowl of oatmeal.

Nutritious? Sure.
Exciting? As much as watching paint dry.

It’s functional and gets the job done, but let’s be honest, it’s missing that zest, that spice that makes you say, “Wow, this is why I love doing this!”

The Misconception of Routine

There’s a common myth that routine and fun are mutually exclusive – like oil and water, they just don’t mix.

This belief turns many a creative journey into a monotonous march.

But what if routine could be the canvas for fun, an opportunity to paint with all the colours of joy and enthusiasm?

Sprinkling Fun: The Gourmet Recipe

Turning your creative routine from a bland bowl of oatmeal into a Michelin-starred feast for the soul involves sprinkling in elements of fun, surprise, and delight.

It’s about transforming the mundane into the extraordinary, the routine into an adventure.

Practical Techniques for a Joy-Filled Routine

Playful Brainstorming: Use fun brainstorming techniques like mind mapping with doodles and colours, or ‘role-storming’, where you think from the perspective of different characters or celebrities.

It’s like being the chef and the critic, experimenting with flavours of ideas.

Creative Rituals: Develop small, enjoyable rituals to start your creative session. Light a scented candle, play a particular song, or do a happy dance.

These rituals can act as a Pavlovian trigger for your creativity.

I’m pretty boring, so I make myself a cup of fancy herbal tea. That’s my fun, don’t judge.

Collaborative Creation: Occasionally, invite others to join in your creative process. This could be a brainstorming session, a feedback party, or just co-working.

It adds a social element, turning creation into a shared joy.

Don’t forget your DMs as a way to spice up your session while networking.
Win-win.

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Conclusion

In conclusion, let’s turn the tide.

Every journey starts with a single step, and it’s time to make that step feel like the first dance at a wedding – full of hope, joy, and a little bit of nervous excitement (ask my wife!).

By sprinkling joy in your productivity, being consistently awesome, and finding the fun in every task, you’re not just working on your passion project but passionately falling in love with it all over again.

I had some good fun writing this although I didn’t feel like doing it. Super tired and stressed, but I decided to practice what I preach, sprinkled a few GIFs on top of the cake and voila: bon appetit!

Be joyfully great,

Frank

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