As I seem to frequently start with, I have to confess that this week has been incredibly busy! I know I say this in most posts but I’m a busy lady and I love the girl boss and art hustler life I’ve created for myself. From a pretty early point in my working life, I have realised that I’m really good at organising and coordinating multiple timelines at once. I often attributed these skills to my time at art school, which you don’t often hear. For me, art school was about a lot of discoveries but in particular, realising that no one is ever going to pay me money to just make my art. This meant that I had to be resourceful and organised because if I wanted to spend my time making art, that meant that the rest of my life had to run like clockwork and I had to be as switched on as a Swiss Army knife.
Sure I spent my fair share of time at the pub and other fun uni social things but I never turned in a paper or a body of work in late, failed anything and, not once, did I ask for an extension. This is true for my four years of undergrad and my master’s degree. Now that I’ve proclaimed myself a point of authority, let me tell you about the time I almost failed.
I did once submit a piece of art work in my first year of art school that was a last minute hack job but then I had to defend it during a group crit. A crit is formally known as a critique, this is a continuous exercise in art school where you are to present your work to your peers and seniors and are forced to defend it until they run out of rotten tomatoes to throw at you. Most people don’t like this part of art school, but I loved it because it meant that as long as I could spin the question around in a way that suited my agenda, I was never wrong. Perhaps I should have gone into politics. Anyway, back to that one time I submitted something I did last minute and half-assed, I was so embarrassed. Trying to defend something I put no effort into was a bit of a life changing moment for me as I never wanted to be in the place again. I never wanted to sign my name to a poorly done job and so I have never left anything till last minute again!
Being a creative, I am often faced with those stereotypes of not meeting deadlines and working on something until the very last minute. But being a true creative you know that you may not get it right in that last moment and thus you will have to turn in works that you are ashamed of and that is not something I like to allow to happen in my life. So I have decided to make time my friend and developed some tricks along the way for better time management. Here are some that work well for me.
Back at art school, I started doing my assignments as soon as I would get them so that I could use all of my time to perfect them. I thought of each paper as a draft and putting it aside to come back to perfect later. Most of the time I would go to parties, work on other projects and explore other ideas and when it actually came to deadline, I would just proof my draft and submit. The paper was already done as I did it as soon as I got it. It was kind of less scary way to work on, once I broke it down.
Keep a diary
I’ve actually been an obsessive diary (planner to you Americans) keeper from the age of 8 years old but this really started to mean something at art school. I used my diary then for noting deadlines, shifts at work, appointments, friends’ birthdays and budgeting in its most primitive form. The following kinds of scenario were recorded: If Jess’ birthday was in 4 weeks, how many paydays away was that? How many coins could I squirrel away for vodka and a gift by then? Now, I do a slightly more adult version of that but I also pencil back up time slots to do tasks if my day job takes over my life and I have to keep my schedule semi-fluid.
Sounds like an oxymoron but if you don’t plan fun things in advance, then you will do them last minute as an act of rebellion. Like we’ve all said to ourselves before, “Oh I should totally be studying/prepping for a meeting/training right now, but hell I’ve been at it all day and drinking tequila on a Tuesday is so much better!” I will never argue that any of those things are more fun than tequila but if you do one when you should be doing the other then chances are you will wake up with a massive side serving of guilt and stress right beside that hangover. And ain’t nobody got time for that nonsense. So be an adult and schedule your tequila in advance and you’ll have a much better time at both activities.
Work those other muscles
This tip took me a really long time to come to because, you know, creatives are too cool to sweat. I also used the excuse that I’m too busy to exercise but that’s total crap. I had time – it was just never a priority before. Once health did become a priority in my life, everything just made sense. I took up running and it was a super ace way to burn off some anger and angst and generally a great way to switch off the thinking a couple of times a week. I also found yoga, and especially restorative styles like Yin really brilliant for switching off and resetting some of that stress and over working. After all, no machine can work at full capacity all the time without overheating, so it’s important to shut down and reset your brain frequently.
Sometimes trying to really focus is so hard and silence doesn’t work for everyone. I’m one of those people who need a background soundtrack to aid my focus. Different tasks require different albums to get my little brain ticking but one that I’ve found gets my little fingers typing is Bonobo’s Sweetness. I randomly discovered it while at work in Edinburgh but every time I hear it, it transports me to Tokyo. I can’t explain that, but before I know it, the album has finished and I’ve typed 1,000 words for my next blog post! I find Tycho’s Dive and anything by Chopin brilliant for brain work and kicking deadline’s butts.
I don’t particularly think that any of my tips are ground breaking but perhaps the way I describe them here makes it click for some of you and you’re on your way to becoming a super productive version of you? I hope so! Now enough procrastinating – go get to it!