Game-Changing Productivity Tips from Quinn Tempest

Guys, I am SO excited to introduce you to my friend Quinn Tempest, a Phoenix, Arizona-based graphic designer, digital strategist, speaker and all-around girlboss. (Seriously, she [semi-jokingly] calls her personal branding project “Boss Lady Empire”!!) Currently, Quinn is restructuring her business and while doing so has been sharing pearls of productivity wisdom, like this and this, over on her Instagram. Knowing that there had to be more where those came from, I asked Quinn if she would share some of her juiciest tips for productivity and staying organized. Lucky for all of us, Quinn agreed and her advice is blow-you-out-of-the-water amazing. We’re talking time management, organizational tools, tips for balance, and a game-changing definition of “productivity.”

I won’t give anything else away, you’re just going to have to read on. You can take it from here, Quinn!

Hello new neon friends! When Marisa asked me to write about productivity, I have to be honest – I wasn’t sure how much I would really have to share. But then it allllll came spilling out (ahem – 2,000 words later!). As I’m sure any of my fellow entrepreneurs can relate, I have so many competing priorities in work and life, so these funny little strategies sure help keep me sane and balanced. I hope you find a gem or two in here, and I’d also love to connect and hear your tips!

Welcome Quinn!! First off, we’d love to know what you love about your job and what sets you apart as a freelance marketing specialist.

Well first and foremost – I love being my own boss. I’ve been creating businesses for myself since I was a little tyke, and that hasn’t changed now that I’m “grown up.” What I really love about what I do is helping people bring their ideas to life. I work with entrepreneurs who are often starting their businesses for the first time or growing their existing business to a new level. By helping them brand themselves, design their websites, and build marketing systems – I feel like I’m a crucial part of helping them transform their life by building their business in a way that is authentic to who they are and what gifts they have to share. It’s an amazing experience! I think my intuitive nature and collaborative processes really set me apart from other designers, and my years of more corporate digital marketing expertise doesn’t hurt either. 🙂

Give us a quick run-through of your daily routine(s).

I wake up, kiss my husband, and then head downstairs to start my morning routine, which goes a little like this:

  • Meditate for 15 minutes (½ focusing on my breath, ½ unfocused attention)
  • Drink my tea
  • Read a book for 15 minutes (something about creativity/entrepreneurship/or something similar)
  • Make a little breakfast

I don’t check email or social media until my morning ritual is over. My goal is all about starting the day centered and aligned with my core personal valuesThen I sit down at my desk to plan. If it’s a Monday, I do accounting and plan out my week so I know what social activities are happening, and I pencil in time for exercise and yoga.

I also plan out my days every morning. I will schedule blocks of time for a slew of things, broken up into categories like: client work, intentional learning, business growth, or accounting. I go through my project management tool, prioritizing what I need to get done during each time block so I can make less decisions throughout the day and get more done.

Are you a morning person or night owl?

Both! But, I’m not dramatic about either because I sure LOVE and truly value my sleep. So that means I’m not often up before 6:30/7 and I like to be in bed by 10:30. If there is anything I’m NOT, it’s a mid-afternoon person. I firmly believe our society should bring back the siesta and give us all permission to get some zzzz’s at the time of day we all naturally get sleepy anyway (circadian rhythms are real, people). 2-4pm is always a bit of a drag for me, but I like to go to yoga around 12, which breaks up my days and keeps my energy level up.

Quinn conquering the day in her “treehouse office” in her historic Downtown Phoenix loft – photo by Taylor Bellais Photo

Do you work evenings and/or weekends? Or do you set those times aside for personal time?

I do like to integrate 1-2 evening work sessions into my week. I especially love to start design projects once the sun goes down. Not only do I feel more creative at night, but the distractions of emails and calls tend to diminish then. My husband is often working on his own personal passion projects, so we try to coordinate those nights together and go to a coffee shop or work together at home, which makes it fun. I always make sure to tell him in advance if I’m going to work so we both set expectations for our night appropriately.

I’ve set a boundary for myself that I won’t do any client work on weekends. I also make sure to pause my email every Friday evening before the weekend starts. I do love to work on my own business development or personal growth projects on the weekend. I feel like my mind can open up more than on the weekday when I’m in the midst of numerous projects, and I can think and plan big picture.

I recently dropped a big client of mine that I had for 5 years in order to pivot my business direction. So I’ve been working on all the things I need to get in order to do so – redesigning my website, learning new tools, writing down my project processes, and creating a content plan. Sundays are perfect days for this so I spend a few hours in the afternoon and early evening on these types of projects – along with planning out my Instagram, of course!

How do you balance urgent tasks, such as deliverables for clients, with long-term projects, like implementing a marketing system for your business?

Oh man, that’s a tough one and a consistent balancing act! I think the most helpful thing I’ve done lately is to write out all the little things I need to do to help me reach my personal business goals. That could be things like designing icons for my updated proposals, researching new WordPress plugins, or defining my services. I actually put these things as tasks in my project management tool, under a project aptly named “Boss Lady Empire.” I try to schedule 1 or 2 of them each day so I keep moving. Of course, client work has to be priority (mama’s gotta bring home the bacon somehow!) but having tasks help keep me accountable and working towards my goals.

How do you break down long-term, business development projects into smaller, more manageable tasks?

I’m super process-oriented so this isn’t too hard for me. Just as I do with my client projects, I literally break down project phases into step-by-step checklists. I know I’ve been paralyzed before with a big-picture goal because I just didn’t know ‘how’ I could reach it. But by breaking things down into tangible, incremental improvements – you will end up getting somewhere eventually!

In a recent Instagram post, you wrote about blocking off time for uninterrupted client and business development work. What do you do when a project takes longer than the time you’ve allotted?

I try to schedule 2-3 focused blocks during each day for client work or biz dev. When I first started this, I overscheduled each of those blocks every time. I thought I could get 4-5 tasks done in my 2-hour block, but boy was I wrong. So now I aim for 2-3, and if I get to 4 or 5 – it’s a nice little bonus! Some people are super fast and efficient, but with my kind of work – I need time to process and create. This has also taught me that I’m not charging enough for certain projects. 🙂

What are your most effective methods for time management?

Time blocking is my new jam. Read this article from Toggl to learn more and I also love Christine Thatcher’s approach.

posing in front of one of DTPHX’s many colorful walls – photo by Liv in the Moment Photography

Like many entrepreneurs, you work from home. We’d love to know about your office space and how you feel about working from home.

I adore my home office! My husband and I were lucky enough to snag our dream home – in a historic loft in Downtown Phoenix. I put my desk in a little area overlooking our staircase so I get a view of the trees on either side of us. My other offices tend to be coffee shops in my neighborhood or in Downtown Phoenix. I actually got my very first client from a coffee shop and met my husband at one too – so I have a great track record. 🙂 I have to get out of the house at least once a day, and I always seem to run into other freelancers out and about, so it’s nice to have a little human connection! I’m also part of a shared office space that I go to twice a week normally. It’s another closeby spot that keeps me connected to fellow entrepreneurs in my community. Lastly, I don’t own a car (in Phoenix, that makes me a weirdo to most people), so I walk and bike to all these places. It’s a great way to integrate movement into my day and get out and connected with my city!

You are also a co-founder of This Could Be PHX, a community organization aimed at improving resident life and urban development in Downtown Phoenix. With everything you have going on with your work, how do you fit this admirable project into your routine?

That’s right! I’m very active within the Downtown Phoenix community. Like many cities, our downtown was neglected when suburban sprawl took over, but in the past 10 years, it’s really come back to life. My husband and I focused a ton of time and effort on our group for many years, and it has gifted us with an amazing network of friends (and fellow advocates). Two years ago, I was appointed by the Mayor to our Citizens Transportation Commission, which oversees billions of dollars for transportation funding through 2050 (think light rail, bike lanes, and bus improvements).

I’m not going to lie, at times, my city advocacy work has taken over a lot of my time in years past. Working for myself allowed me to do that, and it was very rewarding but at times tiring, too. Since I’m currently pivoting my business, that is now more of my priority. So I decided I had to limit my time and focus mainly on my commissioner role and specifically on advocating for bicycle and pedestrian improvements. That gives me some clear boundaries so that I can prioritize my business yet still make progress for my community in a way that’s healthy for me!

What tools do you use to stay organized?

Inbox Pause by Boomerang – My newest most-amazing (free) tool I wish I had sooner! I use this to pause my Google email. It stops emails from coming in on all my devices and has been truly revolutionary for me. I now check my email 2-4 times a day, and pause it when I’m in a focused block of time. I have a disclaimer in my signature that people shouldn’t expect instant responses from me because of this fact, and that if there is something TRULY urgent, they should text me (no one has). It’s a great way to set boundaries and communication expectations.

Evernote – A catch-all digital notebook where I put thoughts, checklists, and ideas to reference later. I use this both for client and personal notes.

Calendly – This is a new tool for me, but has been a dream for scheduling calls and meetings. I just make sure it’s updated every week and I send it to people to find a time that works for them. It eliminates all the back and forth that takes up so much time! I have established Tuesdays or Wednesdays as in-person meeting days, and Tues-Thursdays as days for phone calls.

Asana – My task management system! This has really helped keep me sane. If something is not in Asana, I often completely forget about it. :/ I’ve got multiple projects right now:

  • Client Projects – self explanatory!
  • Boss Lady Empire – all my business growth projects
  • Biz Dev – proposals and follow-up tasks
  • Intentional Learning – keeps me accountable to keep growing
  • Personal – anything I’ll forget otherwise
  • Phoenix – for my advocacy work

iCal – I use the Apple calendar interface (which is linked to my Google calendar) and this is where I plan out my time blocks and everything else.

a little snippet from Quinn’s iCal schedule


Are there any books you’ve read on the topic of productivity (or a related topic) that you can recommend? Or any other similar resources you can share?

One of my favorite books is by Elizabeth Gilbert called Big Magic. It’s all about bringing ideas to life and the creative process itself. I think this topic marries perfectly with productivity topics, since after you have an idea, you have to work hard to make it a reality!

Something that has been super helpful to me lately is mapping out what my “ideal week” looks like. It’s a great practice that showed me what I value and how to plan out my week in alignment with that. Here are two articles about it:

https://www.timezillionaire.com/week-map/

http://mariepoulin.com/blog/design-your-ideal-week-increase-productivity/

Another good one is The Checklist Manifesto.

Have you ever worked yourself too hard and needed to give yourself a break? What did that experience look like for you?

Sadly, yes. At my first job out of college, I worked so hard and so much that I literally exhausted myself and ended up in the hospital with an extreme case of mono (I guess only 3% of people get it that bad). I had a long road to recovery to getting my energy levels back up and truly understanding how far I had pushed myself to get to there in the first place.

But fortunately, my experience led me to building my own successful business. I had to reassess my boundaries, figure out what my true values were, and press a reset button on my life. I ended up taking a year off and living off savings while I took a yoga teacher training course (so transformative) and building the foundation to start to build my business. 6 years later, and I’m still going strong!

If you could give only one bit of productivity advice, what would it be?

Productivity isn’t really about productivity. Let me explain: productivity is a strategy to keep you focused and moving toward your goals. In order to do that, you must have clarity of your intentions on where it is you want to go and what you want to achieve. So start there, because once you have a clear vision on what success looks like, tastes like, and feels like, productivity becomes less of a chore and more of a railroad track that steadily moves you toward your end destination.

Man oh man, I told you that interview was juicy! A zillion thanks to Quinn for taking the time to share all of this invaluable information with the TNTP community. I know I’ll be putting more than a few of these productivity and time management tips into action. Which ones resonated with you? Share with us in the comments below!

You can find Quinn on her site, QuinnTempest.com, and on Instagram, @quinn.tempest!

Peace, love & neon,
Marisa

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