Setting the Scene

“Which cup am I in the mood for today?” I ask when I open the cupboard in the morning. If I feel chirpy, buzzing and ready to tackle the day, I grab my yellow SocialBee cup, a gift from my friend Ovi. If I feel feisty, I take out my “Hands off, Nik’s coffee” mug, another dear present from a beloved friend. And if I feel more muted, perhaps even a tad grumpy, I’ll get an unbranded IKEA cup and pretend I’m a nameless peasant, shoveling shit for the higher-ups — but determined to do my job regardless.

One of the best things you can do for your productivity is to observe the constant interplay of time and energy. Yes, some deadlines must be met, and yes, picking tasks based on what you’re in the mood for is a great start, but there’s a lot more you can do. With the right tweaks, you can turn the ping pong game between these two forces into a beautiful, never-ending game. Making those tweaks is what I call “setting the scene” — and choosing my coffee cup in the morning is just one example.

Imagine your design sprint like a scene from a movie. Who’s present? Where does it happen? Is it a sun-filled room with whiteboards and cookies on the table? Or do you see yourself hunched over a laptop in the corner of a coffee shop at night? Picturing your life scenes as storyboarded moments inside a grand arc makes it easier to accept them as temporary, little adventures on the way. It also gives you an instant, clear vision of what this particular adventure should look like in order for it to go over smoothly in one take.

If I miss my reading slot in the morning, I can’t sit on my couch and read with a coffee in hand at 6 PM instead — too late for caffeine. What I can do is replace the coffee with tea and get the same scene and outcome, despite the time frame being a different one than I had originally intended. If I can’t bring myself to finishing a piece of writing at 4 PM because my creativity has run out for the day, I can switch scenes to an excited project manager, blasting EDM on his headphones, cranking away at his administrative tasks — and then I slip into that role.

You are the narrator of your life. Sure, the show must go on, but it’s a show you’re running at all times. Whether it’s a birthday dinner, a road trip, or mastering a mixtape you’re trying to bring to the big screen next, set each scene accordingly, and you won’t just have a smooth production. You’ll play the role of your life in each episode — and that’s what being a star is all about.