Monday, November 21, 2016

Reader Question: How Do You Stay Focused and Balanced? 10 Weird Artist Productivity Tips

"---I am the most impatient human ever and I have a zillion ideas in my head like little bees. I am starting to put together numbers for a business plan as well as making myself do one thing a day for the vintage business. Discipline is everything I hear. How do you stay focused but balanced? Especially with all that you do?" - Lindsey, VP of Marketing, Would-Be Antique Store Owner
I get similar questions often. How do you stay focused, do it all, or even get started when your brain is busy and you want to do everything!?

I'm not naturally focused, but the following tricks keep me meeting deadlines, networking, getting things sold and all the other essentials for running a successful creative business. These tips are weird because artist-brain is weird, an art-based business relies heavily on a steady stream of inspiration and passion and isn't beholden to "normal" rules for productivity.

These weird busy-bee-brain tips come from the heart. It's something I've studied and worked on for years and I know how frustrating it can be. I hope it helps my fellow makers with similar afflictions!

1) Trap Yourself in Deadlines

Decision paralysis and perfectionism are the enemies of productivity. Creators can get stuck on the details for years! Trapping yourself in a strict deadline forces you to get things done lightning fast. Many makers agree, pressure brings out your best work, too. I sign up for outdoor markets, events, set meetings and keep my schedule busy to stay productive.

2) Embrace The Distracted Mind

Drugs that are abused to heighten user's focus, like adderall, decrease creativity. I think of the extensive study I once read on the topic when I want to punish myself for lapses of focus. That crazy scatter-brain is part of the creative process. It's beautiful. Embrace it. Give yourself timed breaks to walk, surf the web or go wherever your mind desires as needed.

3) Doesn't fit? Want to Make it? Just Do It

I like to make a lot of different things and indulge this desire by keeping my creations unified under one brand name. Don't trap yourself or be too strict, let yourself have fun and explore all the avenues you crave. Indulge the creative whims, when you're happy it shows all over you and your business. When you restrict yourself and take the "fun" out of it, it's really hard to work and focus.

4) Truly Can't Stand it Anymore? Switch Tasks

Sometimes you get yourself into something you can't stand for another second. This could be temporary burn-out, switch tasks for a while or take a longer break. You may come back refreshed and inspired.

5) STILL Truly Can't Work Another Second after Breaks and Switching Weeks or Months later? Quit.

If you simply can't recharge your passion for something maybe you're not meant to do it as a job anymore. Most artists, to the pit of their soul, know when they just can't do something for a living anymore. It may take time for you to save up for a transition to something else but I highly recommend it. There's no point if the passion's not there. Find another way to pay the bills and take the time to find your soul's calling.

6) Let People Help

Many makers have a stubborn I-want-to-do-it-all streak but you can't. You need support. When it's offered, take it. When you need help, ask.

7) Let Perfectionism Go, Don't Micromanage

Your art is your baby, but you have to let it go if you want to stay balanced. Trust your team to do the right thing and don't fuss over details to the point of distraction. Again, perfection is the enemy of productivity.

8) Be Grateful Through the Crazy Times

I'm in the process of moving to our store while still doing outdoor markets, little gigs and various events and it's crazy right now. Like, work until I'm literally dizzy two days in a row crazy. On the 1.5 hour drive back home from a charity event today I re-centered with gratitude. I got to hang out in a gorgeous spa salt room for free and...oh yeah, I'm opening a store! Not everyone gets to live that dream. Not everyone has that passion in their soul to make living from their art a reality...not everyone has that creative spark. But you do. That alone is something to be immensely grateful for. Remember that when you're feeling overwhelmed. It's a good thing to be so busy it hurts! You're not in your growth zone when things are calm and complacent.

9) Listing and Consolidating

Try to keep one consistent notebook as your work diary for listing EVERY SINGLE thing in your head! Every dream you have for the future, every idea, all of your to-dos, get them out of your mind so they stop tormenting you. Then the next day with a clearer mind and some markers or highlighters, go through and see what you can consolidate, delegate, or eliminate. Listing is essential for bee-brains!

10) Always Research

Always research (you're here now, yay) new techniques for keeping balanced and productive as a business owner. Subscribe to trade blogs and magazines, hit the books and test those new techniques ASAP.

As I close this post my apartment is in disarray and my to-do list to consolidate has over 600 items (some of them are just ideas, but still!) I'm not perfectly balanced or 100% focused but I feel like I've improved 1000%, on focus, balance and productivity compared to my confused busy-bee brain state of previous years and I've distilled that improvement into the steps above. I'm confident it will keep getting better with research, time and practice! If you have tips on the subject, please do share! And of course, feel free to send me questions on business anytime.
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  1. This is a great post Vanessa! And I completely agree about the artist brain being "weird", in fact I wrote a post about that here:


    1. I LOVE the post, thanks for sharing! So much truth there, like creative people being able to extract order out of chaos. It's frustrated to try to explain to "saner" people that it's a temporary chaos while we're making something. I see a messy artist's studio as one of the most beautiful things there is :D

      Love the quote you shared: " The creative genius is occasionally crazier and yet adamantly saner than the average person.

  2. These are great tips as always, Vanessa, esp. the part about losing perfectionism. I honestly believe in the saying that "perfection is the enemy of the good." And as someone who's obsessive-compulsive, I tend to get so focused on one thing that finding balance is something I have a hard time with. When I get focused on something, it gets done but at the expense of other areas in my life (like cleaning the house...ahem....)...sigh...I'm working on it though:)

    1. I feeel your pain here. My house tends to get VERY neglected when I'm on my crazy work benders :\ Big time, but just a few days into a dedicated work space that's getting better.

  3. These tips are great Vanessa! One of the best things I have ever done for myself was become self employed. It took years of planning while basically working 2 full time jobs. It really pays off when you can do what you love every day. To stay focused I am all about lists and somewhat of a daily schedule. That way I don't stray too far off the path.

    1. Lists are so important for me, even if I don't always follow them they are essential to just get all the craziness out of my head, haha. Congrats on all that hard work (2 full time jobs, aah!) to get to your dream of self-employment. I'm here but now the hustle to improve sales so I can hire help (one day) really kicks off!

  4. great post. When I can't take it anymore I go clean something until I can't take that anymore and then I go back to blogging and on and on.

    1. I tend to do the same, it really helps to switch it up and just stop when you can't anymore.

  5. These are great, Vanessa! I can really relate to switching tasks as being helpful for being productive. Right now, I`m checking out my fave blogs, and making dinner and listening to new music!!


I love reading your comments. Thank you for adding to the discussion! I always reply to any and all questions.

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