In today’s society, everyone puts pressure on themselves to get more done in less time — but there is only a limited amount of time in a day. In order to make the best of those 24 hours, we have to get creative. Not an easy task.
Luckily, there are those out there who are willing to teach us the productivity hacks necessary to get us to the next level. YouTube — the go-to place to learn just about anything these days — has seen lately a growth on self-improvement channels.
These go from those that talk about emotional intelligence to study hacks and productivity shortcuts. They vary in tone and size but the one thing they all have in common is that they help you become the best possible version of yourself.
We got in touch with six of the best Youtubers on the subject and asked them for their insights.
Amy Landino (schmittastic)
Amy is a new media triple threat: YouTuber, best-selling author, and keynote speaker. In her YouTube series AmyTV, she promotes a productive lifestyle and inspires her followers to get things done. Time management, daily routines and stopping procrastination are regular subjects on her channel.
Anthony Ongaro (Break the Twitch)
Anthony is the creator of ‘Break the Twitch’, the name of his YouTube channel and his philosophy. Break the Twitch is all about minimising distractions and doing more of what matters. With a couple of small daily actions, he believes you’ll experience greater clarity and make more meaningful progress on the things that matter the most to you.
Jasmine is all about organisation. Planning, balancing and improving the life of her viewers, in general. She talks weekly about how to organise your notes and gives updates on her study sessions. Also, calligraphy is one of her passions.
With the motto ‘do something today that you’ll thank yourself for tomorrow’ she shares her way of looking at things. Laura’s YouTube mostly consists of ‘Study With Me’ videos in which she shows how she goes about her school tasks. She recently hit 40K subscribers, so congratulations to her on reaching that milestone.
Rafael is a motivational speaker and high-performance coach who is an expert in getting people to be the best version of themselves. Rafael focuses on the state of mind and self-improvement. He once was struggling with social anxiety himself and now made it his goal to help others overcome their fears like he did.
What started as a channel based on Harry Potter where she made impressions of Hermione Granger (which are spot on, by the way) has now turned into a well-established study/productivity/lifestyle guide. Simply put, she is making school cool again.
First of all, why did you start a Youtube Channel?
Amy: I started my YouTube channel so that I could differentiate from everyone else in my industry. No one in my space was doing video at that time and I was unafraid to share this skill with the world. It helped me promote my business and give it the ability to grow to where I am today.
Jasmine: I started my YouTube channel because I have a Tumblr account where I share study tips, but wanted to share what was in my pencil case which is easier to convey in video form. I enjoyed creating that first video so I continued to make YouTube videos.
Laura: I started my YouTube channel originally as a creative outlet. I have always been a creative person, meaning that YouTube was something I had been interested in for years. I also created my channel because I wanted to help others.
Many influencers on YouTube have helped me through difficult points in my life and I wanted to be able to pass on the favour to others in need of a little bit of happiness. As well as this, there are many things that I want to raise awareness for, such as mental health issues and equality and therefore I thought that starting a creative and positive platform would allow me to share my views and experiences.
Rafael: I did it to get good at communication, it was an outlet for me work on myself. I used to have extreme levels of social anxiety, my journey on YouTube helped transform me as a person. It then developed as I was able to live my dream of helping people become their best selves.
Ruby: It was at the end of Year 8. When I was 12 years old and studying for my summer internal examinations that I first started to take revising seriously. However, I found that I didn’t actually know how to study. When I was in Year 10, after having developed my own revision strategies and taken on tips from friends and teachers too, I decided that I wanted to help students who didn’t know how to study through YouTube videos.
I decided that I wanted to be that source of revision tips which other students could look towards. However, as well as just study tips, my channel was initially based largely on Hermione Granger (who was my greatest role model!) and I used to make videos giving tips on how people could live a life as productive and fulfilling as J K Rowling’s fictional, feminist protagonist. Naturally, as I got older, my channel moved away from Hermione and began to focus more on studying and now I can proudly say that I am a StudyTuber!
Note: Check out this other intereview we did to digital marketers.
Is going to bed and waking up at approximately the same hours every day a necessity?
Anthony: It’s not a necessity, but especially when working from home or independently, having a routine is incredibly helpful. Staying consistent generally helps overcome resistance to starting your work, and having set places where you do certain types of work helps maintain that routine. It can be random, but I haven’t found it to be very successful for me.
Jasmine: I find it to be essential for me, as my personal energy levels are strongly tied to the time of day. If I wake up late I feel groggy the whole day, and anytime past my bedtime, I feel nonfunctional. Others’ experiences may be different, but for me, it’s a necessity.
What is, in your opinion, the biggest reason that’s preventing people from being productive?
Amy: The biggest reason people are not being productive is that it’s easier to be reactive than it is to be proactive. Life will continue to happen to you, no matter what. If you can take control of some of the things that you want, those things that “happen to you” don’t and won’t seem as significant.
Laura: In my opinion, I believe that it is the increasing amount of pressure that is put on students to succeed and achieve a certain grade/percentage.
Ruby: I feel as though the prospect of being ‘productive’ is actually rather a daunting one. It is, after all, easy for us to spend an hour watching a television programme because, thanks to YouTube and Netflix, there is so much video content on fast demand. When you decide to do something ‘productive’, however, it tends to have to be an active decision — you have to think about what you will do before you actually do it.
One way that I get around this issue is by keeping a list of productive things that I could do in a revision break or if I am bored. For example, I may read a book, listen to a lecture on The Great Courses Plus or go for a walk. In each instance, I am doing something from which I can actively reap something and, when you can reflect on that past hour and realise that you have got something to show for it, there is something extremely satisfying about it. The more that you are productive, paradoxically, the easier it becomes to be productive without even thinking about it.
Now, when I’m feeling a bit bored or am at a loss for something to do, I will automatically do something productive without procrastinating — it kind of becomes second nature! Ultimately, it all does come down to procrastination, I think, but this can be solved. This also extends to social media of course. Social media platforms are busy spaces where there is always something going on. It is not surprising that we can be drawn away from our work to check some emails or look at some photographs on Facebook. Digital developments, whilst incredibly useful in increasing our productivity, can also stunt it because the online world is so distracting. Sometimes, we just need to turn that phone to airplane mode and put it where we cannot see it so that we can be productive.
How important is it to take a break?
Anthony: Breaks are incredibly important. I tend to view productivity in a holistic way, over long months and years instead of days. Just about anything worth doing requires prolonged effort to produce over this period, and the only way to do that is to maintain balance overall. I tend to take breaks every few hours during the working day and at least an entire day off every week. This allows me to stay focused when I’m actually working, and not burn out quickly.
Ruby: As a StudyTuber, I have got to admit that I am notorious for not taking breaks as regularly as is advised by the Pomodoro Method and some psychologists. I do think that breaks are important if we are to ensure continued productivity, but, for me at least, it is inhibiting for these to be too structured. Sometimes, we will be really engaged in our work and, coming back to it after five minutes, we find that we are no longer able to concentrate and are more distracted than we were before taking the break. We have to be the judges of our own breaks — take a break when you feel as though you need one, don’t just take one for the sake of taking one.
On the other hand, if you know that you often end up taking breaks too regularly, it can be useful to regulate them in some way — perhaps by giving yourself a time allowance for breaks at the beginning of the day and then keeping a tab of them. Please though do not think that I am underestimating how important it is that we take breaks. When we start to feel groggy or unmotivated, we need to refresh our minds so that we can work productively again. So get yourself a cup of tea, go for a run, talk with your family. When you come back, you will feel more motivated and will work more productively.
Today it’s easier than ever to stay in and work from home. Do you think this affects productivity?
Amy: It seems easier to stay in and work from home because companies are seeing the upside of the workflow. But not all of them. Working at home definitely affects productivity though. If you were to jump into the work-at-home model without a structure it will absolutely affect you negatively.
It’s easy to slide into just ‘being-at-home’ mode. However, if you’re able to control your surroundings at home it can be a positive experience. For me, it’s a home office where I’m not required to answer the phone or door, and where the watercooler and lunch with friends don’t consistently beckon. That structure sets me up for greater opportunity for productivity.
Laura: Personally, I believe that working from home can be both productive and unproductive depending on the work being completed, but I also think that having this option allows different people to work in their own unique and personal way. Everyone does work differently and better in different environments, so I can see either side of the argument here.
Rafael: Working from home can be very effective as long as you can set clear boundaries, personally I built myself office space next to my house, however, it is easy to turn one of your rooms into your ‘workspace’ and I’ve coached many high-level executives that find it extremely helpful to take a step back from their business and gain perspective by working remotely. Recently we introduced this philosophy with a real estate company, the strategy being to use nest security cameras to monitor every employee. This skyrocketed productivity and performance instantly and continues to serve us to improve our workflows. It also helps the leadership gain perspective instead of being caught up in the daily grind.
Some people say they can only be productive when they see other people in their surroundings work as well. Is this a thing?
Amy: This goes to show that who you surround yourself with is very important. Don’t blame others for your lack of productivity, and don’t give them the credit when you’re on fire. Relying on others for too many things in life probably means you’re not productive in a variety of places- not just work. If you’re the type of person who needs to be motivated by others, embrace it but know with whom to surround yourself with. Always be able to find another way to get things done when the perfect situation is not available.
Anthony: I’ve definitely found that I feel more fulfilled in certain types of work when other people are also working around me. Typically, when sharing a workspace with many others, I’ll meet my socializing needs, and work productivity needs all in one. This allows me to be more productive and keep a higher energy level overall because I’m an extrovert and need that balance. I will say it’s easier for me to go into “headphone mode” and write articles if I’m around other people who are also focused and working.
Why do we consciously engage in self-destructive habits while ignoring our better judgment?
Jasmine: While these habits are destructive in the long term, they are much more pleasant in the short term. Humans are wired to avoid pain, so we may go for short-term pleasure over long-term success.
Laura: Overall, I think we, as humans, are more inclined to give advice as opposed to receiving and considering it. Therefore, by ignoring our better judgement, we result in self-destructive habits. In addition, I believe that sometimes it is difficult to distinguish better judgements from habits, due to stress, resulting in the choice of the ‘easiest’ option at the time.
Ruby: (This is a rather Augustinian question!) I suppose because it is easier. It can be daunting to look at a blank sheet of paper and realise that you have got to write a two thousand word essay, and I don’t then think that it is surprising when we decide to do something else in its place. Rationally, of course, it does not make sense — we know that getting that essay written now will help us in the future and, even if we do not write it now, we will end up having to write it later.
However, in a way, I wonder whether this in itself motivates our procrastination: we know that it will get done at some point, and so we don’t have to focus on it now. I’m not really sure why we do indulge these habits when they do not help us in the slightest, but, once again, I do think that we can overcome them.
How do you stay motivated when what you’re doing is completely new and there are no short-term results?
Amy: You have to care a lot about what you’re doing, and why. If you’re only doing something for short-term rewards then you’re not providing yourself with many options for work. If you would continue to do something you absolutely love, even if you didn’t have an opportunity to make money from it, you know you’re in it for the right reasons.
Laura: Personally, I usually set short-term goals, such as watching an episode of my favourite show once I’ve finished the work I have to do for the day. Even though there are no short-term results, I think it’s important to stay reassured that everything you do now compiles together to reach an end goal. Whenever I lose motivation, I always think of the quote ‘What you do today determines your tomorrow’. Sometimes you have to focus on the bigger picture and what your aspirations are.
Note: You might be also be interested in reading ‘Is work-life balance possible in the world of events?.’
And finally, what advice do you have for people starting a Youtube channel?
Amy: Just do it, but stay consistent. It takes time, energy and commitment to build relationships and trust with people. Your audience. Always remember who you’re talking to. You’re not talking to your mom, your best friend, your partner or a camera. You’re talking to your target audience, your ideal prospects, your potential clients. You know what they’re thinking. Tell them what they need to know and you’ll go far.
Anthony: The most important thing is to learn along the way and find a way to share what interests you. You’ll learn something new with each video you make and engage with the community on YouTube. Don’t let perfection get in the way of actually uploading, but don’t just upload something you spent 15 minutes on — do your best to improve some aspect of what you make each time and you’ll get there over the long run. Remember that building a YouTube channel, brand, or anything else is a long- term game — it often takes years to build something substantial. But it’s worth it.
Jasmine: If you’re going to invest in equipment, invest in a microphone! In my view, bad audio quality is far less tolerable than bad video quality. The average smartphone can provide good video, but the audio is not as impressive.
Laura: My best piece of advice would be to be yourself, always. There is absolutely no point in changing aspects of yourself to please others. It is so easy to get caught up in who’s doing what and society’s image of perfection but I really urge new creators to find their own style and to stay true to their morals.
One thing I noticed on YouTube before I started was that every channel was different, every person made different content, edited differently and had a recognisable style to their channel. I created my own style and I recommend that other creators do the same thing, it is so important that you are enjoying creating content and that you are proud of the content you’re posting.
Everyone starts from 0 on YouTube and you have to work extremely hard to build an audience because it’s very competitive nowadays. There are always going to be people who don’t enjoy your content, and that’s ok. Everyone has different opinions and some people don’t hesitate to share them.
Also, everyone is learning. People make mistakes, you will make mistakes, I have made mistakes. It’s learning from them and improving yourself that is the most important thing. Overall, I would encourage anyone and everyone to go for it and to share their creativity with the world. You do you and don’t let anyone or anything define you.
Rafael: For the first six months of my channel I posted daily videos and only got 100 subscribers. Lesson: Do it because you love it, or you will be highly discouraged and end up quitting.
Ruby: The number one thing that I can advise is to be genuine. If you are dishonest or pretend to be someone you are not, it will become quickly apparent. In my videos, for example, I am often called a ‘nerd’ or a ‘geek’ (something of which I am actually proud!) but I am not going to change myself or my videos because of this — I need to be proud of the fact that I am a nerd and, if you start a StudyTube channel especially, you need to be proud also!
I also recommend that you really engage with people — talk with people in the comments section of larger YouTube channels and ask people to take a look at your channel. Post regularly, engage with your viewers and enjoy what you are doing — it should be fun!
Text: Dennis Van Steenwinkel
Edit: Harald Meyer-Delius
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