Kent Sanders | Unlock Your Creative Potential

Unlock Your Creative Potential

How to Use Systems to Stay Motivated and Productive

Do you ever have trouble staying motivated and productive in your creative life?

If so, you’re definitely not alone! My friend Cary recently sent me a question that expressed what many of us feel sometimes. He says:

I have plenty of blog, podcast and video ideas floating around in my head. When I actually sit down and write, record, or create a video, I am on top of the world because I am getting it out of me and into the world. 

One of the problems I have is staying actively productive. I’ll have spurts where I am cranking out good content on a regular basis, then I will get off track and look up and months have gone by without anything being done. 

Therefore my question is: How do I keep from being thrown off track so easily and stay on top of putting my content out weekly, like I want to do?

Cary has identified two separate but related issues: motivation and productivity. Both of these are solved by having a system for producing your content.

A system is a repeatable process that you can use to get predictable results. Using systems doesn’t sound very inspiring or creative, but that’s exactly what you need in order to produce material on a regular basis.

Creativity is not a result of feeling inspired. It’s a result of doing the work, then feeling inspired by what we’ve created.

In this post, I’ll share nine tips for being productive and staying motivated by using systems. These systems help me produce several pieces of content each week: two blog posts, two podcast episodes (which are audio versions of my blog posts), and a newsletter. (This is on top of my full-time teaching job and my work for several freelance clients.)

Ready? Let’s dig in.

1. Decide what you want to accomplish.

What is the end goal of the content you’re producing? What is your end game? Is it leading to more blog subscribers, sales, customers, etc.? Knowing the answer to this question will help clarify your process and keep you focused.

The system: Regularly evaluate whether your activities are helping you achieve your goals.

2. Create a production schedule.

I have an editorial calendar for my blog. It’s a simple Excel spreadsheet that is a list of posts and the date I’ll publish each of them.

I typically decide a couple of weeks in advance what I’ll be writing in each blog post. I rarely sit down to write without at least knowing the topic and a rough outline.

The system: Establish a production schedule and stick to it.

3. Say “no” more often.

One of the biggest enemies of productivity is simply being overcommitted. You probably have too much going in your life. It’s hard, but you have to say “no” to some things in order to have time and space to create your art.

If you want to immediately see where your time is going, check out my post on how to make more time for your art by tracking your time.

The system: Change your default answer from “yes” to “no.” (Life gets a lot easier when you do this.)

4. Use writing templates.

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time you write. Use a template for your posts so that each one has the same basic length and structure.

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed that most of my posts use a list format. They are usually around 750-1,000 words (some shorter, some longer), and they always end with a question. I also use the same format for my blog post images, as well as the same font. (I use the WordSwag app to create the images at the top of my blog posts.)

The system: Use a template for your content.

5. Establish a regular time to create.

I try to write my posts for the upcoming week on Saturday mornings. That doesn’t always work out—I’m writing this on a Tuesday evening. But having at least a semi-regular time to write helps maintain your energy and gives a flow to your creative work.

The system: Put a regular time on your calendar to create.

6. Repurpose your material.

If your material is good enough to share once, it’s good enough to share many times. For instance, you can repurpose your material as a lesson, collect blog posts and create an ebook, or turn your posts into an audio blog (as I have).

The system: Always be thinking of ways to use the same material for different audiences, and in different formats.

7. Attract an audience.

Make sure that your audience has a way to subscribe to your blog or website. Use Mailchimp, ConvertKit (what I use), or another email service provider to set up an email list, and offer your subscribers some type of freebie. I currently offer subscribers a free course when they sign up for my newsletter.

When you have an audience, they will be waiting for your material to show up in their inbox, Facebook group, or whatever method of communication you’ve established.

The system: Gather subscribers on your email list so you have an audience waiting for your work.

8. Announce a publication schedule, and stick to it.

Let your audience know how often you will be posting or creating content. Then, do whatever it takes to follow through. This will help you establish trust with your readers/listeners.

The system: Decide on a production schedule and follow through.

9. Join or establish a mastermind group.

A mastermind is a small group of like-minded people who help each other accomplish their goals. I have been a part of several masterminds the last few years, and it has been a huge part of helping me stay consistent in my creative work.

A mastermind doesn’t need to be anything fancy. It can be as simple as you and a friend talking every week or two and reviewing your progress toward your goals.

The system: Meet regularly with others who will build you up and help you achieve your goals.

In summary: There is no magic bullet for staying motivated and productive. Life happens, we get busy and distracted, and sometimes we just lose heart. However, these nine tips have definitely helped me to stay on track and consistently produce content that is impacting people’s lives.

What are some other tips you would suggest for staying motivated and productive?

About Kent Sanders

I help people unlock their God-given creative potential. I live with my wife and son in St. Peters, MO. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or YouTube.