Productivity can carry a heavy weight, if we let it. I've spent the past 8+ years of my working/searching-life helping banks, and start-ups, and charities, and production companies, and advertising agencies, and artists, to become more productive. As I sit here, before these words, I've realized that we teach the things we need to learn the most. So, with that said, here is my ever-evolving approach to living a a productive and fulfilling life.
Step 1: Find what you love
When we do the things that interest us, challenge or and even scare us, we become impassioned. Why? Because bringing our uniqueness (or "art") to every new challenge, brings us closer to the root of our identity. When we harness the courage to make understanding and pursuing our "art" a priority in our lives, we cannot help but to be productive and fulfilled.
Step 2: Love what you find
Loving your art is easy, but what about the other obstacles of our daily lives? Can you give your love to those things too? If you can, you will amplify your impact and enjoyment. Practicing gratitude and generosity are excellent ways to give love in challenging circumstances. Doing so will make you more effective in the task at hand, and more valuable to the people involved.
Step 3: Plot your course
A plan puts it all out in the open: Who you are, what you're working on, your art, your business, your goals, your next steps, your ideas, your community, your resources, etc. We often address these topics in our journals, notebooks, productivity apps, Google Docs, post-its etc. but however well-intended we are, these ideas often get lost, or linger, and become outdated. While, yes, the big ideas generally stick, our effectiveness suffers.
Keeping a fluid-plan (a centralized and ever-evolving master scroll of your life and business) provides self-awareness at a moments notice. Yes, our goals and perspectives change, and so should our plans. I've re-written my plan at least 40 times this year (almost daily and at least weekly). Always seeking to simplify and steer my life in the optimal direction. Not so much focused on the destination, because destinations change as we learn, but, once again, on the optimal direction based on my present reality (Inspired by Randy Komisar Virtual CEO, quoted in Life Entrepreneurs p. 13).
Here is an outline I use for myself, and with a small group of artists with whom I coach/collaborate with:
You may even decide to download our latest Journey Plan template here and click here for suggested topics and resources. If you do, please proceed with caution. This is not intended as a cure-all system for everyone, which is why we dedicate so much of our time to hands-on consulting with our clients and interested artists. Your journey in art and entrepreneurship is unique and requires a plan that fits your identity and works for you.
If you have questions, or are interested in meeting, please feel free to reach out anytime here.
Step 4: Seek wisdom
We all need help with knowledge, experience, and resources. Help in any of these areas will accelerate your productivity and joy. Unfortunately, it's easier said than done. We assume that we have enough knowledge and experience to wear all the hats, so we don't form genuine friendships based on trade, we don't delegate responsibility, we don't educate ourselves, and thus we don't acquire the help we desperately need. Here are some ideas we use to help our clients, help themselves:
Lack of knowledge:
Lack of experience:
Lack of resources:
Step 5: Take a deep breath
This idea comes from a brilliant NY Times article written last February by Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project and the author, most recently, of Be Excellent at Anything.
In summary, the puritan model of working all day, for as long as possible, is counterproductive. We burn out. While time is finite, our energy is renewable. Incorporating strategic renewal periods into our work schedules, leads to greater productivity, health and happiness. A few excerpts:
Strategic renewal, including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations, boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health and happiness.
In the 1950's researchers William Dement and Nathaniel Kleitman discovered that we sleep in cycles of roughly 90 minutes, moving from light to deep sleep and back out again. They named this pattern the Basic-Rest Activity Cycle or BRAC. A decade later, Professor Kleitman discovered that this cycle recapitulates itself during our waking lives.
Therefore, during the day we move from a state of alertness progressively into physiological fatigue approximately every 90 minutes.
Overriding our bodies clock with caffeine and long hours does nothing but harm. Therefore, schedule your day based on 90 minute work cycles and periodic recovery periods, in which you relax, nap, exercise, or detach from the puritan impulses within ;)
You can read in full here: Relax, you'll be more productive, By Tony Schwartz.
Here's another review with a twist at ChaseJarvis.com:
And a 90 min Daily Planner from Chase and his friend Ben;
(Tip: Print and Laminate for use with a dry erase marker):
In summary, to be more productive and live a fulfilling life:
Find what you love, love what you find, plot your course, get help, and breathe deeply.
Some food for thought.
Great people unite.
Another gem from Chase Jarvis Live. In this episode, Chase interviews the brilliant author of books like "POWER," "WAR" and "SEDUCTION," Robert Greene, to discuss the principles outlined in his latest book "MASTERY."
MASTERY is a beautifully written piece of non-fiction, exploring the lives of historical and present day masters from Leonardo Divinci to Temple Grandin, Albert Einstein to V.S. Ramachandran, and Mozart to Yoky Matsuoka, while providing practical advice on how to chart your own personal path to mastery.
In this interview, Greene and Jarvis explore these principles as they relate to creative professionals striving to realize their fullest potential.
Close your eyes and envision your future-self telling the story of your life and the skills you possess. What are those skills? Who are the masters you can learn from? What can they learn from you?
Great people unite.
Dr. Ernesto Sirolli is the father of Enterprise Facilitation® at his namesake non-profit The Sirolli Institute. He is an expert in the field of sustainable economic development, and one of my personal heroes.
In this November 2012 Ted Talk, Dr. Sirolli charmingly explains, what I feel, is the purest approach to consulting. In short:
Dr. Sirolli goes on to stress that every entrepreneurial venture must possess:
In closing, identify your strengths, look to your community for resources to help compensate for your weaknesses, and seek counsel from those willing to shut-up, listen and help.
-Great people unite.
Creativity is a currency, and by applying fundamental business tactics to the process of sharing your "art," you can dramatically enhance its impact. Click the image on the left to hear author and business guru Ramit Sethi and photographer/entrepreneur Chase Jarvis discuss this and more on his self-titled show, Chase Jarvis Live. Here are a few nuggets of wisdom from their conversation:
We know our mind changes our bodies, but can our bodies change our minds? As individuals developing our passions and building our communities, our conscious awareness affects our reality.
Take a look at how posture, non-verbal gestures, and body language affects the way we are perceived by others and, more importantly, the people we are becoming.
Great people unite.
Remember that blissful excuse to roll down a grassy hill or draw to your hearts content, for no objective reason other than enjoyment?
How powerful those moments were in our development as artists and creative thinkers. How quickly it seems they were replaced by the “responsibilities” of our professional lives.
How can we bring back play time? More importantly, how can we bring the spirit of playtime into our work?
As Jessica Walsh, of the World famous design firm Sagmeister & Walsh, elegantly quoted "The heart of creative work is purposeful play. Play is really a flow state, where we’re reaching this optimal balance of opportunity and challenge given our skill sets. It is the ideal human state, completely absorbed in the activity at hand."
Check out Jessica's full interview, plus an intimate look into her irreverent and insightful business partner Stefan Sagmeister at The Creative Business blog PSFK.com (A rich source of artfully entrepreneurial treats).
In closing, be free to play. To bring bad ideas to the table. To laugh at yourself. To get lost in the engrossing experience of the task at hand, as only you can.
Play time is now.
Great people unite,
P.S. If you are in New York City next Thursday April 4th, and are interested in seeing some purposeful play in action, visit www.artbattlesu.com to RSVP for an evening of unfiltered creative energy.
An inspiring Ted Talk on the creative process from "Eat, Pray, Love" author Elizabeth Gilbert.
How can we manage the inherent emotional risks of creativity?
Separate your self from "the divine attendant spirits of creativity."
Show up and do the work.
"Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working." - Pablo Picasso
-Great people unite.