10 Ways To Productivity - The Geek-Artist-Guide

When it comes to productivity I am a geek, really, I´m an optimization and ergonomy enthusiast.

I prefer a clean desk over creative chaos, the only thing that can have a different place occasionally is my coffee mug. Sorry if I don´t fit in your drawer of how an artist should be:)

That said, I have to state I do things wrong like everyone else, but always eager to learn from my failures. And I like to share my experience to help others.
I know self-experience cannot be replaced by the expreience others have made. You know that warning words from your parents and they never worked too, right? I know many readers will not take notice, but once you focus on how to get better at something, you´ll get a sense as to what information is useful and which is not.

Working freelance and from home has it´s advantages, at least from the point that I can choose and tweak my working environment as I wish.

Evaluating and monitoring your habits, is the most important asset besides embracing change. It is inevitable to nurture these qualities in order to be as productive as possible. In an older post I wrote about the problem of procrastination and things that can be done to avoid it. Some things have changed since then and I´ll list some more points that can lead to a productive environment, but this time for the tech-savvy readers.

The tech-tips covered in the following bullet-posts are meant for Windows users mostly because I work with Windows to get things done, some Web-applications that work for both Windows and Mac OS are marked with a * .


  • Use a single big monitor instead of multiple monitor setup´s. 
    This is a thing where I revised my conviction (referring to this post: who-put-pro-in-procrastination... ) A second Monitor can be a help at times, but mostly will cost more energy (power consumption) and room to add distraction. I found that I didn´t even used the half of my second 26" monitor, which is a fact that made it too expensive and an additional strain to the eyes.
  • Using multiple desktop´s instead of actual displays is a solution. 
    When working with a Mac *or Linux environment, this is no problem because multiple desktops are native part of the operating systems. With Windows, you can though have this function when downloading Dexpot (commercial version for work available) Exposé like function or 3d- cube or just the OSX like desktop switcher included, all is possible with this small programm, which combines and brings UNIX feel to Windows.
  • Using Rainmeter...
    ...allows you to control and keep track of music, inbox, links, to-do-list´s and rss-feeds from your desktop instead of opening these things by hand or in your browser, messenger, reader, etc. How a professional environment can look can be seen here. Sure some stuff is just fancy and requires some resources, but actually this is what a modern Computer desktop can look like: MetrOSX - Desktop. Get Rainmeter here: Rainmeter.net The specific theme used in the screenshot above is Omnimo.
  • Use a to-do list app to get-things-done
    You can still use Post-it´s, but actually there is quite number of services out there such as Wunderlist* or Remember the milk*. Personally I prefer the latter. Google calendar or iCal can do the trick, but the key is that you don´t forget to check these lists. Apps for your phone or tablet can be useful if supported by the main application. Rainmeter also has a nice option to include Remember the milk* on your desktop as feed, best reminder ever.
  • Never change a running system...
    ...and if so, keep a backup at hand that brings you instant remedy. There are a lot companies outthere who offer various packages for personal and workstations, since I recently had to decide and try out some of them, I found EaseUs To-Do Workstation the most convincing and working solution for backing up a system. The paid version includes Win PE environment as a boot disc instead of a Linux bootdisk, which makes backing-up a charm.
  • Back up your files, often!
    I mentioned this one extra, because the companies who offer system restore or backup software also offer file backup, but they are not too specialized. In my opinion you are better off buying a synchronization software like Syncback SE and EaseUs Workstation, which is alltogether cheaper than one copy of Acronis Workstation or Paragon Professional packages. With Syncback SE you can create synchronization jobs as soon as a file is changed to 3 or more different locations (external / internal disk, NAS, cloud storage like Drop-Box, etc.)
  • Use cloud  storage or a NAS server to backup files
    A cloud storage function might be THE option to de-centralized store important files. There are lots of free and professional services like google drive out there, just look up `cloud storage´. If your bandwith support it, this option is highly recommended.
    If your bandwidth is lower, think about getting a small server or NAS.
  • Get used to shortcuts
    If you work with Photoshop on a single monitor, you surely have embraced the option to cycle through the screen options with `F´, if not, go and grab your cheat-sheet here. There is nothing wrong if you know how to mute the music in the background without wasting time bringing the player back into the front. For Mac users the hotkeys are a charm, on Windows there is a number of tools out there to get the same or similar results, like 3RVX, which has volume display with hotkey support like OSX (Download here).
  • Update on hardware when necessary
    I recently ran out of RAM quite often, the demanding software from Adobe is an indicator that your hardware is either good-to-go or out-of-date. If you can afford it, RAM and SSD´s are getting really low on prices currently which makes the technology up on par with top high-end workstations for a fraction of their price. Updating an old system with an SSD, even if you just use SATA 3, is a performance boost that makes any WD Raptor disk look old.
  • Cut memory and multitasking power...
    ...and assign tasks to another computer. Sounds a bit decadent but this is the most effective way to keep being productive and make use of `Hardware-Multitsking´. Especially if your workstation is not build to work on Photoshop, After Effects, Flash, Indesign, 3D Studio Max and a rendering engine at once without running out of memory. When I have to do some rendering I use my Macbook pro to do the job, this way I can still work in Photoshop. If you have many tasks that require more RAM or if you do a lot Fractal or 3D- renderings you often can´t do anything else. Depending on size of frames or images, your computer is blocked for hours. If that is the case, think about a different computer first instead of just updating hardware, sometimes the investment is smaller than you might think. Ebay and online seller drop prices for computer parts faster than you can look and it doesn´t has to be the newest hardware either. Before buying on Ebay or Amazon it also can make sense to look on price-comparison-search engines beforehand.

I hope this list is helpful to someone, I´m always open for improvement and I don´t know it all. So if you happen to know of a better service, app, configuration, workflow, etc. Let me know in the comments. 

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Oliver aka Fantasio is a creative blogger who likes to share his insights about art, marketing and social media. Follow Fantasio on twitter or facebook

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