3 simple tips to help you be more productive

Face it. Sometimes it's tough to get something done without a little nudge or reminder.

Over the past six years, author and creative entrepreneur Adam J. Kurtz's solution to this has been "Unsolicited Advice." It's a pocket-sized planner "for the new year with activities, encouragement and gentle nagging you didn't ask for," he writes on his Kickstarter.

With less than one day left in the campaign, supporters have pledged $53,426 of a $2,600 goal.

Kurtz, 28, tells CNBC Make It his idea for "Unsolicited Advice" came from being a broke college student who still wanted to give gifts to his friends.

A post shared by Adam J. Kurtz (@adamjk) on

Combining his design skills with access to free printing and paper on campus, Kurtz made the gift, which then accidentally spread on Tumblr and eventually landed him a life-changing book deal.

What started as a "weird little DIY planner and life coach" became much more than that, according to Kurtz. Unlike traditional planners that feature "stale motivational quotes," Kurtz says "Unsolicited Advice" has actionable activities throughout its pages that encourage reflection, mindfulness and creativity.

Here are three tips Kurtz learned through making "Unsolicited Advice" that can help you be more productive.

Set goals to measure your success

"It's up to each of us to keep ourselves on track to accomplish our goals, but just having to write something down every day or week can really help us get there," Kurtz says.

Kurtz notes that reflecting at the end of your week can help you identify what you feel good about and what you need to keep working on. Goal-setting also helps you identify the steps you need to take to accomplish your bigger plan.

This is why he introduced goal-setting at the start of each month in last year's "Unsolicited Advice" planner and will include a "catch up section" at the end of each week in the new planner.

"Setting goals is important because otherwise it's hard to know what you're working for," Kurtz says. "It gives you a metric for success, which you can't actually succeed without. How would you know if you've succeeded or not?"

Do the boring stuff first

To push through your own work and get projects done, Kurtz recommends you first get through the boring parts so you have something to look forward to.

Kurtz, whose art is "rooted in honesty, humor and a little darkness" and appears in galleries, books and on pins, says the planner is one project of his that "has some truly tedious parts to it."

"It's simply not that fun to lay out all the dates and months in a huge Adobe InDesign file," Kurtz says.

So he got a head start on the "boring" parts so he could get to the fun part of plugging in his art and jokes.

"I think it's like when you're a kid and you eat your vegetables first so you can have dessert," Kurtz says. "I like to use the fun parts of a project as a reward for getting through the tedious-but-necessary parts."

Write things down to hold yourself accountable

"Writing things down and staring at them on paper is one way to hold yourself accountable," Kurtz notes.

Productivity expert David Allen tells Harvard Business Review that one of the biggest roadblocks to productivity is that people don't write down what they have to do.

"People don't determine exactly what their commitment to that stuff is—what's the outcome they want to achieve, what's the next action required to move it forward," Allen says. "Your head is for having ideas, not holding them. Just dumping everything out of your head and externalizing it is a huge step, and it can have a significant effect."

Kurtz echoes this notion, emphasizing that by writing out your goals and breaking them into manageable tasks "you have a better chance at actually getting things done."

"I think having an unconventional planner forces you to embrace unconventional solutions and thinking in small ways," Kurtz says. "[The planner] might be falling apart by the end of the year with daily use, but the whole point is that you won't be."

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