Here are some of the biggest things I’ve found during my first year of studying that can dramatically help you increase your productivity and keep you focused on your goals.
This is the king of productivity. If you don’t know what you’re doing now or what comes next – you’re lost, and what you’re doing at this very moment is most likely not useful at all, but is just empty motion. You need to know the things that you need to work on – long term, keep these where you can see them, on a sticky note on your desktop if that works for you, on a whiteboard, or on a huge poster covering your wall. This is your plan, your blueprint to success, list everything you need to work on, all the big pieces and all the small parts they’re comprised of. If you don’t know where to start studying, I recommend checking out my fundamentals video. if you find yourself not knowing what to do or doing things aimlessly and without a clear goal in mind, chances are you’re not doing one of the things on your list…and if you don’t have a list – make one now, it’ll save you months in the long run. Something like “Get better at drawing” is too vague, it’s not a definable goal, you can’t measure your progress. Set yourself some realistic and properly thought out challenges, things that follow logically from one another, like – improve line quality, research perspective, build a cube in 1,2 & 3 point perspective, build a house, research ellipses, make a cylinder, create a building made of round and linear forms, etc. This all goes under “Get better at drawing”, it’s structured so that each new thing you learn can be applied to the next, and you have individual daily or weekly steps to take towards your goal. Divide and conquer, it’s the best way to learn.
This is your next big learning accelerator – you need to know when you’re practicing, it needs to be at a certain time, in a certain place, no excuses, no compromises. It’s just like showing up for your job – you’ve got to, there is no choice, whether you want to or not.
If you don’t know when you’re doing your work, then your work will not get done. It’s the easiest thing in the world to put something off, or to just give yourself another 10 minutes of playing a game, which turns into hours, or to keep clicking your facebook feed incessantly until 4 AM when the power goes out and you realize it it’s too late to start now.
The most difficult one to do. Pull your LAN cable out, disable your wireless card, switch off your router, put your phone in the other room, lock it if you have to. Just get rid of all communication. If you need reference for a study – get that first, then disable everything, don’t plug back in no matter what while you’re working. There’s just too many things going on on the internet and you have access to all of it. Not only that, but your brain develops patterns of expectation and reward and craves that you check your email. You know that feeling you get when you hear the beep of a new status on facebook… I do too, you can’t not look at it and it will be stuck in your head the entire time you’re working, you will be distracted, it’s inevitable. So do yourself and your brain a favor – unplug, disconnect, do your work and then play. Same goes for Xbox, PS, PSP or whatever your addiction might be, get rid of it, make it inaccessible. With time your cravings will reduce and this won’t be so difficult anymore… One more thing – after some time, don’t trust yourself that you’ve mastered your compulsions, you can’t, your brain’s patterns are too strong for you, it’s like a monkey with a banana, it wants it and if it sees it and can grab it – it will. So don’t kid yourself, just unplug. I thought I was a master, that’s why I’m here writing this post, when I’m not even supposed to have internet right now…
There is so much time in the day when we can’t be where we need to be to practice. Don’t let that turn into empty time. A line at the doctor’s, a bus ride to work, lunch break, bus stop, waiting for a friend, stuck in traffic, boring useless class, snowed in somewhere in the remote mountains where you might not be found – have a sketchbook, a book or a tablet with you. You have no excuses for being bored, you need to have so much work to do you can’t even figure out when to sleep.
Tablets are perfect, I’ve loaded mine with books and photos. You can do research on anything, anywhere. Architecture, technology, anatomy, animals, drapery, master paintings, books, video tutorials… I can’t wait to have my arm trapped under a boulder after falling through a cliff, I’d make it for way more than 127 hours before I even realize I have a problem (It’s a movie, look it up). The point is there are hours of the day, each day, when you can’t do anything but wait on someone or something and those hours need not be wasted, if you have an hour long bus trip each day – that’s an opportunity to get 1 hour of studying in, multiply that by the 200 something workdays in a year and you have an extra 200+ hours towards your 10 000 hour goal.
And finally – It’s the small things that make a big difference. You most likely won’t quit your job, leave school or find a bunker somewhere to live in (call me if you do) where you’ll be able to spend as much time as you’d like only on the things you want to do, but you can maximize and squeeze each second out of your day to push you forward no matter what your current circumstances are, whether you’re working part-time, full-time, 2 jobs, studying, parent, grandparent – it’s possible. Work on your work habits, reflect, adjust and improve everything you can. Daily.