Let's get to work, yeah?


So let's get it together, Mo. People have cat pictures to buy.

When we last met, I was convincing myself to become an illustrator and listing all the things that "need to happen first" in order to give myself permission to become an illustrator.

Ok, so if I'm not going to change my mind about what has to be done, then let's figure out a graceful way to get it done and work on my fucked up sense of obligation later. I'm going to hold off on assigning deadlines at the moment. I'm about to employ a new productivity strategy that I'd like to explore first. We'll get to that in a minute. 

We have 3 main goals here:

  1. Launch C&B.com & its associated ecosystem
  2. Update MC.com & its associated ecosystem
  3. Experiment with many kinds of illustration projects to broaden my offerings, stave off boredom, and figure out how to make this a full time gig.

These things are loosely chronological. So let's start at the top.

The first thing I did was create a detailed list for all 3 of these goals within my Trello board. I have a lot of ideas about what can and should be done to make those things a success and I brain-dumped them onto this board. Then I began slowly ranking them in priority/chronological order. Things that are more impactful to do before other things or things that have a deadline got higher priority and fluffy things fell lower on the list. The fluffies will likely get pulled in as filler when I feel like procrastinating on the more important things. Still with me? Good.

Now comes the hard part: actually doing the things on the list.

In truth these lists have been in place for a long time. Weeks. Sometimes I've been able to make a lot of progress; sometimes I haven't. The "haven't" times have been bothering me. The global pandemic isn't helping. I brought this up to my business group a few weeks ago and their first comments (as are everyone's any time I talk about stuff like this) were that I am expecting too much of myself and that I should practice a bit more self-compassion.

I don't disagree. Not really.

I know that I'm too hard on myself. I know that I have been overly stressed this year because of my day job and some family issues and that I need to adjust my expectations accordingly. I also know that nothing is going to change about my life if I don't change it myself and I know that I feel most happy (whatever that word even means) when my output is consistent. Maybe that sounds ridiculous but it's true. I'm not happy at rest. I'm happy in motion. And I get frustrated when I'm so overwhelmed with tasks that it paralyzes me. So maybe I need to adjust my complaints. The problem isn't productivity. The problem is inertia and burnout.

To Overcome

I've been interested in one or more variations of the pomodoro technique for a while; or some version of it that I created on my own before I knew it had a name and bothered to look up the actual rules. For me, it's between 10 and 15 minutes. I tend to gravitate toward 15 because I have a little green time cube that is laid out in increments of 5, 15, 30, and 60 minutes. So I do 15. Why 15? Because I don't have a ton of capacity for longer periods right now. I am constantly bombarded with stimuli from work messages, family texts, friend chats, phone notifications, cats fucking up my chairs, my body having some sort of cramp. All day, every day, constantly deflecting a million inputs. And frankly, ignoring them gives me a lot of anxiety. So I've found that 15 minutes is enough time for me to make some sort of progress on a thing without feeling bad about someone waiting for me on the other side. What often happens is that the same inertia that made it so hard for me to start the task now carries me through for an additional 10 or 15 minutes after the cube rings - resulting in a 30 minute work block that would never have happened if I set out to do it that way upfront. It's self-manipulation. Anything to get the needle moving, I guess... and so far, it's working.

I do this for work at my day job too. 15 minutes at a time forever and ever until I'm done. At the end of 15, I'm allowed to do something else if I'm not into it... but only for 15 minutes. It's a blissfully non-committal amount of time and has been working really well for me when I can convince myself to do it.

Back our three goals: My strategy over the last few days has been to try to devote at least 15 minutes per day to goals 1 and 3. Why 1 and 3? I want to finish goal 1 before I start goal 2 but I want illustration to become a daily habit as soon as possible. "Loosely Chronological," BUT. Only 15 minutes. Unlike Inktober or something, it's not necessary for me to finish a full drawing every time. 

Let's say that again.

IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO FINISH A FULL DRAWING EVERY TIME.

I need to repeat things a lot.

So here we are. I'm not sure how many days I've been doing this now but I've witnessed some promising results. I have become reasonably adept at carving out at least 15 minutes per day for these things. Are we moving at the speed of molasses? WE SURE ARE. But we're moving.

Things I've Observed

I've been postponing these 15 minute blocks until the end of the day. WHY? If they're the priority, why am I waiting until I'm exhausted from everything else? This is a constructive avoidance tactic. I'm stuck in a very night-owl existence right now. Maybe that's right for me. I don't know. It's certainly easiest for me to focus at night. People usually stop trying to talk to me by about 9. But I also feel intense decision fatigue by this point in the day. (Hey guess what time it is right now?) 

desperately want to be a morning person...when I was a little kid I used to wake up insanely early. Now I'm the polar opposite. In bed at 2, up at 10. Guess I'm a person of extremes. 

Anyway, goals for the next week:

  • Continue doing 15 minutes of C&B.com work and 15 minutes of illustration every day.
  • Try to do them as early in the day as possible to reduce time spent doing this work during periods of decision fatigue. Try to finish before 8pm.
  • Maaaaayyyybe attempt to wake up a little earlier to facilitate this transition.

I'll check back in on Monday with an update. Cheers!


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