How do you get up in the morning? Do you bounce out of bed? Do you start humming your favourite tune on the way to the gym after a quick smoothie? Or is it more like a struggle, tossing and turning until you finally turn off the snooze button and make a cup of coffee, unsure of what the next step is?
I'm a little mix of both, depending on the day. Most days, it's pretty tough getting into something. If I'm about to do something exciting, or if it's a day "off" from everything I have to do, it's usually pretty easy. But uncertainty rules my days.
I figure many of us experience this, certainly those of us who work for ourselves, at home, making our own schedule. Here are some things I've learned to do when I want to clear my head and get moving.
1. Make a list and rough schedule the night before
If I can wake up and know exactly what I have to do, then I can get out of bed much more easily. Knowing what happens in my day before going to sleep means that I know how much time I have to spare or waste. Deadlines help me focus: finishing something is no longer just for me, it's for someone else, and making others happy makes me extremely happy. I like to use Google Calendar lately, and try to be as precise as possible.
2. Listen to Podcasts
I've recently got into podcasts like never before. I tried a few times in the past but was never interested until now. Finding the right podcast is crucial; I like to find ones which are uplifting, interesting, positive and filled with the wonders of the world. I want to know more about love, what great things people are doing in the world, and how ordinary folks like me got to where they are today. I highly recommend: On Being with Krista Tippett, Ted Radio Hour, and How I Built This.
3. Journaling or reading
If I've got too many things on the brain, getting started with work can be impossible. I need to dump my thoughts onto paper and clear clutter. Otherwise, sometimes it's about filling my brain with good, positive information so I'll go check out a few sites (for example, Behance, an inspiring portfolio site, helps me see what other artists are up to), pick up a good book, or listen to podcasts, as number 2 suggests.
4. Surround myself with my own work
As a freelance artist, it helps if I paste my own work all around me. In my little studio -- really, just a bedroom I took over which has a small table, a printer, and really bad lighting -- I decided to put some of my favourite previous work on display to remind me of what I love to do and why it feels good to finish projects. My current work is also on the walls, to see how much work has been completed to date, which helps me visualize timelines and feel great about getting things done (even if they're just small things).
5. Plan for exercise or fresh air
The thing I hate the most is having to be inside when there's a gorgeous blue sky calling me. If it's so distracting that my work ends up taking longer, I just go outside and take a walk or even take some of my work with me to a coffee shop. The first certainly means more productivity, but the second usually feeds my soul with some social interaction and people watching. Gotta do what feels right.
6. Fit meetings in throughout the week
If I am not drowning in work and deadlines, I like to have 2 or 3 days of meetings. Spreading them out makes me feel good: I like to get out of the house to talk about work, to stay inspired, to connect with my clients, and to keep the momentum going. After meetings I will usually get things done twice as quickly, since it's fresh in my mind and I feel what the client is looking for.
7. Don't beat yourself up
Since my artist brain is always turned on, it means that I am constantly "at work" in my mind. If I'm in my studio and things aren't coming out, it's frustrating. I end up sitting there for an hour, zoning out half the time and being frustrated from seeing no results. This is when I start beating myself up, and it's absolutely counter-productive. When this happens, I'm better off leaving the studio for an hour and getting rejuvenated with something like exercise, getting out of the house, talking to a friend, gardening, or going into town. No good work can come from ruminating, and beating myself up will get me nowhere fast.
8. Evening work
If I can't get anything done in the daytime for any reason, I like to set up in the evening. Evening time has a special feeling for me: it's dark, mysterious, and calm. I light some candles, find a way to do my work in the least amount of light as possible, and stay more focused. The only downside to evening work is that gatherings and events can at times creep up unexpectedly and they're hard to turn down. Working at night is absolutely my favourite.
And now, to work I go!