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Working Daily for Creatives – Part 2 – The Science of Appointments

April 22, 2015

Underwood_no5This is a Talking Typewriter Production – Which means this blog post has also been turned into a video. So…you can read this post below or you may watch the video version at YouTube, above. It’s the same stuff. It’s your choice.

Welcome to part two of Working Daily for Creatives. Again if you were in part one, or if this is your first stop here on this whole idea of working daily, believe me I know what you’re thinking and you’re feeling. There is no way I can work daily. Well, there are ways to do that and you can.

For simplicity sake I call this whole thing about consistent daily work, I call it the daily appointment. Fortunately, there has been research around how do people follow through on their intentions. They have something that they want to do, what separates one group of people, the ones can actually get it done versus another group. It seems to boil down to this, the successful group came up with a simple checklist, they make decisions around that checklist, once they’ve formed it they just follow it on a daily basis.

The unsuccessful group doesn’t really specify where, or how, or what, or when they want to follow through so everything just slides, it doesn’t get done.

The Steps to Building Your Appointment

Let’s go through the steps of what you need to know to make one of these checklists, to help you get to your daily appointment, and get through your daily appointment.

Step #1: Figure out your When
The first item on the checklist is, when are you going to have your daily appointment. We talked about working short, but specify during your day the best day or best times to work that short time period, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five minutes. Think that through, when’s the best time for you. Probably come up with a plan B if the first time doesn’t work you know what the fallback position is. That’s item number one on your checklist for the daily appointment.

Step #2: Figure out your Where
Item number two for your checklist is where. We talked about having a lot of flexibility about being able to work in different locations. Go ahead and pre-specify where you’ll likely be doing your work, and again come up with a plan B. Where will you be when you have that appointment at your specified time. It’s okay to visualize again a plan B of where you will be when that time comes around.

Step #3: Figure out your General What
The third item on the checklist is going to vary from day to day, is what will you be doing at that time and in that location. Now you can start off first specifying it in a general sense what sort of work. I’ll turn to writers, it would be maybe a certain level of productivity say shooting for one hundred words during that work session. It would be about a particular topic, but as you get into that work you will be able to specify a day or two ahead of where you need to be and what you need to do that next day, or the day after then. Get that clear in your mind so you know when you sit down in that location at that time you’ll know the subject matter, but what specifically are you going to be tackling during that work session.

That’s it for Part 2 of Working Daily for Creatives.  See you at Part 3, Cautions and Success Hacks.

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Working Daily for Creatives – Part 1

March 30, 2015

Underwood_no5This is a Talking Typewriter Production – Which means this blog post has also been turned into a video. So…you can read this post below or you may watch the video version at You Tube, above. It’s the same stuff. It’s your choice.

Today we’re going to look at the realities of how frequently we should be working, if we want to get our projects started, and if we want to get our projects done. Clearly there’s power from working daily. If we are honest and if we check around constant steady work has the power we are seeking, but what is steady work? Well we can answer that for ourselves by working through the following questions. Would working once a month get your project done? Would working only twice a month get you to where you want to go? Even better, would be to work a little bit, and the emphasis is a little bit, each and every day, and there’s a lot of benefits for that which I’ll go through in just a minute or two.

In just pausing for a moment I know what you’re thinking, “This is not going to be possible.” Well trust me it is possible, and we’re going to go through some steps on how to find that time. Here are the top three secrets or objectives for getting work done every day.

Secret Number 1
First one is work short. The only way to get what reality requires, which is consistent work, we should look at what are our assumptions about daily work, and when we look at them I think we’re in for some surprises. First of all, the common notion is we can see ourselves working hours at a time on a project. That’s great, but for most of us we can’t do that. We don’t have hours each and every day to work on our project.

The next vision that we have is if we did daily work we’d have to shove all sorts of other things out of our life so we would have hours available to work. Well, what happens if we don’t have to have hours? What happens if we shift that? Then our assumptions change, and then what seemed to be impossible before will become possible. Let’s set a more realistic goal. Let’s say we’re setting the target of every day work of about ten, fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five minutes, or thirty minutes that’s our target. Now certainly the possibilities, the probabilities greatly increase for us of finding ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, or thirty minutes each day to do our work.

The possibilities of actually being able to do that becomes a very strong likelihood, probably ninety-seven percent of us can find that amount of time per day. I know many of you have special interest, say visual artists, jewelry makers and others who require a whole setup that takes a fair amount of time. You’re going to have to look a little deeper, look a little harder to see what you can do on a daily basis that gets you closer to finishing your project. Maybe it’s sketching something out, maybe it’s planning, maybe it’s thinking things through until you do have a larger block of time, but it’s a constant, it’s a consistent focus on your project each and every day in some manner.

Secret Number 2
what is really freeing is finding a way to be able to work on your project in more places than right now that you’re envisioning. Many of us envision just one place as being a place where we can do our work. Bend that flexibility, look around and see if there’s more places where you’re going to find yourself as you go about your typical day where you can work. For writers that’s easy, you can write on the bus, write in the airport, write in coffee shops, write at lunchtime.

Again, I know there’s many fields, grade of fields that have limitations on this, but be creative about your creative field, and see what you can do on the road as you move around. You may not have to do that, but the more options as far as locations the more likelihood you’re going to be able to do this consistent daily work to gather the power of daily work.

Why Daily Work is Powerful
Daily work gets its power from a variety of sources.

1) First of all it keeps us close to our project. It’s so easy to work on a project one day and put it away, and weeks will go by and then we have to remember what did we do last, and why are we doing it this way, and what’s coming next? When we work daily we’re thinking about this thing daily, and we keep close to our project, sort of circling around it. It helps us keep focused.

2) Working daily also magnetizes us. It keeps us alert for opportunities, for insights, for new ways of doing stuff. If we’re working our project every day we’re thinking about it both consciously and in-consciously, and surprising things will happen. We’ll start to see new connections, new opportunities are going to pop up, and we’re going to be ready to be able to grab them.

3) Working every day makes us stronger, it makes us more flexible, it develops more skills quickly versus working just a couple times a month. We learn how to work under all sorts of conditions, and also all sorts of moods, because we’re trying to work daily. We know the mood storms and ups and downs will come, but there’ll be a consistency to our consistency of working regardless of environmental conditions around us, and regardless of our inner weather as well, so there’s real power to that.

4) Now, if we keep at this long enough it will become a habit, and habits, as we all know, are powerful. They take time to get started, but once they get started they take care of themselves, they start to run, they’re automatic. They’re like robots that we set in place saying, “This is what we want to do. Get us there, you take care of it so I don’t have to think about it,” and it runs in the background. Before long we’re going to find ourselves drawn to our work, sitting down to our work or wherever we do our work, and we’re just doing it. We just show up, we just get there, and suddenly it’s become a habit, and it’s pulling us forward.

That’s it for this portion of How to Work Daily. To continue on go to the next part which is called The Daily Appointment. There you’re going to learn how to setup your appointment in a way that increases the likelihood and the ease for you to go ahead to get to that appointment and to get through it.

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The Calling of the Cave Man

February 8, 2015

I’m on the constant search to find what motivates us to act and what keeps us moving forward. Especially important are motivators that are not far from us when we are anything but motivated. The most enduring I have seen so far, is calling:

call•ing

n.

1. a vocation, profession, or trade.
2. a divine call or summons: a calling to the priesthood.
3. a strong impulse or inclination: an inner calling.

You know you have calling by checking your history and by watching what you do, what you regularly day-dream about, and where you go. Past or present, look for (some or all):

– that what you do in the best of times and the worst of times.
– that which most fascinates you
– that which you would never throw out of your life
– that which you do because you must do
– that which feels like a refuge, a home
Ra Paulette is called and you can see, feel, taste, touch, and smell it. No question about it. CBS Sunday Morning gives this short look at the man (video below), his amazing work, and the nature of calling. Such calling is yours if you pay attention to that which drives you and give it room to grow and create.

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A Clear, Condensed View of Creative Obstacles

January 22, 2015

The_Greatest_Game_Ever_Played_posterThank goodness for movies, teaching tales, analogies, symbols, illustrations, and whatever else we can hold in our hand and explore in detail.  These are condensed representations of fast-paced, ever flowing, and complex reality. Condensation slows time, simplifies and reduces details, and freezes processes to a small set of steps. All of this gives us a chance to explore and learn.

The following condensed view shows clearly: everyone goes through creative obstacles; the obstacles are basically the same; obstacles suck; obstacles can be overcome; even so, obstacles suck but that is part of creative life.

A 2005 film has condensed a lifetime of creative obstacles down to two hours.The fact based movie, The Greatest Game Ever Played, uses the 1913 U.S. Open challenge between professional golfers and a highly talented outsider amateur to show what each faced to get to a pivotal playoff. We get a glimpse of their childhood and current situation. On top of that, brilliant photography swings from beautiful nature and dramatic shots to special effect representations showing us how champion minds focus and how they must face inner critics.

Movie trailer

Watching Tips

1. View the film all the way through for enjoyment’s sake (golfer or not, you are likely to enjoy this film).

2. Watch again and list all the shown and inferred obstacles the main golfers had to face.

3. Indicate which ones cause stuckness for you.

4. Work on accepting: these obstacles are not unique to you; obstacles suck but we have to keep working; obstacles can be overcome.

5. For fun and for additional surprising insights, step into the mindset as you imagine it of the two main characters. Play with imagining how they might overcome your obstacles.

Resources:
Wikipedia film info
Image above: “The Greatest Game Ever Played poster” Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia

Get Your Resolutions On Target

December 30, 2014

Underwood_no5This is a Talking Typewriter Production – Which means this blog post has also been turned into a video. So…you can read this post below or you may watch the video version at You Tube, above. It’s the same stuff. It’s your choice.

This coming year, month, week, or whatever time period is going to zip by, fast. Everything will suck up its own level of time and if we are not really smart and prepared, there will be no time for our projects. We really don’t have time to spare.

One source of wasted time is setting and working on the wrong resolutions. Wrong resolutions come in many shapes.  The most well known shape are  goals that are wildly general with no backbone of steps listed to accomplish those goals. You hear a lot around New Year’s Day on how to rectify this mistake by being much more specific and taking the time to map the steps.

However, there is another shape of wrong resolution that is less mentioned. Probably because it takes a bit to explain. These are resolutions that are off- target.  Off-target in the sense they don’t match where we are in: our creative development or development as producers of creative output.

These resolutions have us jumping around, jumping way ahead, jumping out of what should come next for us, jumping sideways, or jumping into the less important.

They pull us away from what we could be doing to get where we need to be going.  Wrong resolutions, waste time and carry costs. They can cost us opportunities lost, energy spent, and discouragement earned.

Right resolutions, if we follow through and actually implement them, produce results that run deep and wide and serve us everyday or almost everyday. They make us stronger, smarter, more creative, and more productive.

How to Get Your Resolutions On Target

Answer the questions below honestly and carefully, and you will have three resolutions that will keep you on-target:

> Resolution: Pick One Important Way to Be More Productive

  • Start from the ground up. What basic, small method of productivity, if mastered could make a large difference in your productivity?
  • Hints: Working 15 to 30 minutes everyday; setting a daily target such as a word count; meeting with an accountability partner by phone once a week; setting weekly goals. This is your resolution number one.

> Resolution: Pick an Important Skill in your Field That You Need to Master

  • What skill within your craft, have you been putting off learning well but is an important part of your future work? This is your resolution number two.

> Resolution: Pick a Project That You Are Certain You Can Achieve

  • Which of your projects fits this description? The emphasis here is achievable. Let’s hear that word again: a-c-h-i-e-v-a-b-l-e.  Achievable is considered to be 90 to 100% certain that you can do it if you put your energy and time into it. Achievable for you and where you are in your creative development, now.  Not a project that should be within your grasp, or that would be great if you got done, but a project that is achievable for YOU, NOW. Be realistic about where you are in your training, knowledge, practice, etc.
  • The goal here is not only to get the project done, but provide you the opportunity to learn more about how you work and where there needs to be improvement in that process. Keeping it achievable allows you to have enough room to step back and observe yourself in action and to make notes. Projects beyond your capacity rarely allow  the opportunity for objective self-examination because the project’s daily needs are just too demanding.

> STOP:  You are done.

  • No more than 3 resolutions, please.  Hey, if you get these done in two months, make some new ones but don’t go over 3 at any given time.

I admit that these resolutions are not as exciting as many other resolutions you have made or friends tell you about, but they do have these things in common:

  • They are closely customized to You.
  • They are all about You developing as a stronger and sharper Creative.

Get on the Creative Road Fast – Pack Light

October 14, 2014

Underwood_no5This is a Talking Typewriter Production – Read this post below or watch the video above for the same info

 

 

Starting

Starting comes from taking small energetic steps, daily. One step, then another step, and then another step.

Starting can be simple but many of us seek to pack so much before taking the first step on the creative road.

We think we have to cram education, a full resume of achievements, workshops, and other credentials into a suitcase.

Next comes the inner stuff. We know on the creative road we will bump into all manner of inner chatter coming from the  internalization of the big influences in our lives. Such as what our parents, siblings, and grade school friends thought about creativity, our chances of getting anything done, and other judgments we soaked up from them.

We think if we just get all of those inner people lined up, we can then head out on the creative road. This is putting our creative journey on hold until we can pack “permission slips” from these inner critics. Good luck. We will be waiting decades to get those inner permission slips.

Our packing is way out of control. How many trunks are we going to need?

Keep in mind, as we are packing and packing, more and more people are walking past us with small, simple bags thrown over their shoulders. There not waiting to get everything together. These people are getting way down the road, out of our sight and living an adventure, experiencing a life we know nothing about. Yet, we continue our packing.

phrenology_headil_570xN.35220982Notions to Get (in our heads):

No one who has ever walked the creative road had everything he/she needed before taking the first steps.

No one has had all the character traits, abilities, accomplishments, education, or native interests before starting down the creative road. The creative road is way too complex. We don’t know of every twist and turn and need before we get out there and travel.

Something is always missing.

Some things can’t be packed because they are only developed travelling ON the road, not in our heads, thinking about  travel.

We can’t pack what we don’t know to pack. Most of us have projects and project areas where we have never worked before so how can we know what to pack?

32-rocket_sharp

Solution Actions

1. Consider your risk
Of course, we need to be cautious with some journeys, such as those requiring a sharp departure. For instance, quitting a job and jumping into something else. That takes more preparation, but the majority of people visiting The Stuck Creative are looking at low risk activities and projects. Starting a blog post, a painting, a first screenplay, first song, etc. Low risks activities require very, very little packing.

  1. Stop thinking so much
    Over-thinking is sure sign of not thinking well. It is not proportional to the job at hand. It’s a sign of fear, not prudent smarts. Don’t trust over-thinking so much.
  1. Put emphasis on getting on the road and finding any means: tiny, semi-tiny, small, or medium to get you out there a.s.a.p.
    That means:

looking around for opportunities to do tasks that are already out on the road so you have to go out there and work on them. Examples: workplace projects; volunteer work; offering your skills to friends; competitions…anything that can challenge you to do work in your field sooner than you might otherwise do things, ending the cycle of holding back and packing, packing and holding back.

=====================================================

Don’t delay. Simply start, start simply.

Tomato Timer for The Stuck Creative

August 26, 2014

 

Underwood_no5This is a Talking Typewriter Production – Which means this blog post has also been turned into a video. So…you can read this post below or you may watch the video version at You Tube, above. It’s the same stuff. It’s your choice.

Welcome to the creative road. Taking the first steps down the creative road, frequently, is very difficult. It’s hard to get started much of the time, and if we can’t get started, if we can’t get the first steps in, then we can’t get down the road. There is no creative road. We have the normal things that causes bumps in the road that come up from outside of ourselves. We call them distractions, but probably the worst distractor are all the things that are within us. At times we feel overwhelm, self-doubt, lack of really energized intent, taking an idea and really focusing and saying, “It’s going to happen.” A lack of boundaries to protect our creative space and time, and inconsistent effort towards of what we want to do. That’s just the beginning of our interior distractions, and all that serves to cloud any place that we’re looking towards, especially looking down the creative road. We can’t even see it most of the time.

Most of these obstacles can be overcome, or at least managed with the right tools. [00:02:00] The problem is this: we have some time set aside, we really want to jump into our project, really get started on our project, but something is blocking us, something that we know really is coming from within that is pushing us aside, pushing us off our mark, pushing us away from our goal. We wrestle with it, we just can’t get a grasp of it, and we know that we don’t have it, whatever this inner resistance is about working on our creative project, but it has us.

Our Many Parts (and the trouble that causes)
This problem comes from the fact, for all practical purposes, we’re not a single person, we’re not a single personality, but a person and a personality is made up of many parts. We’ve all used the expression, “A side of me wants to do this, and another side of me wants to do that.” That’s how we’re composed. Many psycho therapist have recognized this for at least a hundred years. Everything is great to have so many sides because we can take different perspectives on the world. However, sometimes they are in such strong opposition, seeing the world in two different ways, wanting to go in two different directions. There’s a lot of inner conflict. That inner conflict is probably one of the most stressful things in life. How do we handle our sides? How do we handle the conflict of wanting to this versus that? How do we handle or avoid conflicts when one side wants to do something else than doing our creative work?

The goal is to find ways, and there are multiple ways, of starting to synchronize those parts. Where the energy is being more synchronized, or at least it’s not working against each other so that they’re really building upon each other. Everything is working well together. We don’t feel the resistance. We’re either going to feel neutral and that we can go ahead with what we want to do on the creative side, or we feel the rush of flow when things are really connecting, when things are really synchronized. It’s away from inner conflict, it’s towards inner agreement.

Getting Our Parts to Work Together: Enter the Tomato Timer
Now, we need to shift from what was the problem, what is the behind scenes part of that problem, and switch to the tool we’re going to discuss today. With some tools we can point to the person who either discovered the tool, or made the tool, or alerted us to the tool, or distributed the tool. To me they’re a star, they’re a very important person because they’ve given us another tool to get on to the creative road. Today we have a star with us, Francesco Cirillo. In the late 1980s he was a second year university student, and he was really up against the wall. He couldn’t sit down, he couldn’t get started on all of his work. He was getting desperate. When he thought about doing his projects and getting started he faced being overwhelmed and the frustration of not understanding why he couldn’t move forward, and it was becoming a crisis. He had to get his work done. 

One day, as the story goes, he said, “Look. I’m going to sit down. I’m going to work for ten minutes, that’s all. Certainly, I can sit still for that long. Certainly, I can concentrate my mind and get down to some work. No matter how painful it’s going to be, no matter how chaotic, no matter how much self-doubt I might be facing, wondering, ‘What the heck am I doing?’ at least I’m doing something. At least I’m getting started,” and he survives. He makes it through that ten minute period, and he does another ten minute period and another ten minute period. That becomes the tool, that becomes his tool, and now it becomes our tool. Of course, in the bigger picture, working in ten minute blocks gave him something to focus on, gave him a way to get started. He knew how to put in his time, he knew how to calculate how much time he was putting in each day and to record that. It was also helping him to break starter’s block, and in breaking that, not only can he get started, but he also discovers that he can combine ten minute segments into a much longer chain of work.

He refines his technique over time, finding that, probably, twenty-five minutes is the best work period for most people, that a person can keep concentration high for that amount of time. Then, after twenty-five minutes take a true break, get up, move around, clear out one’s head, and then come back, hopefully, for another, he calls Pomodoro, we’ll call it another tomato, and just be able to chain those together as he did. There’s a special note in the history. One day to help him refine this technique he goes into his kitchen and returns with a, actually not a real tomato, but a timer in the shape of a tomato. This becomes important because since the early 1990s he’s been writing, teaching, even has a [00:08:00] informal certificate that you can get in what he calls the Pomodoral Technique. People who know Italian tell me that pomadoral means tomato, so we’re going to borrow that word and call it the Tomato Technique. We’ll let him keep the Italian phrase, The Pomodoral Technique, that’s his. Perhaps history would have been different if he had picked up one of these. We got off easy with just a tomato.

Francesco Cirillo was saved by a tomato. We, too, can be saved by a tomato. Let’s pull back the curtain. Let’s look in more detail what Cirillo doing consciously or unconsciously with his tomato timer.

– He stopped waiting for willpower or inspiration to suddenly appear and make everything easy, interesting, and fun
– He accepted the fact he had to get down to work.
– He trusted that movement begets movement. Early small steps lead to wider and bolder steps later.
– He sensed how his inner parts/sides were in conflict.
– He cut a deal that would work for both. The non-worker side got: “You only have to put up with this for 25 minutes.” The side that wanted progress, got some progress, at long last.
– After a few sessions, his willpower and concentration kicked in.
– Having a target (25 minutes of work), gave willpower something to shoot for and he could hold his concentration for that long.
– The game like nature of the deal brought on the side that liked challenges.

How You Can Use the Tomato Timer
Okay, with all that behind us, let’s get back to you. Here are the next steps for you.

Step #1
Decide to give up waiting and decide to work, now.

Step #2
Decide to work for fifteen or twenty-five minutes every day. There’s tremendous power with that, and you’ll discover that power only by doing that each and every day fifteen or twenty-five minutes.

Step #3
Since we’re working in small blocks of time we need to learn how to chunk our work down. I know this sounds, maybe, impossible. The best thing is to see whatever you do, whatever your creative activity, see if you can bring it down, if you can chunk it down into practical pieces that you can do problem solving with, that you can touch every day and do something with.

Step #4
Go out today and get yourself a timer. It can be a tomato, or any of those other shapes that you saw. If you prefer, use one of the many apps, and there are a tremendous number of apps specifically mentioned as pomodoral timers, or tomato timers.

Step #5
And the last step, give this some time, and stick to it. Rather than trying twenty other tools, as tempting as that might be, stick with this one tool for, say, thirty days, or forty days. Really make it your own, and discover the pros and cons, discover limitations, and discover the advantages of this specific tool. Make it your own. Become an expert and master The Tomato Timer Technique. 

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