Top Tips for Staying Productive and Get More Done

freelancer distracted

My friends and close colleagues often ask… ‘How on earth do you get so much done?’ I had not realized it, but over the years, I picked up on a few tools, from articles, books, and video essays, on how to make the most out of the day and rescue time, and still have time for looking after myself.

Remote work isn’t easy, but if you can make it, it’s highly rewarding, I’ve been piling up more and more stuff to do, such as:
– Handling two remote contracts with one indie and one AAA studio;
– Customer support and PR for both;
– Dealing with new leads and booking them for future freelance work;
– Consulting and acting as an agent to map talent for other studios when I can’t take it myself; (More PR)
Personal projects and taking courses at LearnSquared to better my craft;
– Leading Wanderlust Boards, my own skateboard graphics brand which landed an exclusive contract deal with Threadless;
– And managing all my CG store content over at the Artstation, (ranked within the top 20 stores in Arstation during 2020) and Gumroad;


… And all other sorts of tasks, like sending very important GIFs over discord and slack:


All of which… wasn’t an easy feat you know…

I also do find time to read greek and eastern philosophy, business theory, graphic design, art theory books, cooking, working towards my purple belt in jiu-jitsu, surf, skateboarding, and you know… do live life on the side, because glamourizing the lifestyle of work-work-work, until you die just, isn’t for me. So… how? A few tools help me stay on track:

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1. Sprint Theory (Crunch work in small sprints and get more done)

This is definitely something I learned from TheFutur content, the principle is simple:

1. Start with a 90-minute sprint, just you and work, turn off email, turn off Instagram notifications, no distractions, this is imperative.
2. After 20 minutes, rest, ideally, go outside, get some sun on your face, sit down and meditate, make yourself some warm coffee or tea, pet a cat. Anything that is off the digital world, cut off from the electronics, do the digital detox. It might seem you’re wasting time, but the time off the tunnel vision will help spring new ideas that you otherwise wouldn’t have when you’re at the monitor for too long. So just listen to the general buzz of the world instead. It may feel you’re not being productive, but truth be told, if you crush step 1 religiously, you get more done in 90-minute blocks than 2-4 hours.

Work Rituals are important, Charles Dickens demanded a 3-hour walk in silence in between and a contrasting military-like schedule structure to be productive in his office, Beethoven counted exactly 60 beans in order to get creative, some other inventors would keep small toys at their office desks, you might have seen it on House MD as well:

house md and his ball

Whatever works, works, you don’t tell a nail factory owner how to produce their nails, you just order them for your needs. Similarly, what’s the best way to produce your content? What makes it natural for you?

Alternatively, you can use LeechBlock free browser extension to block specific sites during this set time as a constant reminder of what you should be doing.

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2. Recommended Books on procrastination (Ugh, reading, amirite? Don’t worry there’s an audiobook version)

Eat that Frog and the Compound Effect book were probably the most influential hustle books I’ve ever read. They are filled with very simple tricks and small tweaks to adjust in your work life to ramp up your work pace with little to no struggle, it’s about making efficient smart choices of what to tackle first and how.

Darren Hardy goes into how to eradicate bad habits, some of which you might even be unaware of as they are deeply rooted in the unconscious mind, how to cultivate habits to motivate you further so you can catch momentum and stay unstoppable once you get the right groove or the right wind to sail.

Get the Eat that Frog book here: https://amzn.to/35tXbj7
And the Compound Effect here: 
https://amzn.to/2TnDSFa
*All links will provide a small % fee to support me and this type of content, you do not have an added cost to this purchase.*

productivity books

Brian Tracy, similarly to the thematic at hand, goes into suggesting schedule breakdowns that make the work more efficient and possible to achieve. He even admits we all procrastinate, it’s impossible not to, but allowing yourself of procrastinating at the right, smaller tasks while getting the most daunting ones done first will have a lasting positive impact on your career and life. Uncomfortable work is daunting, we don’t want to do it, but once we do start, you realize the itch of not doing it was more complex than the act of not doing it itself.

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3. Business theory with Chris Do and TheFutur

Everything I know about business, client relationships, freelance, finance management for designers, even project management, comes from Chris Do for the most part. The Business side you wish they’d teach you at school? Emmy award-winning and Art Center College of Design teacher does it, he’s done an amazing job at teaching graphic designers how to do well in the departments I have outlined, just replace ‘graphic design’ with ‘concept artist’, and all terms and philosophies are still the same in his lectures, you’ll learn, in a list:

chris do thefutur

– How to deal with client price objections;
– How to find new clients;
– Efficient Project Management;
– Managing Finance;
– Case Study of your work;
– Proposals;
– Advanced Strategy for Client work;
…and many more.

Knowing the business side, how to network, how to properly receive and foster relationships in the business world, will get you more efficient at writing them and get straight to the point, you’ll rescue precious time you otherwise you’d be left wondering ‘what to do!’ – just like you would when you started drawing and have no idea where to start.

Find more at: https://academy.thefutur.com/?affcode=112836_fdj1yzpo

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4. PureRef – Moodboarding Tool

free mood board software

PureRef is a simpler way to organize your reference, I use it all the time for my personal projects, it lacks collaborative features that Miro would provide. Don’t try to do this in Photoshop, you’ll just hurt yourself.
PureRef is free and you can get it here: https://www.pureref.com/download.php

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5. Project Management Apps

Like any other artist on Earth, I dread JIRA, so ClickUp was the one I really liked to use, the UI/UX is more fluid, the engagement and adding/removing tasks take no time, and it’s just almost analogous to a real-life pen and paper list. At least it’s how it feels to me.

Listing tasks to me is important since I work with a lot of different software, like Zbrush, Photoshop, Keyshot, I find it easier to write down the tasks I envision to take over on each software package, and if inspiration hits, and I do have a great idea for a detail to do on Zbrush, but I’m still in Photoshop’s sketching phase, I can list it there for later.

– In here, you can add Kanban Boards, so why Trello anymore?

You can toggle between different project views, so go from Kanban Board to list, to Gantt, to Calendar, even add a chat system, with just a simple click and all the tasks will be linked through different project views.

There’s a lot to it, set email reminders, add collaborators, add mind maps, whatever you need!
Join for free using my referral link, no catch: https://clickup.com/?fp_ref=miguel10

clickup task manager

6. Time Trackers

While ClickUp does have an internal time tracker, you can also have a good separate one. Clockify allows you to track the time you spend on a project, separate it between billable or nonbillable, does not auto-log off, even when you’re AFK, adds manual time and separates it between projects. Just start your day, hit ‘track’ and there you go. Measure when and how you’re spending time, so whenever the client asks, how long does it take? You not only know how to reply with accuracy, but you can also get a grip of how much to charge and the resources it’s costing you and your office burn rate.

Clockify is also free: https://clockify.me/

free time tracking software

7. Cloud hosting

To host and share files between clients, team members, and I, I often use cloud file hosting, it eradicated all my external hard drives, because it just takes no time to download the files I want, access them, and set them to cloud again instead of having them taking disk-space forever. It was really bothersome to plug in and off, back and forth, a bunch of external hard drives, now you can just set files on and offline on demand and that’s it.

Here’s two of my favorites:
1. OneDrive by Microsoft, has amazing integration with Windows: https://onedrive.live.com?invref=1ba5ef4f1c49a748&invscr=90

2. DropBox is a veteran on this industry: https://www.dropbox.com/referrals/AADzqLtZO0FGvfWayCp7eT090PMBq0vhFps?src=global9
*None of these links will raise the product prices, in fact, some of which will give you and I extra storage for taking my referral link.*

8. Grammarly Free Browser Extension

free grammar tool

For nonnative English speakers like myself, Grammarly is the annoying but useful grammar teacher who constantly corrects my spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. You’ll write cleaner emails and learn better English as you go. https://www.grammarly.com/

That’s it! Thanks for reading!

02. Store updates

Mentorship Demo:

concept art mentorship

I’ve now released a mentorship demo session I did with my last student. This is a preview of the mentorship sessions I usually provide, and that I thought it could fit as a sample where others could learn from without having to book a session with me at a more affordable price.

Artstation link: https://migno.artstation.com/store/5j2OY/mentorship-sessions-demo
Gumroad link: https://gumroad.com/products/ROeuT/

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02. Store updates

Decals Pack:

All the decals packs have been updated, they now feature sliced individual symbols that you can just use to import to Substance Painter, Zbrush, or any other software you’d like. At the beginning I would produce these decals for Concept Artists who wanted to bash something quick, so a image file atlas with all of them would be enough, but more and more people want to use them individually, so the update has been rolled out for free if you had already bought them.

 You can find it below as well: 

sci fi decals


Artstation store link: https://migno.artstation.com/store
Gumroad: https://gum.co/nCuUV

About me:
Miguel Nogueira is a freelance concept artist, designer, and storytelling strategist.
He’s also worked with studios to help mapping solutions to reach their audience, unlock the gamer’s sense of wonder and myth, as well as their needs, while collaborating with the studios under fun work processes.


He’s been featured at CGSociety Hall of Fame and Behance, also on Kotaku and 3DTotal. He has also recently worked with Frictional Games on the release of Amnesia’s Rebirth and an upcoming, AAA, unannounced MMORPG as Sr. Character Concept Artist.
If you’re interested in having Miguel speak at your event, want to sponsor his content, or start a project, please send all business inquiries here.
More work and resume info at: https://www.menogcreative.com/