All right, party possums – let’s talk habits. Specifically, I want to share with you three habits that I’ve incorporated into my life every day, so I can stay as productive and creative as possible, mixing both big dreams with daily tasks. It can be really easy to get wrapped up in your every "reactive" stuff, ignoring the bigger, more difficult dreams you've got. Let's find a way through that!
Full disclosure: am I saying I’ve been a font of brilliance this year, creating oodles of impressive art and writing? Hell no! Like pretty much everyone on the planet, my creative life has taken a bit of a spiral. I’m working, but it certainly doesn’t feel like my engines are firing like usual.
And you know what? That’s normal. We’re in the middle of some massive events right now, and reduced focus, higher anxiety, and general ugh-ness are perfectly healthy responses to scary situations. But we’ll get through this!
We can’t control everything, but we can be mindful about where we put our attention. So let’s dive in:
First up: write down your big goals! I’ve spoken about this at length before, and it’s for good reason. People are much more likely to actually achieve something if they’ve written it down. It’s not some mystical thing either: it’s just brain science. (You can learn more about this by downloading my ebook here!)
It’s hard enough to achieve a goal when you know exactly what you want, but desperately harder when you’re not even sure which direction you want to be aiming. If you haven’t isolated some particulars, why not take some time to really dig into it? What creative goals do you want to achieve in the next six months? And the next few years? Any goal is great, but if you don’t write it down every day, you’re missing out on some great opportunities!
Personally, I write down my goals every night before bed. I’ve got some work goals, some personal goals, and some “extra” goals, or, things I’d like to start chipping away on that I think will become a bigger part of my life in a few years.
Next up, you need to review those goals! I’ve done a lot of workshops where we work on goal setting, and I know from experience that many people get out a beautiful new journal, write down their awesome goals, stick that journal into a drawer, and that journal magically disappears into the abyss, never to be opened again.
Don’t fall for this! Writing goals down once is great and all, but if you don’t actually review them often, they won’t stay top of your mind. Think of your brain like an underwear drawer. (Stay with me.) In the drawer, you’ve got all sorts of underwear, but let’s be real: you only really wear the stuff at the top, which goes right back to the same spot in the drawer after you wear and wash it. So even though you’ve got all sorts of stuff to wear in the drawer, you’re really only using the top layer of stuff – the well worn underwear that’s earned its place at easy reach.
Your goals need to be like the underwear you reach for all the time – they need to be at the ready, every day, so you can use them.
Don’t bury your goals like the lost underwear!
Now let’s talk to-do lists. This is where the rubber meets the road, and you can start working towards those goals. I’ve played around with a lot of scheduling apps and to-do list methods, and what I’ve found works best for me is combination of Google Calendar for “big” or official deadlines, and a simple pad of paper for my daily tasks. This notepad doesn’t leave my desk ever, nor does the list of bigger goals I’d like to achieve.
Here’s how I incorporate the two to stay on target with both big goals and daily tasks:
Every Sunday, I look through my week on Google Calendar and see what big tasks I’ve got coming up. My job requires mainly keeping deadlines, so I’ve always got plenty of notice on what’s coming on that front. But the extras are wild cards: stuff like school visits with readers, video shoots, promo, newsletter posts, etc, are all thrown in there as well. Then, I peek at my broader goals, and ask myself what small thing I could do to situate myself a little better to reach those. Finally, I pull out my desk notepad and build a plan.
On my notepad, I write down all the tasks I’d like to tackle for the week. A snapshot from this week includes:
• Finish picture book pitch
• Write proposal for new graphic novel*
• Newsletter draft (that’s you!)
• 10 pages of graphic novel inking
• Extra playtime w/ Skillshare*
• Design infographic for NF book/promotion
• Work on [redacted] book idea
• 5X training
• Class synopsis
• Back end website update: reviews
• Pitch creativity piece*
Pretty standard stuff, but here’s what to notice about this list. Some of the tasks are my ‘usual’ workload. Things like book and art deadlines, some fitness stuff, etc. But I’ve also made a point to include smaller tasks that will help me keep working at my bigger goals list. Those are the tasks with the little asterisks beside them! This is why it’s so crucial to keep those goals of yours easy to find, and these weekly task lists help you actually incorporate those goals into your daily life.
You've got to pull those big goals out of your dreams, and put them into your actual work day - that's the only way you can get closer to them.
It’s going to be impossible for me do to everything on this list this week, but having the list of immediate tasks and dream building work keeps both parts of my life in front of me. If you only allocate time to doing the reactionary work of the every day, you’ll never make time to build the bigger stuff. (Of course, all of your daily tasks contribute to your big dreams too, but you get my drift here.)
I once heard someone say, “show me your schedule and I’ll show you what you value.” Did that ever hit me hard! Since then, I’ve made a point to carve out time for not only the daily work I have to do, but also for the larger dreams that are going to require much more time.
Remember: those awesome goals you wrote shouldn’t stay buried somewhere – they should find their way onto your weekly tasks as well. Just break it up into small pieces and ask yourself “what’s one small thing I could do this week to help that along?” and take tiny steps each week.
Everything you need to begin chipping away at your big goals and weekly tasks is now all in one place, sitting by your computer. This is great to remind you visually, but even better, it will keep what’s important where it belongs: front and center in your mind.
There’s nothing you can’t do, my friend.
Good luck with your big dreaming - and doing!
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