If you want to kick butt, sometimes you have to be the creature from the black lagoon
If you are writer or painter or person who makes their living by creating new ideas, is there a way to become more productive without turning yourself into a robot zombie dingdong?
So much advice out there is geared towards maximum efficiency. There are a million productivity apps out there, and most of them involve timers and metrics and lots and lots of left-brain thinking.
That's great if your job involves work that you can start and stop on a dime, but what if you are tackling creative work that involves lots of noodling? What if you need a long mental runway, or you do your best work when naps are involved?
I know about productivity apps because I USE those apps. And they're OK - up to a point. But I have started to realize that I was so focused on execution that I wasn't leaving the mental door open to serendipity and inspiration. I was too busy rushing to beat the buzzer.
I thought, "There has to be a way to be creative AND productive at the same time."
Here's one small way I've found to do both. It's based on the idea of matryoshka dolls - Russian nesting dolls.
I learned this trick from Vanessa Van Edwards. It involves index cards - some white, some colored. Write the name of your goal or project on a colored index card. For example, the monster goal could be "draft a chapter of my book" or "work on my standup routine" or "write a new song." Then write all the smaller tasks on the white index cards and stack 'em up. These are your nesting dolls, metaphorically speaking. As you work your way down your list/stack, you get the pleasure of crumpling that index card and throwing it across the room. Whee! And when you reach the final, colored card, you ARE DONE.
This is strangely motivating. Maybe because it involves tactile objects, which makes the project work feel more real - and that is great when your work is digital or based in intangible ideas.
And it's a visible progress bar. We are hardwired to respond to progress, so the bigger the pile of crushed index cards grows, the more motivated I become.
Best of all, it's aggressive. It makes a mess. Index cards are stiff, you have to crunch like you mean it. Creative work can be frustrating and hard, and it's nice to have a way, however small, to channel your own personal Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Does this mean you hate the work? No. It means you LOVE the work - and you are going to smash anything that keeps you from doing it -- and that includes the internal resistance we all face. Resistance is real, it's a beast, and sometimes you gotta face it head-on and start smashing.
If art is war, then let's play to win.
Come back next week, when I'll talk shop about digital storytelling, and how all roads lead to Keanu Reeves.
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