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.
The Science of Procrastination, and How to Beat it!
Last time I checked, laughing at Seinfeld and studying for my Psychology exam have as much in common as a banana and a tricycle, however, they are more connected than you might think. When our brain encounters and interacts with a pleasurable external stimulus, a signal is given by the cerebral cortex to release dopamine, and hence we experience happiness and gratification. This is part of the brain’s “reward system”, and reinforces that behaviour, ensuring we make the connection that repeating it will give us pleasure. Obviously the brain chemistry here is very simplified, but I am refraining (barely) from writing a three thousand word essay.
Now, activities we do while procrastinating, e.g. watching Ellen on YouTube, give frequent, shorter bursts of dopamine, and since we generally base things on their temporal proximity (i.e. we see things with a closer reward as having higher value), we find procrastination often more pleasurable than working towards a larger goal. The larger goal, although it may produce a greater satisfaction than the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy, is further away, and hence we tend to undervalue its importance until the deadline approaches.
BUT NEVER FEAR MY FRIENDS! There are well established methods that can counteract these tendencies.
1. Break Up Your Goals
Breaking up your goals can ensure that we receive timely “rewards” each time we complete a task, and hence counteracts the pull of procrastination. Rather than wait for the huge surge of adrenaline then relief and happiness before a deadline, chunking your work ensures that you remain motivated consistently, as it releases dopamine timely and you feel and that you have a pathway to accomplishing your goal.
2. The Pomodoro Technique
This is a time management system which allows us to break up a larger task into smaller ones. The system encourages short, frequent bursts of work which increases efficiency remarkably, and allows you to maintain your stamina, whilst having the promise of timely “rewards”, i.e. the satisfaction of completing a task. From experience, these are hard to keep track of in daily planners, so I suggest you download an app on your phone or computer – there are many out there. Personally, I use Pomodoro on Android. Essentially, all you have to do is decide on a task, set an alarm for twenty five minutes using an app or watch, work on that task for twenty five minutes with good focus and pace (don’t worry if you don’t feel like the Terminator here) and then take a short break (three to five minutes) after the time is up. Repeat this throughout the day, and every four times you do this, the break should be longer, i.e. fifteen to twenty minutes.
So, I just hit 100 followers and as a thank you I thought I would share the app that has saved my life this Easter holiday.
So, I was all set for a break of disappointment and failed goals because I cannot get off my phone, and that’s when I heard about FocusNow.
FocusNow is a free app for both apple and android devices, and it works on the pomodoro technique. You set the timer, don’t close the app for 25 minutes and you get a tree for your farm. You can set the timer for longer if you want (anywhere from 25 mins to 150 mins) and it gives you a tree every 25 minutes. When you get to 100, you can unlock apples, and when you have 100 apple trees you can unlock grapes, and so on. You even get a nice graph to show you how much work you’ve got done on certain days.
If you have phone-related procrastination issues, I highly recommend this app. I downloaded it, recommended it to my friend after 8 hours of having it, and it’s probably the reason we’ve achieved so much over the school holidays. It’s surprisingly addictive, so makes you want to stop using your phone so you can get more trees, and even has a multiplayer mode so you can compete with your friends (I haven’t got around to using that yet though)
If you are a studyblr and you haven’t tried this app you are missing out. Not only is it beautifully simplistic, but it is also a fantastic way to pull yourself through homework when you don’t feel like doing anything. The basic idea is that you get a pomodoro (working period) followed by short breaks. After a certain number of pomodoros you are rewarded with a long break. The amount of time in each of these periods is customizeable. The app is called pomodoro.