The end of the year is always depressing for me. It has become the time where I push my long lists of projects I wanted to get done into the bottom of my closet (metaphorically).
All the half completed to-do lists and random “I should do that” ‘s get piled up.
I then force this list into all my January timeslots.
This year I am doing things differently.
I am using the last few days of December to reflect on the things I did in 2016 and the things I wanted to do. I am pushing all my energy into understanding this year in order to take those lessons into 2017.
For this reflection process, I am giving myself five things to do before the new year.
Feel free to try this yourself.
1 – Go Through 2016 Planner
For me, my planner is Google Calendar.
I have my to-do list, meetings, deadlines, etc. all in Google Calendar. I am not perfect at keeping this up-to-date but reviewing it will give me an easy reminder of what happened throughout the year.
For you, it can be your planner you bought from the office supply store, a notebook, digital calendar, or whatever you use to keep track of your scheduled appointments and/or daily to-do list.
This is a time to remember all the things you did, the unexpected things that popped up, and the tasks (or projects) you abandoned.
2 – Clear Last Year’s Notes
A sort of clean-up time for the brain.
This is the most time-intensive part of the process. Going through all my notebooks, checking my Google Drive, Dropbox, my hard drives, note taking apps, etc., etc. All the notes get either thrown away or condensed and organized by their related project and tasks.
Since this is my first year going through this process, I have years of notes built up. I imagine you are in a similar situation. Unfortunately, there is no short cut.
My plan is to go through everything individually and hope I can get through it all before January 1st.
3 – List Tests & Results
I do tests throughout the year, but they often get lost, and I forget the results.
For example, this year I experimented with:
- Creating links back to a YouTube video
- I created 7 Days of Doodles
- I tested some advertisements
- Others I can’t think of right now…
These are experiments that have reliable results, but if I do not organize the data properly and review them occasionally, I will never learn from them.
Anything new you tried, try to record what you did and the results. If you aren’t doing these micro tests, it is something you should think about doing for 2017.
4 – List Accomplishments
By now we have reviewed our accomplishments through steps 1 – 3. Now write them down and store them somewhere to be accessible when needed.
I am using my “Adobe Sketch” app on my iPad and limiting it to one sheet. This is something you will want to reference from time to time, so keep it somewhere safe.
I also plan to separate the projects that I did not plan to do and list tasks or events that side tracked me from getting more work done (such as my car breaking down).
5 – ReLive Those Successes
Spend some time celebrating and reliving your successes from 2016. Not only will this help to give you some positive energy when you are feeling down, but it allows you to reflect on what you are excited about. This will assist in planning 2017.
Think about why you consider your list of accomplishments your success. When we get to planning 2017, your goal is to make more of these successes or have “bigger” successes (quality vs. quantity of achievements).
My next step has been to find my focus for 2017.
You can read about it here.
Part of being a self-employed creative is having to plan what an average day should look like. This is both that is both liberating and overwhelming at the same time.
I am always on the quest to find the perfect daily routine and rituals. It gives me the feeling of being more productive.
More important, it makes me feel like I have a little control in my life.
It turns out I am not alone. As I talk to more Compulsive Creatives, I realize this is part of our brains loving chaos while not wanting to feel out of control or unproductive. So, here is an infographic that will help you feel more connected in the mess we call life.
I claim to be a morning person, but it still takes me forever to get out of bed.
However, I’ve been enjoying a new trick I recently learned about improving my energy first thing in the morning.
Empowering Wake Up Trick:
Stretch your body as wide as possible.
According to Amy Cuddy, our body posture can change the way we think.
Professor Amy Cuddy is a Social Psychologist that teaches Business Administration at Harvard Business School. Her research has found that these power poses affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain. These chemicals influence our confidence levels and overall mood.
To learn more about “Power Poses,” you can watch this video of Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk below.
Power Posing Your Morning
I’ve been experimenting with Amy Cuddy’s technique of stretching out my body when I wake up in the morning and when I get up from my nap in the afternoon. It feels splendid to stretch after waking up.
Normally, I would roll over, maybe look at my phone, and get into a more scrunched up pose (fetal position). Now when I wake up, I tell myself I can lay back down, but first I need to stand with for 30 seconds with my arms outstretched and legs shoulder width apart.
In her recent talk at 92nd Street Y, Cuddy talks about how daily routines around posture affects who we are and how we feel.
In the video below, we’ve tagged it to start at her discussion specifically about waking up. If you have 75 minutes to watch the entire video, it is worth it. For those interested in improving your health both mentally and physically with proper posture, you will want to watch the full video.
As mentioned in the video, your posture after waking is “bi-directional.” Waking up in a fetal position and staying that way is less energizing, but as Amy says in the above video, “the people who wake up like this [in powerpose] are super happy, like annoyingly happy.”
What Works for You?
Give the power post a try and let me know if it works for you.
Do you have any morning routines that help you get up in the morning?
I would love to hear them! Feel free to post them in the comments below.
Does your email inbox stress you out? Mine does, and it’s time for a change. Time for inbox zero.
Inbox zero is just what it sounds like. It is keeping your inbox empty by organizing, archiving or deleting emails.
For your convenience, we have a video and text version of this article.
Getting to Inbox Zero
In this post, I’m going to show you how I went from over 1,500 emails to 0 in just 3 steps.
- Create folders
- Sort emails
It took me 7 hours over 2 days to clear out my inbox. Let’s quick do some math. With 1500 email divided by 7 hours we get 214.29.
This means I was able to organize 215 emails per hour. It is important to note sometimes I watched movies while organizing my inbox. I did this because going through all those emails gets annoying.
Now that I’ve accomplished inbox zero, things are a lot easier!
Step 1. Create Folders
Having a lot of emails is overwhelming, but organizing them is easy and quick.
I already had a system in place for my magic and balloon twisting business. These include folders for emails where I quoted someone a price, one folder for booked shows that need invoices, and a folder for shows that have all their paperwork filled out.
How my “Booking” folder system works.
If a client asks for a price, I respond and put the conversation in the “price quoted” folder. If I need the information later, I can find it quickly.
Once the client agrees to the price, I move the conversation to the “need invoice” folder. I leave it there till I send the invoice and get a confirmation for the event. I check this folder weekly to keep anything from falling through the cracks.
Once all the paperwork is done and confirmed, the conversation is moved into the “scheduled show” folder. And once I completed the show there’s a folder inside that folder labeled “done” so I can look up old show information.
This process can be used for your own business if it is freelance work or service based.
Create a folder called “001 NOW” for all things that need to be done ASAP and place it at the top of your folder list. I place it at the top of my Gmail by putting “001” in front of the folder’s name. Google organizes folders alphabetically, and 0 (zero) is first.
And then a folder called, “002 SOON” for things that don’t have to be done right away but are important.
The last main folder is called, “003 Someday.” This folder is for are for all things that are not important and can be done anytime.
The rest of the folders you create will depend on the types of emails you get.
For example, I get a lot of education emails. This includes information related to online business, animation, balloon twisting, and the rest of my interests.
In the folder “Education,” I have subheadings. These subfolders often have folders in themselves
In the “Education” folder I have two subheadings:
- Courses – This is for any email courses I’m taking.
ex. I took a “7 days to creating comics” email course. These emails go in a folder called “comics” under “Courses.”.
- Topics – These are from different people, but all the emails cover the same topics. Each subject has its folder within the “Topics” folder.
Do this quickly. If you forget anything, you can add it later.
Below is a quick snapshot of my folders. Your’s will look different depending on the types of emails you get most.
Step 2. Sort Emails
The goal is to keep moving.
When possible, archive several emails at a time. If you recognize who they’re from or the subject, select them all and put them in a folder or delete them. Just keep moving and add more folders as you need them.
At one point I was using my phone to organize emails, but it was slower. With Google, you can cut down your time by using the search button and the ‘move to’ tab.
Make sure to celebrate when you make it to ZERO, it feels good!
Don’t take a vacation yet, we have one more step.
Step 3: Maintain
One of the first things you need to do is clean out the “Now” folder and start going through the “Soon” folder.
Regularly go through your emails. Schedule time to delete, archive or organize.
It doesn’t have to be every day, but pick a schedule that works and stick to it.
I am always looking for new tips and tricks to keep email under control. If you have a technique or tool that is working for you, please share it in the comment section for me and others to learn from.
Stick with it and have a creative day.
Compulsive Creatives are not known for being the most productive people in the world. We tend to get distracted, have hundreds of projects we want to work on, and often exhaust ourselves on whatever is in front of us.
Over the past ten years of running a variety creative businesses, these five things have helped me the most to stay on track.
1- Set Deadlines (but not too many)
A quick car trip metaphor….
When you are going someplace, you estimate arrival time. GPS automatically does this for us now, but it is still something we use.
This is for a couple reasons.
First, we want to be able to plan the trip better. Will we need to stop for food, will we get there before dark, or will we need to get a place to sleep?
The second is if we hit that time, and we are not at our destination, we know something went wrong. Either we took a wrong turn or we’re navigating to the wrong location.
These are the same reasons we need to set deadlines for our projects. If we have a timeframe for when we should be done, we can plan all the details of how to get there.
If we miss the deadline, it means something is wrong. It might be that we underestimated how long it would take, or we are putting way too much time on something that isn’t essential.
Having deadlines helps us stay on course, but it is also important not to have too many. If you want to get stressed out quickly, come up with ten deadlines. Missing one will throw off all of them; it becomes a nightmare overnight.
I like to limit myself to only one big project deadline at a time, but two or three can be manageable for certain personality types.
2- Time Boxing
Time boxing is a micro version of setting deadlines. It involves taking to-do’s for the day and giving those tasks specific times to be done.
For example, writing the blog post was time boxed for 9–10 am. Creating the graphic above was scheduled for 10–10:30 am.
The process is easy.
Step 1 – Figure out what needs to be done.
Step 2 – Calculate how long you think it will take.
Step 3 – Determine when would be the best time to do that task.
I learned this from Stephen King’s On Writing.
According to his book, Stephen King writes every day. He doesn’t take off for holidays, and he only commits 3 to 4 hours in the morning.
Committing to a small amount of time consistently over months (then years) allows a habit to form, limits burnout, and helps reduce the dreaded creativity block.
4- Distraction Time
This is my newest tool for getting creative projects completed.
I schedule time on my calendar called “distraction time.” If I am working on a project, and an idea or another project enters my mind, I write it down and go back to what needs to get done. During my scheduled “distracted time,” I am allowed work on whatever I want.
This list can get crazy quickly, so I have to go through it daily and delete the things that I am no longer interested in doing.
If there is anything that I want to add to a future project I put it on a separate list called “Projects to Consider.”
5- Work with End in Mind
Picture in your head the outcome of your project.
Right now I am writing this post. So, I imagine it live on Medium, I can see you reading it, and I picture that this article helps you finish your projects. Your creation then becomes a big hit and a global phenomenon. The world is changed, but if I don’t finish this article none of this will happen.
I know, a very dramatic and a glamorized view of what I do, but this helps. When I get distracted, I think of you and my little contribution to your’s and other’s successes.
My impulse to check Facebook is ignored and watching “Blacklist” can wait, but this article can not… So, I continue to work and hit publish.
This is a long video but has amazing stuff related to productivity.
His 3 secrets to be more productive are:
- Do fewer things
- More often
- Get better at them
- We all have the same amount of time (even successful entrepreneurs).
- Be “world class” at one thing.
- That one thing has to be an important thing.
- Be okay with not doing tasks… You must be able to not do things in order to do more of the important task.
- Think about your time’s value ($/hour) and adjust tasks according to their value.
- Have a daily routine.
I hope you enjoyed this video as much as I did. I would love to hear your biggest takeaway from the video.
Since I started working on my “at home” business, I find myself taking naps daily. I can’t figure out how I lived without them.
I consider myself a morning person and I feel a significant boost in motivation after most naps. Sometimes I sleep too long, or I get interrupted which throws me off for the rest of the day, but 4 out of 5 times I get the perfect amount nap.
I realize naps are not for everyone, but I recommend giving it a try. Here is a quick list of pros and cons for creatives taking naps.
- The brain hits a “reset” button during sleep that allows people to view a problem or project with “fresh” eyes. [Source: National Geographics]
- Getting enough sleep is essential for health. Taking a nap can help you catch-up if you are behind. [Source: National Sleep Foundation]
- Napping replenishes energy [Source: Experiment Abstract]
- Napping regularly may reduce stress and even decrease your risk of heart disease. [source: webmd]
- Can leave you groggy.
- Some people have a hard time waking up from a nap.
- Can throw off your regular sleep schedule.
- Is hard without a quiet and dark location.
I just have to say,
I LOVE NAPS!
I find them to empower me creatively and help me get more work done.
Give it a try for a few days. And let me know how it works out for you in the comments below.