As you get busier, and therefore more successful, with your video production business, you’ll discover just how important productivity and keeping watch over your time is.
That’s why I will give you some of my favourite productivity tips in this post.
If you’re familiar with the Sword Crafter’s Parable, you’ll know that a key to success is focusing completely on what you want to achieve and having the wisdom to eliminate that which doesn’t apply to your goal.
This post will keep that in mind. I’ll be listing some of the top methods for improving your productivity and getting the most out of everything you’ve got.
How To Get The Most Out Of Anything You Read, Watch Or Listen To
The sub-title above goes for just about anything you consume – whether that be a book you read, a video you watch or a podcast you listen to.
Yes, the internet (and the world) is over saturated with information about everything. We call this information overload.
You can find information (detailed, at that) on the internet about absolutely anything and everything under the sun.
Have an interest in crochet? There’s a blog for that. Want to know everything there is to know about the ins-and-outs of paragliding. There’s a blog for that. Interested in dogs with moustaches? There is (strangely) a blog about that.
That last one was one of those, “I’ll search it, but surely there’s not a blog about it” ones that, clearly, proves my point that the internet is home to (just about) everything.
So, with that point made, you should be well aware that there’s a tonne of information and most of it is competing for your attention in one way or another. In fact, nowadays we even have Facebook adverts that jump out at us in-between newsfeeds.
As a filmmaker or video business owner, you have a wealth of information and content just screaming at you to be read, watched, heard or otherwise consumed. The very blog you’re reading is just one such source.
So this article will help you get the most out of everything that you consume. In a world of information overload, these kind of tips can be indispensable.
1. Note Taking
Note taking is an exceptional way to boost your learning comprehension and maximize your time spent with a book, video or other content.
Take notes whilst you read an e-book, listen to an audio CD or watch a DVD.
I think a lot of people are reluctant to take notes on the material they go through because maybe it reminds them too much of school. I think it’s a tactic for really serious students of video business who want to get things down as effectively as possible.
Note taking helps to build up your knowledge-base and helps with information retention. Writing whilst consuming information is actually proven to help the retention of that knowledge. That’s why your professors at college always encouraged you to take notes!
So we know all about note taking, but what are the best tools to take notes?
Evernote is exceptional at helping you compile your notes into various sections and topics. It’s easy to use and a lot of fun.
Another piece of software that makes note taking easy and rewarding is Scrivener. Scrivener is another solid tool for storing notes, and it’s also brilliant for many other writing uses. Scrivener is pretty much taking over the novel writing and screenwriting industries right now. Great tool.
You can, of course, go all old school and use pen and paper. In my opinion, there’s nothing more rewarding writing wise than writing notes and thoughts in a moleskine notebook. This is closely tied to journaling (something else you should be doing), and I’ve used a moleskine to chronicle my ideas and plans for years, especially whilst on the road.
When you take comprehensive and informative notes, you’ll retain what you learn much better and you’ll also build up a reference library of important light-bulb moments.
2. Fast Playback
Our brains are capable of so much more than we give them credit for.
Let’s take studying videography/filmmaking DVD sets as an example, but this tip could apply to almost anything.
I sometimes wonder how people have the time to go through multiple 16 DVD tutorial sets and still lead efficient and productive lives. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been through my fair share of 16 DVD sets, which is why I know how time consuming it can be!
For a lot of people, it becomes a hobbyist thing and a lifestyle choice, which is all cool. But I think one gets to a point where you realize 16 DVD sets full of fluff and re-hashed information may not be the best use of your time.
Yes, it’s true – there’s not that much new material under the sun. Most 16 DVD tutorial sets are just rehashes of something that you’ve already viewed before. However, let it be known that repetition is a key piece of the learning puzzle, so taking in this content from multiple sources and in many different ways isn’t a bad thing.
With that said, don’t waste your time with “normal” playback speeds when your brain can process information at a much faster rate than the standard setting on your media player.
That’s why I advise you to increase the playback speed of the DVD or audio CD that you’re consuming in order to improve learning efficiency.
So what does this mean?
You can get through, say, 1 hour worth of audio/video in 30 minutes! This is a great way to get through more content, with the awesome side effect that research shows a faster playback speed improves learning and information retention.
This isn’t you sitting down to watch your favourite movie on a Friday night. This is about learning and consuming vast amounts of information more efficiently in order to better yourself in any way – whether it be business education or your raw videography skills.
So how is this done?
On VLC media player, you can find this setting on the double arrow button on the far right of the screen. One click takes the speed up .50 at a time and a right click will give you more detailed options where you can take the speed up or down in gentle increments.
The video below gives a good run through of how to do this quickly (pun very much intended!)
The key is finding the right speed setting for you. I’d recommend shooting up to a ridiculously high speed to begin with in order to train your ears, before dropping down to a slower speed (but, obviously, still faster than your original setting).
This should allow your ears to become accustomed to the new level and, after a while, everything will just sound normal! It’s awesome.
I personally find 1.80x on VLC to be the sweet spot for me, but I often go up to 2x. This applies to the more slow speakers you might listen to. For the faster speakers (a lot of the sales & marketing people are great examples), I normally stick with 1.50x.
That seems to work for me – I get the best of both worlds, with improved speed and efficiency whilst still being able to actually hear what they’re saying! Avoid the crazy robotic chipmunk voice that comes about when you try and increase the volume too fast before your ears are ready for it!
Remember Stuff Even Better With Repeated Listens
It’s often said that repetition breeds skill. Well, repetition also leads to better retention.
You can listen to, say, 1 hours worth of CD/DVD in 30 minutes, then you have more time to repeat the material and, thus, ingrain it in your mind more efficiently.
The repetition will probably be much more beneficial than listening for 30 mins on normal speed, getting bored, distracted and eventually turning it off and doing something else. One thing about the faster speed is that it really keeps your attention. So listening to it multiple times in that hour is going to be a lot better for learning than just the once.
This faster playback thing is by far one of the most ground-breaking tactics I have discovered in my learning. I get a lot more stuff done and I actually remember what I learn better as well. Particularly good for plowing through really slow or boring speakers, who still deliver solid material.
It also has the hilarious side-effect of rendering the person’s voice waaaaaaaaay toooooooooo sloooooooooow sooooooouuuuuuunding if you suddenly take the speed down after having it raised up for a prolonged period of time. They always sound kinda drunk and slurry when you do this.
Likewise, if someone engages you in conversion shortly after doing this process – it’s like being in The Matrix! Try doing this for hours and then jump back into the newfound relative slowness of everyday day!
Also, you’ll find it amusing if someone walks into your office whilst you are listening to material like this. My girlfriend walked in on the speed watching of some in-depth sales technique and she thought I was crazy! People just don’t get it and their ears haven’t attuned to the speed difference from everyday life.
I should probably mention here that a great way of avoiding those awkward moments is to wear headphones when doing this. This also has the secondary gain of allowing you to better hear the speaker when speeding things up.
Bonus Tip: The Slightly Shady Way of Speeding Up Your Favourite YouTube Videos
I wanted to give a special bonus tip that will enable you to use the speed-up playback technique on any video you find online.
Let’s say you have a YouTuber who delivers great filmmaking advice – someone like Film Riot. You can use the same method above to speed up playback and consume more great material.
To do this, you just need to install a crafty little tool that integrates well with the Firefox browser. It’s called Video DownloadHelper and here’s how:
1. Install Video DownloadHelper.
2. You’ll be able to use it to grab a downloaded version of the YouTube video. It also works with other video sharing sites like Vimeo, etc.
3. Once you have a downloaded version of the file, you can open it up using VLC Media Player and follow the tips above.
3. Speed Reading & Photo Reading
I put these two together, as they’re obviously very much aligned around the same subject.
Whilst this isn’t one that I use all the time, I thought I’d throw it in here anyway, as it gets a lot of publicity and many people swear by it.
These are techniques for transforming the style and rate at which you read. For instance, photo reading’s primary concern is whizzing through a book and taking an overview snapshot of each page before skimming it in more detail. Speed reading, on the other hand, is concerned with things like eliminating self-talk enunciations as you read.
A great way to improve reading speed is to take a speed reading/photo reading course (there are plenty of them around the net) and begin to comprehend material faster. This has two advantages:
1. The ability to digest material much more quickly.
2. The idea of discovering what’s worthwhile to go through in more detail and what isn’t.
The former will drastically alter your rate of knowledge accumulation and allow you to learn much faster, and the latter will save you wasting time on material that you don’t want to focus on, or stuff that just isn’t much use to you.
As well as improving your ability to work through material faster, speed/photo reading can also grant you the luxury of being able to throw out what doesn’t apply to you a lot quicker! Efficiency in action!
Speed reading, photo reading, or whatever you want to call it, also works your visual-spatial memory, which is arguably the most powerful form of memory we have. And that, of course, like many of the tips we’re discussing here, helps with retention.
4. Mind Mapping
Closely tied to note-taking, discussed above, is mind mapping.
At this point, most people have heard of mind-mapping. Maybe you were encouraged to do it in college, or you worked at a company who loved to give presentations using mind mapping software. If you aren’t familiar with mind maps, they’re very similar to their close-cousins, spider diagrams.
This is what a mind map looks like:
For those not in the know, mind mapping software offers many benefits for getting ideas out of our brains and communicating those ideas with others. Let’s look at the two primary reasons for using mind mapping:
1. To brainstorm ideas into a framework.
2. To present concepts to other people.
For brainstorming, mind maps allow you to dump ideas out of your brain into an easy to use framework. From there, you can move things around and connect ideas together using the software.
For presenting concepts, mind maps allow you to present complex concepts to other people – either in the form of a meeting, a pre-recorded product or when you’re explaining something to a member of your team.
In our team, mind maps are especially important for hashing out ideas and directions to go with different projects. Someone might put together a mind map in order to showcase their latest thoughts and ideas on a certain project.
Mind mapping will allow you to be more efficient and productive with your brainstorming sessions, as well as the execution of your projects. If you’re not mind mapping, then you’re missing out!
Here are some of my favourite pieces of mind mapping software:
Mindjet’s MindManager – a solid piece of mind mapping software.
bubbl.us – brainstorm and mind map online.
5. Set Up Mastermind Groups
Mastermind Groups are a great way to exchange information with other people who are on a similar path to you. You can join (or start) Mastermind Groups about business, videography, filmmaking or any other topic that touches your fancy.
I mentioned Mastermind Groups in one of the guides from my Complete Video Business System.
You can find Mastermind Groups online or offline. Either look for groups within your offline network (ask around) or try searching internet forums. Here’s a tried and true tactic:
1. Join a forum about an interest (i.e. video production).
2. Post for a while and get a feel for the place.
3. Search the forum for Mastermind Groups that already exist, or post a message asking about them.
4. Start a journal on the forum charting your progress is a good way to have people reach out to you wanting to help.
5. Once you’ve joined a Mastermind Group, take it seriously. Consider it an honor. Attend as many meetings and give back as much as you can.
Some Mastermind Groups meet up in person, others purely online. Apps like Skype are really useful for speaking to Mastermind members or your mentors.
This is an awesome way to improve your business and career – you get to discuss ideas with other members, hash out solutions to problems and get feedback on things you don’t understand, as well as forming solid friendships with people that have similar interests.
6. Monitor Your Time For Exceptional Success
Your time is your most precious asset and you must against those who try to take it. Time wasters, toxic people and those that procrastinate themselves are all people who will try to take your time.
If you lose money, or you lose equipment or resources, you can get that back, but you can never get back lost time.
As I’ve advised about in the Complete Video Business System before, you can lose project edits, you can lose people’s emails, you can even lose whole hard drives full of work. But you can work to get those back eventually.
What you can’t get back is the minute it took to read that last paragraph. Time is crucial.
You don’t have to be accessible in your business at all times. You don’t need to be at the beck-and-call of your phone, jumping in reaction to each text or email that comes through. This seems to be a learned behavior with a lot of people these days.
One of the best things you can do (especially when you’re deep in concentration editing a project) is to just turn your phone off.
I have my phone on silent at all times these days. There aren’t many phone calls in this world that can’t wait at least 1 hour (till the end of your next Pomodoro block of time!)
Learn to be strict with your time and it will pay you back with interest.
Also, cut out time-wasters from your life. Don’t chase clients – let them come to you.
There are two decisions you must make:
How are you going to do business?
How are others going to do business with you?
With those pointers in mind, let’s move onto some key distinctions we can make about productivity and being efficient in our video business.
7. Information Overload Is the Death of Productivity
This is a really easy trap to fall into.
As discussed, we are surrounded by huge amounts of information, and this is great, provided the information is used effectively. It’s so easy for people to get caught up in everything that exists in a certain area – obsessively jumping from book to book, or video to video, and hording everything with no end in sight!
This can easily lead to paralysis by analysis.
Important things to avoid
1. Buying a book and not reading it.
2. Focusing on too many things at once.
3. Getting caught up in constant learning at the expense of applying.
1. Avoid procrastination.
As we’ve all read in just about every single self help book; procrastination is a killer! It’s death to productivity and efficiency. When looking for a book (or other content), know what you’re looking for before you search. Avoid needless, obsessive browsing that returns little in the way of value.
That way, you end up buying less books (and other content) that you won’t end up consuming.
2. Focus on one thing at a time.
That’s one book. One DVD product. One series of YouTube videos. Avoid stretching yourself too thin and draining your productivity. Focus is key here.
3. Don’t get caught up in the next-big-thing-magic-pill-this-will-cure-you-of-all-your-troubles-brand-new-super-product.
It’s prudent to take your time when some new method or tactic or book comes out – don’t jump on the bandwagon and drop the current one you’re working through. Instead, wait for good detailed reviews and discussion about said product/book/course. Gauge how worthwhile it is and decide when you want to check it out.
And remember, this isn’t just limited to information overload with books/courses/products, it extends to discussion forum information overload, too.
There are many great forum posters and discussions topics out there and it’s easy to spend hours trawling through posts once you’ve found a discussion forum that matches your goals.
It’s all well and good if you believe you’re getting genuine value out of it (and there is massive value to be had in forums that match your goals), but if you find yourself obsessively constantly checking to see if there are new posts in one of your threads, then you might have a problem.
Eliminate repetitive behaviours like this, find a new productive habit to replace it, and you will find your efficiency increase exponentially.
This was a lengthy point, and I know it encapsulates a lot of the other ideas in this post, but it is a serious problem that I’ve fallen into myself in the past. It’s definately worth a detailed mention.
8. Don’t Let Information Take Over Your Life!
All this talk about books/courses/products in this post and how important they are, and we have neglected one of the most important points! 😉
This ties in pretty well with the last tip. Make sure to assign a certain amount of time to study in your relevant area and schedule that into your day. Use only the allocated amount of time and be strict with yourself.
And, hey, don’t forget: there’s a whole big wide world out there just begging for you to come and check it out!
To sum this all up, I will mention…
If you don’t take Action in the area in which you’re studying, then all the books and courses in the world won’t mean a thing.
If you’re reading a book about videography techniques, then get in the field and use that camera!
If you’re watching a business DVD, put the skills to use immediately in your own business. Don’t just read the stories from the business writers and live vicariously through their words.
Or, to use a slightly different example: If you’re listening to a CD concerning the learning of an instrument…actually pick that instrument up and start playing!
Remember The Golden Rule that I’ve talked about before regarding Action time:
1 hour of study should equal 2 hours of in-field time putting things into practice and taking action.
Practice is everything. It seems so obvious, but a post like this would be amiss not to mention it at the end along with all the other tips. If Action isn’t present, then all the other above tips are redundant.
Hopefully this post featuring some of my best productivity tips will help readers improve the efficiency of their video business. If I could give you one piece of advice: take more action.
As always, comments, thoughts and additions are most welcome. This is a work in progress, as I’m always open to ideas about how I can improve my efficiency, focus and productivity as a video business owner.
Thanks for reading!