I know that to be a great artist takes a lot of discipline, and I am worried that I am way way way too lazy right now. How can I make myself more disciplined? How much time do you spend a day on making things?
It’s funny that you ask this, because I’ve recently been playing around with this idea of “how can I make myself more disciplined.” Here’s what’s working for me.
I randomly stumbled across a time-management system (?) called the Pomodoro technique awhile ago, and decided to try it out. Normally, I’d roll my eyes at any “technique” that has a trademark after it, but this one was simple enough that it didn’t seem too affected. The basic idea is as follows:
- Give yourself 25 minutes of uninterrupted work time.
- After 25 mins, take a short break to stretch, do other tasks, assess.
- Every 4x 25min blocs, take a longer 15-30 minute break.
- Track all metrics, including: start times, tasks completed, times interrupted, break times, stop times.
Here’s an example of my absolutely incomprehensible metric tracking:
Every 25 min bloc, I make a line, eventually creating a box. So every Box on my chart is 4x 25min blocs (or 4 Pomodoros, I guess).
So what does this chart say: first off, I start off really late. 10:30 AM! I tend to wake up really slow, and do other things like run, eat too much breakfast, and dick around on the net.
Second, my peak productive hours are between 10:30AM-5PM, as I was actually increasing my rate of productivity (I started off taking 4x Pomodoros per piece, or two hours, but then as I worked, I cut it down to 3x, and even 2x right before dinner.)
Thirdly, right after my peak productive hours, I get distracted. Hence the one interruption, then failing to complete a Box and going straight to dinner. My productivity drops as well (I’m back to 4x Pomodoros per piece).
And this is just one day’s worth of data! I can compare this to other days to see if my assumptions really are patterns, AND most importantly, if I’m making progress.
The biggest thing for me though is the 25 minutes of uninterrupted work time. I got that timer above to solidify that as opposed to using a digital timer— I found that the tactile sensation of setting it and hearing it tick makes my brain go into “OK it’s work time” mode much easier. Make this time sacred: hide your phone, close your browser, pick music/podcasts ahead of time, gather all your supplies around you. Physically minimize your distractions when possible.
As far as time per day goes, I consider myself a full-time illustrator, so I put in at least a full days worth of work: 8 hours minimum. But as noted above, it’s not uncommon to put in 12. I think it is important to have designated START and STOP time though, just to help put boundaries on your life. Too much work is unhealthy. Health, family, and friends always come before work in my book.
Hope this helps! I think everyone probably has their own ways of doing things, but this is really working for me lately.
"This small story about a group of Capitol Hill vegetarians trying to get better options in the place that they go to work every day is evidence of everything that is wrong with Washington," says reporter Marin Cogan. "It became a big, theatrical, partisan fight and it didn’t need to be."
"Because Jimmy Fallon lives on joy, and joy is not solitary. It’s why he’s not at his strongest in plain monologue delivery, and it’s why every single good bit he has is fundamentally a collaboration. Even something like "Thank You Notes," which seems to be just him reading cards, has morphed into a silly little dance he does with the keyboard player.
Fallon needs other people — that’s why it makes all the sense in the world that he closed this chapter in a sea of Muppets, sitting at a drum set in the back. And the balance between sincerity and goofery, which is the balance that his show has mastered almost from day one, is perfectly encapsulated in the fact that on the one hand, this is sort of warm and sweet, and on the other hand, Animal keeps popping out yelling “AAAAAND!” and Beaker sings harmony.
As I’ve said a bunch of times, the precise quality that could make Fallon irritating on Saturday Night Live — the inability not to laugh during sketches — was a glimpse at why his late-night show has been so utterly delightful. He gets so jazzed about things, and he’s so energized by the presence of other humans, that he has the poker face of a five-year-old. He laughs, and somebody else laughs, and then everybody laughs more. It’s not everybody’s thing, but boy, it’s been mine.”
PUTTING THE (DIM SUM) CART BEFORE THE (YEAR OF THE) HORSE
Second week of the lunar new year got you down? We’re sorry to hear that. But there’s nothing a crab claw wrapped in shrimp or a few pieces of har gow can’t fix. What’s that? You’re afraid to bring shame upon yourself and dining…
In the month of February, mail at least one item through the post every day it runs. Write a postcard, a letter, send a picture, or a cutting from a newspaper, or a fabric swatch.
Write back to everyone who writes to you. This can count as one of your mailed items.
All you are committing to is to mail 23 items. Why 23? There are four Sundays and one US holiday. In fact, you might send more than 23 items. You might develop a correspondence that extends beyond the month.
Write love letters, thank yous, or simply notes to say that you miss an old friend. Send a fabric swatch from your new dress. A feather you picked up while on a walk. Whatever it is, let yourself step away from the urgency of modern life and think about an audience of one. Think of it as sending 23 little gifts. And, who knows, you might enjoy going to the mail box again.
Feeling intimidated? It’s fewer words than NaNoWriMo and I know how many of you do that. Join me in The Month of Letters Challenge.
May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope,…