Tag Archives: time management

Happy New Year 2015

Happy New Year tag

Well another wonderful year has zipped by, and you will have noticed that I have not posted with the same regularity as in prior years – and then there was that couple months when I was hacked. The good part of all that is that I still have a very nice backlog of planned theme titles and creativity inspiration to carry over to this year.

The bad news is that with my current writing commitments, this blog will have to continue to take a back seat. That is not to say that I will not be putting out blasts and project ideas at all – I intend to post about once a month, and include more outside resources like websites. In fact if you join me on my Iggy Jingles Crafts Facebook page, you might find more recommended reading in the world of arts and creativity.

With so much of my focus on writing, I have been missing doing any actual making. I’ve decided, as a New Year’s gift to myself to craft a card a day, for a week. And if that works out, I’ll extend it to a card a day for a month. And maybe for another month, or a card a week, or some little easy-to-keep commitment, so that I have a nice stash of ready to use cards throughout the year. (Bear in mind that I am doing this on the dining table because my workshop is still not unpacked.)

That’s the theme for now, I guess – the idea that you can give yourself permission make a commitment to doing some little regular creative activity, keep it temporary and doable, and stay flexible. Start small with just a week, and let it be “scalable”, as the marketers say, and get larger IF it fits your life. You don’t have to make a huge, grand, scary Resolution, and then feel bad if (when) it is unsustainable.

Let me know on FB if you’d like to play along!

What you see here, is the first card of the week. Now, to whom to send it?

New Year handmade card

“Chalkboard” is still on trend, and I love layering. Tools: ScraPerfect Best Glue Ever and Embellie Gellie; Tim Holtz Tiny Attacher; Recollections Circle Punch; blank cards as the base from My Mind’s Eye, in packs of 50 found at Ross, of all places!

 

 

Perseverance

Wish stars

A few nights ago my husband and I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the 10th Anniversary Gala of the Walt Disney Concert Hall with the LA Philharmonic. The architect, Frank Gehry, was in attendance and the presentation was designed as a celebration of the design and creation of the concert hall building itself.

Conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, each piece represented a time in the process. The program was:

  • 4’33” by John Cage – that’s the famous silent piece.
  • Bach’s Prelude, from Cello Suite No. 3, with Yo-Yo Ma
  • Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, also with Yo-Yo Ma (who appeared to not have any sheet music in front of him)
  • “These Premises are Alarmed” by Adés
  • Symphony No. 9 by Mahler (III. Rondo: Burleske)
  • Symphony No. 3, “Organ” (IIb Maestoso) by Saint-Saëns – when the actual magnificent built in organ was played.

Each piece was introduced by quotes from a timely Gehry interview, talking about his design process. Then different video clips, presented on three oddly shaped geometric screens, projected on both sides for different places in the auditorium, accompanied the music. This part of the presentation was devised by Netia Jones (who is a fascinating multi-media artist).

The images began with Gehry’s preparatory, exploratory sketches, ingeniously animated, then moved on to his model making process. Gehry spoke of making hundreds and storing them, and continuing to move through the process of designing with the cardboard models. The slides showed images of numbered crates reminiscent of the final shot in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. (Did I mention I was 20 feet from Harrison Ford speaking only two nights earlier at another charity event?)

Then there were the criticisms, the complaints, the sarcasm in the press about the pace of the project – for a long time only the underground parking garage appeared to be completed. This frustrating time was represented by a visual collage of newspaper headlines and the semi-completed structure.

But in the end of course the building was finished and hailed as one of the masterpieces of contemporary architecture and a new cultural landmark for Los Angeles.

Disney Concert Hall exterior

There is no place where you can’t take a great shot anywhere around the building.

What most excited me was Gehry’s persistence. He continued not just to push for his vision, but through multiple iterations of it, through his own dissatisfactions, and through his search for methods. It is a building that would have been all but impossible (and certainly take much longer) to construct without the computer aided design software Gehry used.

Perseverance is not just not giving up on a project, and continuing to work on and refine an idea. It’s also being willing to discard that idea for better ones.

Persevering with Thinking

When I was working in design, whether it was costumes, sets or lighting, I always knew that my best idea was never the first one. Sometimes time constraints meant that it was the first idea that people liked and we went with, and sometimes it was too late to make the changes that would have improved the outcome.

So when I am working on any kind of creative project or new product, I try to allow time for the ideas to percolate. I sketch and consider the first idea – I get it out of my head and onto paper. But I continue to sketch, play, list, mindstorm, and tinker – not so much to modify the existing stream of thought, but to allow a completely new idea to bubble up.

It is just as important to continue working – editing, revisiting, rewriting, looking at the research, watching the rehearsals, playing with the materials – when you are reasonably satisfied with your work, as when you are frustrated by how it’s looking.

Jim Collins said, “Good is the enemy of great”. He was writing about corporations and companies which by consistent, persistent effort towards a single goal over a very long term gradually become greater than merely successful. But the phrase also works in considering creative projects. The model of the concert hall that won the contest for Gehry was good. But the final result is beyond that to be almost magical, because he wasn’t satisfied with good.

That’s one of the problems these creative competition shows have – Project Runway, Face Off, Work of Art, Design Star – severe lack of time. In the hotbed of competition, it’s not just the challenge of realizing their idea or design in a shortened time frame (which admittedly can happen in the real world occasionally). The real awfulness I imagine is the frustration of coming up with a better idea but being committed by time constraints to finishing what you have started. In support of this notion I present the time in the recent Project Runway episode when bottom three contestant, Dom Streater, was sent back to the workroom and completed a totally different and surprisingly winning look.

Dom Streater’s winning second attempt

What I know for sure is that when I don’t allow myself enough time to think, sketch, plan OR to realize and build, my work is never as good. I have to have time and use it to persevere through doubts, blocks, and sometimes the belief in my own unworthiness.

Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th~ Julie Andrews (member of the Gala Committee for the LA Phil Gala)

How to Persevere

  • Give yourself time for the process, and for creativity to blossom – but also know that the work expands to fill the time available! Just keep going – baby steps.
  • Give yourself more tries than you think you will need. By this I mean if you plan to make a list of 10 things, make it 20. If you plan to make three sketches, do six. If you have a story idea plotted out, spend some time imagining an alternative trajectory.
  • Rest, walk away and return. Let the subconscious percolation happen. Take a walk. Take a nap.
  • Get enough sleep. Eat enough food. I sometimes forget to eat when I’m lost in the timeless void of screenwriting. Luckily I have people around me who express that they are hungry.
  • Gehry would probably say that having sufficient storage space, to keep your first, second, third – who knows how many – attempts is also helpful.

Another time I’ll write about  the opposite problem – perfectionism and incompletion, and the risk of presenting your ideas and work to others.

Encore

The Encore was a beautiful rendition of “When You Wish Upon A Star“, and silver mylar stars floated down from the ceiling. I was a wreck.

 

My First and Favorite Creativity Tool

Handmade notebook page

Using a pretty notebook can make lists more fun – I use both paper and note apps

My first and favorite creativity technique – Making Lists.

“What, really?”

Yes!

I don’t mean an ordinary To Do list which is an organizing strategy – except when I do mean a To Do list as an inspiration finding tool.

Making a list, by which I mean actually writing down a numbered or bulleted list, is a fantastic way to get organized and get the creative cogs and wheels moving.

While it’s true that sometimes the first idea or design plan is perfect, most of time, in my experience, the third, fourth or fifth idea is going to blow the off-the-top-of-my-head idea out of the water. I am willing to bet that your ideas for solving your problem or designing your solution will be more innovative, surprising, and creative by the end of your list than at the start.

The act of making a list warms up the mind too, and switches on your imagination.

And of course I strongly recommend actually writing the list down so that you have your indelible record of increasingly interesting ideas and plans.

The trick is to make your idea list longer than you think you need – challenge yourself to write down double your entries, or add another 5 items – more than you imagine are reasonably sufficient.

For example instead of jotting down 10 ideas for future Creativity Blast blog posts, I challenged myself to devise 20, and then at the end of 20, I found 5 more in mind waiting to go on to the list.

It doesn’t matter if some of the ideas seem silly. It’s only an idea list, not a legally binding contract.

Here are some more of the creative lists I have made recently:

  • List of ideas to bring in more money. That led immediately to this little design business making collage sheets. The first five people to comment here will receive a free download of a collage sheet by email.

  • List of figurative sculptures I want to make. This list in turn becomes a series of idea for sketches, and informs my purchasing or sourcing of supplies.

  • List of titles for Craft-it-Easy school projects. This has been an essential step in moving forward with my business. I have over 50.

  • List of different gifts for different family members. This could be a brainstorming type of list made in a concentrated session, or an “open” list that gets added to whenever something cool crops up.

  • List of books, articles, blogs and magazines I want to explore. This helps me with prioritizing. I only have the same 24 hours every day that you, Oprah, President Obama and Marie Forleo have, and I don’t have time to waste on duplicates.

  • List of short video topics I am planning, which include how-tos and power point type presentations.

  • List of project designs/article ideas for my Natural Life Magazine column.

  • Gratitude lists. Every now and then I feel a bit down. The best way to feel better is with positivity. I will write a list of 30 things, as if it were for a month, but all at once. By the time I am down to silly little things like “an abundance of squirrels” I feel great about my life. Click here for a recent list that insisted on growing to 34 items. I twit a new #gratitude #abundance tweet every day too. More on this soon.

What about those To Do lists?

To Do lists can become a terrific tool for creative problem solving, especially if they are long. If you are anything like me, you have a very long and ongoing list that might include all kinds of things from business tasks, household duties, and daily reminders.

Here are some strategies and tools that elevate my To Do list:

  • Categorize. I have a daily list as a Note on my iPhone. It includes things that are everyday household tasks, that essentially don’t change but that I like to include because when I add a “Done” check mark I feel good about life. Then I have a list at the bottom of intermittent tasks, from which I choose something. For me this list includes the major tasks in my big household declutter. It’s nice to see the finished ones (“clear bathroom counter”) checked off. However there are also a bunch of tasks that are more creative activities, such as my brainstormed lists of writing topics for different outlets including magazines, Making Mothering Musing blog posts, or for a screenplay. The To Do item simply reads “Write”.

  • Update Often. There are other tasks that come and go. My list at the moment includes “Make calls re estate sales” but that is only temporary.

  • Use your Calendar program. Many have a To Do list that will come up to one side. I like to put in reminders of deadline items, such as monthly payments, and publishing deadlines.

  • For projects WorkFlowy is my favorite organizing program. It allows you to stack and divide tasks, and is intuitive. Plus you can click into tasks and add notes and print.

  • Link and regroup. I said earlier that lists are great creativity tools “especially if they are long”. Here’s another reason why I believe that – the killing two birds with one stone aspect. I might write a lengthy list, and then I start seeing patterns and repetitions. I might notice that similar items come up in different places. Maybe I can adapt one piece of writing for two different media. Maybe something I thought would make a great article will translate beautifully into a short how-to video. Maybe the photos I need for a blog post will be great for a collage sheet or other design.

From another point of view, maybe you will start to see patterns in your To Do list – a chunk of one kind of task that is always left til last, or something that repeats regularly, or a repeating time scale. It was from noticing the repeats on my shopping list that I worked out a system for making sure I don’t run out of pantry items.*

My other productivity secret for my task based To Do lists is to add a time allotted (rather than a deadline, which I tend to ignore unless it has been externally imposed). This will allow several useful things:

  • Discovering whether I am spending too long on unimportant things. Remember the Time Management Matrix.

  • Discovering where I am super efficient. Yay.

  • Discovering where it might be worth getting help in some way – which might bring me back to my list of money making ideas.

  • Planning my day. If I already have a natural interruption or stopping point built into the day, like driving my daughter to dance class, it makes no sense to start on a project that will require 4 hours.

*It’s very simple. I just have one open in use and one in the pantry, which in my small apartment is just a cupboard – so no room for stockpiling. When I run out of the one in use, I add it to my shopping list on the side of the fridge, and pull the one in the pantry cupboard out to use. To start, you do have to buy two, but then it becomes self-sustaining. Never running out of mayonnaise gives me a remarkable feeling of abundance and serenity.

This was a long post, because I really believe that making lists of ideas has been one of the best things I do for the purpose of jump starting my ideas, and planning my time.

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