Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Hints for Staying Focused

Staying focused in your work isn’t always easy, especially if there is a daunting amount of work to do over a period of a year and the next and so on. Time management is so important to stay focused on what needs to be done. This is how I try to stay focused and for the most part it does work.

1. List off the main jobs that have to be completed for the year. For artists that would be how many paintings you need to complete as well as exhibitions you are exhibiting in. Be sure to list any other major events, including non work related ones. Once you have a list, pencil each job into the years calendar at a pace that you know you can handle comfortably with room to spare for any hiccups that may arise and trust me they will. You will also be aware if you can handle anymore additional work for that year.

2. Write out a daily task list. I started doing this when I read Maggie’s post How to Juggle & Other Parlor Tricks on her blog. It is a great way of staying on track for your day, which then allows you to focus more on what you should be doing, creating art or whatever else your job is.

3. Your time is important so learnt to say no when someone else wants a slice of your day. If it can’t be avoided do a trade off. For example because my husband and I own a business there is sometimes a task that I can only do that wasn’t on the agenda. If my husband wants me to do a job for him he ends up doing a mundane job or two off my own list.

4. Delegate jobs to other members in the family or staff rather than trying to be ‘super work hero’ that ends up coming to an almighty crash from overload. It takes a long time to climb back out of that hole that you created. I learnt that at an earlier time in my life where I ended up so ill that I was useless to those around me.

5. Consider using your answering machine to take your calls. This I have done when I see ‘private numbers’ showing up on the ID screen. 99% of the time ‘private numbers’ are either a fax or somebody wanting to sell me something; perhaps I should try and sell them a painting.wink

6. As an artist I know I lose focus when painting. This is when it is time to have some refreshments or do one of those smaller jobs on the list that take no longer than ten or so minutes. That break for me will help me refocus once more on the painting.

7. I love my email and the contact I have with family and friends but like phone calls, it is distracting from work and rarely touch my email during my work hours. If you have time, check your email & blog feeds first thing in the morning (I do while having my breakfast) and once more during the evening when finished my list for the day. Over my midday meal I sometimes will check my blog feeds. Once the clock says back to work, it really means back to work and I get on and do just that. On the subject of rss feeds, do you use a Feed Reader (for example Bloglines or Google Reader) to check your favourite blogs? You should! They save a lot of time as updated blog post drop into the same place and so much quicker to read. Many blogs offer email subscriptions if you prefer not to use a Feed Reader.

8. Listen to music while you work. It tends to help your mind settled on what is in front of you instead of all the other stuff that is going on in your life.

9. If you write to a blog, consider drafting your post rather than leaving it to the last minute then feeling rushed about what you want to write. I paint from the screen of my laptop, hence if an idea pops into my head for a post I make a note of it on the laptop. If the momentum takes off with that post, I do tend to go with it so that I don’t forget what I want to say, then once more able to concentrate on the main task for the day. This is especially so when painting WIP’s as it is easy to write about what I have done while I am painting. After all the blog is on my list of things to do for most days and can post without any loss of time then.

10. I do have a very messy studio but my immediate working space is very organised. This save me time and the most important factor is no loss of focus when searching for an item because I can lay my hands straight away on what is needed.

11. Don’t be a perfectionist with your ‘home’ chores. You will be the only one that knows if you missed cleaning the floor. If you do the cooking; a ‘gone out of your way to make’ meal will be appreciated more by not serving them up regularly. Cook in bulk when you can and place extra cooked meals in the fridge or freezer for ‘fast food’ meals.

12. For artist, keep the bookwork up to day so that it does not intrude on your creative time. My trade off with this is no blog posting for the day. As some of you know I have a real dislike for the GST bookwork that I have to do and because it is left brain thinking, it upsets my focus on the creative right side.

13. Don’t get bogged down with what this and that person says you should be doing. Listen and learn and weed out what isn’t suitable for your direction in life. Do what is right for you and you will have a very good focus on completing tasks that you have set out for yourself. This goes for anything in life, not just work. Sometimes your decision might seem selfish but if it means keeping your head above water, so be it.

14. Allow some time at the end of the day to reflect on what you have achieved. This will put you in the right frame of mind to get out of bed the next day and start all over again.

There you have it, this is how I stay focused for the most part. Yes things in life do get in the way of best laid plans but have learnt with maturity to step back and look at the bigger picture and reroute my plan of attack. If this happens to often I then become a very cranky artist, which my husband has found isn’t an ideal person to live with. Maybe that is the temperamental artist surfacing. lol

There must be many more ways to stay focused on tasks that need to be completed and would love to hear about them. Once more use the comments option to share your thoughts.

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Lori of Soulful Studios said...

This is a really good post. I look forward to working again and need to follow these suggestions. Thanks for checking on me and your kind words.

All the best to you,


Lisa B. said...

My main organizer is a cork bulletin board. I tack my list and calendar on it so they don't get lost in the shuffle. It's also a good place to tack the to-be-paid bills. A bare spot on the cork board means we get ice cream!

Index card files are my other organizer. I keep my reference photos and index of completed works in it.

I am a so-so housekeeper. Spotless makes me uncomfortable anyway, so why bother?

Madelaine said...

Great List Susan... :) Some great ideas there that I should give a try to.

Susan Borgas said...

Thanks everyone for commenting. If one item on the list helps someone the list is then worth posting. :D

Lisa the cork board and file organizer are all good ideas.

Lisa's ideas made me think about those that use computers. A good filing system for photos and documents on a hard drive is a must as well..... and lots of backup so that you are not stressing over loosing all your data.

Jo Castillo said...

Susan, Thanks for the inspiration. I do procrastinate a lot! Good ideas you have.


Susan Borgas said...

I believe many of us do procrastinate Jo. Maybe it is natures way to recharge our batteries; some being flatter than others! ;-)

harriett said...

My best organizing tool is my dry erase board - I find it helpful to scribble something when I'm rushed, and I reward myself with something chocolately when there's empty space! Thanks for some very useful information.