Updated: Jan 31, 2020
Hello everyone! Thought it was about time to give a little update on things. This is my first blog I am writing completely on my phone because unfortunately my laptop took the long sleep. Sucks because it’s really hard to work on my website without it, but a silver lining has shown through! I’ve managed to turn the time spent dinking around on the computer into a huge creative binge. I’ve never had so much jewelry made at one time! Really- you would think I have 4 hands. I tend to go in creative phases regardless of dead computers. I’ll go through phases of intensely working on social media posts- and then writing a lot and working on blog posts, then focusing on photography and creating videos-or I’ll scrap all of it and focus on physical movement away from screens! Then I have my creative binges where all I do is create jewelry, new designs, and new displays. It seems to work for me, and although I never think I’m getting a lot accomplished when I look back over the month I’m always pleasantly surprised that I surpassed my productivity goals. Which brings me to today’s topic- How do you set and gauge YOUR productivity? As artists- we seem to get pushed into a category of sporadic or unmethodical workers or we only work when the inspiration is available. All of these at times being further translated into “lazy” or “someone that just really doesn’t want to work.” But in fact I find that the complete opposite is true.
What motivates an artist?
Before getting into productivity I want to cover motivation. I find this next section to be something I have found out for myself. I’m speaking in general terms and not all artist will fall into this description- but I bet a lot will.
As artists we are sensory people. Our physical and sensory experiences can greatly effect our moods. Our instinct is to immerse ourselves into what feels good in our bodies. Whether its food, clothing, people, art, or nature- our pleasures make life worth living.
I’ve recently set out to observe my own habits a bit more. I feel that my life experiences leading up to my full time pursuit as an artist gave me some crucial skills that will help me take on this new path. That being said I’m always trying to find ways to improve upon myself, to work smarter and more efficiently, and to be more successful (and my personal success, like others, can be defined in many ways). I’ve never wanted to appear lazy just because I do things differently. It’s like I feel the need to have to justify to the rest of the world that I can only earn the right to live a creative life if I prove to you I have something to show for it. Wow- have you ever started writing and it turned into a therapy session!? Happen to me right there. I may have just uncovered something and it will need to be attended to. But at another time! Let’s continue with my original plan, shall we?
Now maybe there is a lot of truth to the last thing I mentioned, but I also know that being productive makes ME feel better. There are so many things in me that are bursting to get out and there aren’t enough hours in the day! Art projects, choreography, writing, photography, learning new skills, videos- like wow! So many ambitions trying to all fit through the door at one time. Productivity for me is not so much making myself do something, but allowing things to come through me in a more formal polite manner. I have to give all the ideas a ticket. And when your ticket is called you may come to the front! So I listen to the advice of other very productive people. I follow podcasts of the super humans of the earth. People who are crazy creative and ambitious and have managed to do so much and be so productive that it makes your head spin with HHHOOOWWW!?? How do you do it? And the salesy ones will do a super job at convincing you that if you do it their way YOU CAN TOO! Well, golly jee wiz! I set out to try it.
A recent podcast that I listen to on this topic observed that people in the work place were more productive when they were only allowed to work on a task for a certain amount of time ( I think it was like 45minutes) then they need to switch to something else. It was all pretty convincing and so I figured that I would write out my goals for the week and day and try to split them up into 45 minute increments. By the end of the week they would all hopefully be completed. The goal for me here was to stay more consistent. I could be consistent with the amount of jewelry I produced, product photography, marketing and blog posts Etc etc. I could be a well oiled machine! Happy days!
Well...not so much. I’ll tell you why this failed for me.
I’M doing things that make me feel good. I’m not sitting in a drab office doing boring tasks that are draining the life out of me. I found that when 45 minutes rolled around I was too immersed in my project to want to switch to something else. I also found that I hate leaving projects unfinished before I find a good stopping point so I felt cringy forcing it. I also found that it made me resentful of my next task. Like it was taking something away from me. I also lacked the motivation to endure a creative task when I had to do it just because it was scheduled. For example, I started off with a jewelry project and actually finished it within my 45 minute time frame (unusual) so I switched over to my next task - 45 minutes of writing. I sat in front of the screen. No words, no motivation and pressure! The minutes were ticking away and I didn’t have anything to show. I ended up giving up and feeling discouraged on my writing abilities. I mean Stephen King writes everyday whether he feels like it or not! But he’s a seasoned practitioner dedicated to writing- and well I just do it when I feel the urge. So can you blame me? Besides I was too busy thinking about all the other tasks for the day to focus on what was in front of me. Needless to say, I got nothing accomplished in my set time frame. I gave up and decided it wasn’t in the stars. I beat myself up saying that I could have accomplished something else with my wasted time.
All in all I found the method too restrictive. Although, I find this works well with basic tasks. You got a pile of bills and adult stuff to deal with? You got stupid errands?! Schedules are great for that! I never want to spend more than 45 minutes on any of those things.
A Method for the Madness
So here was my “methodical” productivity solution.
At the beginning of the month I take a piece of notebook paper and I start a column on the right hand side with bullet points of all the things I want to accomplish that month. It’s a massive brain dump! All the things that need to be done that pop up at awkward times and then are quickly forgotten- they get captured on paper and out of my head space. I keep adding to this list whenever I need to. On the left hand side I break the month into weeks- I only do this one week at time. Here is where I prioritize my tasks. Under each week I will place a few tasks from the list. As they are completed I’ll cross them off- if I don’t get to them I just write “NOPE” next to them and bump them to the next week. My tasks are scheduled by the month or week- not by the day or the hour. I find that this leaves me freedom. If another creative endeavor comes up and I’m really feeling it I’ll do that thing knowing I can simply adjust and reprioritize my list. At the end of the month it’s satisfying to see everything crossed off and whatever isn’t probably is not that big of a deal. I always find I accomplish way more because I allowed the space for other projects. If I did accomplish other projects that weren’t on the original list I’m sure to write those down as well so I can gauge how well I did for the month.
This has worked for me. Maybe it can work for you to, but as a creative I know you‘re capable of forming your own methods. After all, we know that no one person, no matter how much success they seem to have, has all the answers. And even if it seems like it- it doesn’t work for everybody. We understand that they are merely suggestions because we hold the willingness to experiment and the creativity to mold it. And when it fails it doesn’t bother us. We realize we’ve learned something and it will help shape a more successful next attempt. Right!?
A few extra tips
We all get many ideas for new projects. The inspiration will hit us and we feel we have to do it instantly. One of my flaws (for lack of a better word) is I tend to jump into projects that aren’t always the best use of my efforts and time. I seem to chase after things in futile attempts to make them work or grow my business and in the end they don’t always work out. So I‘ve had to learn some patience and understanding that maybe it’s a good idea but it’s just not the right timing for it. So I keep an idea list. That way the ideas are captured on paper and I have the freedom to give the idea space before coming up with proper plan of attack. Or perhaps after the emotional excitement has diminished I decide it’s a rubish idea not worthy of my time. I learn to become more selective with my ideas.
At the beginning of the month I take out my idea list and see if the month is good for accomplishing any of them.
If you‘re like me, you tend to take on too much at a time. I find this is a helpful way to create a manageable workload.
If you still aren’t in to the whole schedule thing I find basic journaling helpful. Just write down what you did everyday and then through the days or weeks or months you can gauge how productive you perceive yourself to be. You can either say ”yay, good job me.” Or “maybe I could use some adjustments”. Either way, your perception of success and productivity is uniquely yours to decide!
I feel I have much more to say on this topic, but I’ve also gone on long enough for this post. I’ll end with this- Today, I was speaking with a fellow creator and friend on this exact topic of scheduling. She said she is learning to allow more space in her schedule and to be kinder to herself. A powerful message to take with us today and as we grow.
Give yourself space. Be kind to yourself.
Until next time- Stay Adventurous.