I’m Making a List, Appending it Twice

OK, I’ve got to admit it, this post has nothing to do with Christmas, its just a lame attempt on my part to use a catchy title to catch your attention.

As I mentioned before, in “Personal Development Time”, I’m taking some time off from painting to push myself further, to experiment, to explore, and hopefully, to come back with some new work that really blows away what has come before it.

This is a tricky time for an artist, because it is very easy to let this time off turn into a wasteful period where nothing gets accomplished. This happened to me once before. After Graduating University, I wanted to keep pushing my work further, even though it was in a really good place where it was. I pushed it quite far -in the wrong direction. It took nearly two years before I was able to get myself back on track. I don’t want to get derailed like that again.

One massive pitfall that must be avoided at all costs is getting yourself stuck in research mode. Research mode is a very easy place to get stuck, because research is easy, it’s safe; there is no risk of failure, and no end in sight. There is always something else to read; always another idea to absorb; always something new to learn. It feels like real work, so it’s very easy to stay in research mode and feel like you are not wasting time.

But you are.

Research only what you need, then get back to the studio as soon as possible, and get to work!

I’ve wasted more time than I would care to admit researching thoroughly useless information. I’m never going to use it, and I’m never getting that time back. I should have been painting.

To keep myself on track this round, I did something that is so simple, so obvious, and so common, I am ashamed to admit that I had never tried it before. I made a little list for myself.

A list.
That’s it.
That’s all I did.

I wrote down some big jobs that I had to do, some small jobs I wanted to do, and some time sensitive-jobs.

I titled the page “December 1-6 Goals”.

The rules were simple: have every item scratched out by the 6th.
I wrote down 9 jobs.
“That looks like a week’s worth of work….right?”

Four hours later, all but two items were scratched out. Those two items were, of course, the hardest, most time intensive, and most important jobs, but, “why do today what can be put off ’till tomorrow?”. I figured I’d add some new items. The list was now 16 items long.

Day two: As I’m finishing off my morning coffee, I scratch out another group of items. Only two items remain. And they are the same two from yesterday!

“wow, I got though most of my week’s worth of work in 2 days! I’d better add more stuff” I make more additions to the list. “This will hold me for the week”

8 hours later, I’m scratching out items 17-19. Only two items remain, and they are the same two items from day one.

The two items still on the list were a painting, and some videos. I shot and edited the videos. I had a few days left, so I got to work on the painting. Put in a solid day’s work, went to an opening, put in another day’s work, went to bed, got up, went back to work.

It was 8am on the morning of December 7th when I finally put the brush down, declared the painting finished, and went to bed.

I made it. I scratched out every item on that list. Having a little structure made a huge difference. It’s not so much the productivity as the focus. Normally, I bounce from task to task, spending a few moments on each, then moving on to something else. Moving from job to job costs a few minutes each time, I work better once I’ve established a rhythm, or a flow. While that flow comes fast, it doesn’t come instantly. I was amazed to discover just how much waste was accumulating each day with all that ‘switching time’. Those minutes really added up!

I made a second list for this week, “Things to accomplish by December 13th”.

A little structure, a little focus goes a long way.

Published by

Kyle Clements

Kyle Clements is a Toronto-based artist and nerd. During his thesis at the Ontario College of Art and Design, Kyle began working on his Urban Landscapes series, a body of work that aims to capture the energy and excitement of life in the fast-paced urban environment. After graduating from OCAD in 2006, Kyle spent a year living in Asia to gather source material and experience in a different kind or urban environment. His work is vibrant and colourful. Whether painting the harsh Northern landscape, or capturing the overwhelming buzz of life in the city, his acrylic paintings hover between representation and abstraction.