Posts Tagged ‘Productivity’

Fighting Entropy, Our Environment’s Effect on Productivity

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

I didn’t do any work yesterday, at least, not on Art.

However, I did spend a lot of time cleaning my apartment. What a relief…

My goals require a lot of work to achieve. I have no misconceptions about them. I’m in the business of putting art in people’s hands, and I’m on the long road to making that happen.

I don’t need a messy environment to get in the way.

I’m a slave to my Environment

I’ve become more observant in the last few years of how my environment effects me.

  • I am more likely to open up my computer and write when my desk is clean and orderly.
  • I’m more likely to head out for a morning jog when my workout gear is clean and easily accessible.
  • I am more likely to spend all day printing when I’m not tripping all over stuff laying around my apartment.
  • I am more likely to spend an evening drawing when my drawing pads are accessible, my pencils/pens are organized, and my dry work area is clean
  • I am more likely to make a healthy meal for myself when I have a clean kitchen and a fridge full of food

I work best in clean, minimalist environments. I dream of a desk with a computer, pen, pencil, pad of paper, and nothing else. There is a strange contradiction within me, however, because I have tons of stuff. I collect and accumulate stuff like crazy. Pens, unopened mail, electronics equipment, scraps of paper, plastic silverware, books, CDs, comics, you name it. It’s just hard wired into me, and happens unconsciously.

On top of my penchant for accumulating stuff, entropy seems to be a little stronger in my life than usual. Entropy is, of course, the Thermodynamic phenomenon that makes everything becomes less organized and more chaotic, unless a certain amount of work is done to keep it together.

Entropy. Lucky me.

I’ve got enough on my plate. Two full time jobs (one of which has a paycheck). In addition, a few other big initiatives in my life that aren’t quite relevant to this site.

The real lesson here is that spending all day cleaning is working, just not in a direct way. It is work at being able to work better in the future.

It is an investment in a healthy environment. An environment that will encourage my work, rather than inhibit it. An environment that makes it easier, and more enjoyable to work. An environment that speaks success to me.

Our environments, after all, are always talking to us. Our environment tells us who we are, how successful we are, what we do with our time, and what we should think of ourselves.

I for one want an environment that pushes me in the direction of success, that is specifically designed to do so. I need an environment designed to subtly turn and direct me to do and feel the right things.

Like all things of value in life, this takes work to keep in place. The work will pay you back though.

Are you creating Assets or Liabilities?

Like everyone, I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and learned the difference between an asset and a liability. The idea of assets and liabilities applies to environment, but in an emotional way. Your environment can be an emotional asset, providing support, and good feelings when you work, or it can be a liability, hindering your ability to work, and providing bad feelings when working.

I’m not talking about anything “woo” here, I’m talking about really practical, basic stuff. Is the desk you work on clean, and easy to work at, or is your mouse covered with crap, and you always have to move stuff out of the way to get work done?

Is your apartment/house clean? Or are you distracted by the fact that the dishes aren’t done and you need to do laundry if you want to wear clean clothes tomorrow?

My old printmaking station didn’t work well for me. It was small, and even more detracting, it was too low. I am tall, so standing up and working on a surface 30 inches off the ground doesn’t work for me. When I got a new printmaking work station, my workplace became an asset that encourages work.

For nearly everything that requires work, we can create an environment that promotes productivity and getting that work done. My experience is that if I don’t actively work to make my environment an asset, entropy will take over, and it will work against me.

Have you worked your environment to make it aid you and your goals? Make you more productive? Need some help with this? Leave a comment and let me know!

To Sleep or Not To Sleep?

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Sleep has been part of my schedule less and less lately.

This is largely due to this little series of skater woodblock prints I have been working on. While working on the 3rd in this skater series last night, I lost track of time (technically, this morning). Work, and getting stuff done, cuts into my sleep time.

Sleep may cut into my work time, but not sleeping cuts into my ability to be productive.

This, in a nutshell, is my dilemma. By sleeping less, I can spend more time working, but when I sleep more, the time I do work results in higher quality output.

Not Sleeping is a Fantasy

Back in college, my art school buddies and I would fantasize about a magic night that would never end. The night would go on and on, as long as we could stay awake working.

The dream was, once we fell asleep, the night would start again, and we would wake up, fully rested 8 hours later.

If we could stay up for 20 hours, 20 hours of work. 30 hours? 40 hours? That’s a lot of work to get done.

When I was getting my art degree, “who can have the most all nighters” contests were common amongst my friends and colleagues. I remember one time in particular when Richard, Luke, and I spent about 3 days in a row in the painting studio, and got a total of about 6 hours of sleep over those 3 days. We were no strangers to working long hours.

…but Back in Reality,

In college, it was easier to stay up all night working. I could sleep in and not go to class. I can’t do the same now. I can’t decide not to go to work on a whim.

My solution has been to work on this week’s project all night, and sleep in, losing my morning writing hour. The danger of this is missing the time for my second job, writing and marketing my art.

I’m working out how to work with this, and I don’t have a solution yet. My only solution has been to power through, and crash when my body tells me it needs to crash.

It may be sustainable for a week, but it is not long-term sustainable.

To sleep or not to sleep.

Any ideas?

New Work Table = Productivity and Quality of Life Increase

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Out with the old, in with the new!

I replaced the dinky folding table I was using as a printmaking work station with a new, improved, modular station of might:

3-part printmaking and painting work area

This work area gives me plenty of room to work, and a lot of storage for my materials. Check out the in progress painting! It's a portrait of a small child.

My new station is made up of three tall work surfaces (ie. kitchen carts) that sit side by side. The tricky thing about finding good furniture was height. Desks are made for sitting at, not standing at, and shelves tend to not be deep enough to give a good work area. Kitchen is made to be used standing up, and addressed both these problems.

This work surface is actually 3 separate carts that can be individually be easily moved. When I was shopping, I thought I was making a concession by buying 3 of these and setting them next to each other, rather than buy one large work table, but I was wrong to think that.

The modular nature of this work area is a benefit. I can move one of them around as needed to use as a stand to paint on (or do anything else, I guess). I am not confined to working along a particular wall.

Instant Upgrade

The effect on my workspace was immediate, and two-fold: I have a nicer work area, and this is a far better tool than my previous work surface (a small folding table).

work station in apartment

The new work station fits well into my small apartment.

I do all of my work in my small studio apartment, so I have to live with my work area. This looks nicer, and already is keeping me more organized, both of which make my living space more enjoyable.

The real advantage of this work area is it will be easier to work at. It is taller than my previous work table, so I won’t be bending over for hours at a time when I am printing. I can move the painting section around my apartment as needed, I have been freed up to work where I would like.

As soon as I got this station set up, I knew I made the right decision to upgrade. This work area feels more professional, and I will be able to make more professional work here.

Invest in Yourself

The quality of our work areas effects our performance, I am a firm believer of this. When I have a messy desk, it is harder for me to get to work at my computer. Any impedance to our ability to work will make it harder to get stuff done.

It is always worth the time and expense to upgrade a work area. My upgrade has already made me more productive (and I haven’t even used it yet), since I was able to move all of my painting supplies off of my desk (my other work area) and onto a cart.

If you have been thinking about upgrading to a better work area, or getting better work furniture, do it. You will be happy you did.

I’m Buying an Apple iPad. This Will Change Things.

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

People that say that the iPad is just a big iPod/iPhone are missing the point.

This will change things. A lot.

This device is certainly cool. I won’t be buying this because it is cool, but because it will make every other computer I have a more useful and productive tool.

I’ve got an iPhone, 2 labtops (PCs), a desktop (also PC), and an xbox, if you want to count that as a computer. I don’t need an iPad. Everything the iPad will do can be done on one of my other devices.

For most of those things, however, my iPhone is either too small, or my labtop is needlessly big and clumsy. Checking email, posting to twitter, quick updates to my blogs, facebook, reading RSS feeds, commenting on other blogs are a touch difficult on the iPhone because of its size, and while my labtop is powerful enough to do all of this easily, it is not very portable.

This tablet will be my “casual” computing device. I will use it to check email, read twitter and my RSS feed, download pdfs, and browse the internet. The size is big enough not to be an eye sore, like the iPhone, but small and portable enough that I can lounge about at my coffee table, or sit in bed. I have a feeling that for all of these casual computing and internet tasks, this tablet will be the baby bear device: not too big, not too small, but just right.

The beauty is my other devices will be free to do what they do best.

My iPhone will still be a phone, ipod, and on-the-go internet device. I’ll be able to post to twitter, update foursquare, and check my email on the bus, walking to work, or at a party (lame, yes, but important when you launch new product for sale that day).

My labtops will be movable work stations, and I’ll be able to use them for what they do best, writing code, creating written content, and editing audio media. My desktop will be my primary media storage device, and image and video editor.

The biggest challenge for me is that computers do too much. When I am writing a blog post, I am working on a machine that also connects me to email, RSS, my music, twitter, can be used to update the code of my websites, can create audio media, and on and on and on. Even when I don’t have these applications fired up, the fact that email is just a mouse click away is a distraction when I am editing an article.

My hope, and faith, is that this tablet will create a hardware separation between these applications. Right now, my computers are be-all, do-all devices. They do everything, and it’s too much for me. When I am working at my labtop that I use for everything, it becomes harder to focus on one thing.

When I am working on my computer, I don’t think about doing my dishes, folding my laundry, or reading a book. There is a hardware separation between those activities that helps me keep these separated in my mind.

(Sure, it may be funny to think of labtop and a dish sponge as separate hardware, but it works for me)

I don’t have a hardware separation between twitter and Notepad++. Interacting on twitter and writing PHP code for my WordPress installation are pretty different tasks, as different as checking email and doing dishes are. Having one machine that does both keeps me a little distracted from either, even when I’m not consciously aware of it. I may not know that this happens, but I feel that this happens.

I imagine that I will use this tablet when I want to quickly check my email, or post on twitter, read some articles, or something else that has to do with social interaction, contact, and media consumption.

I’ll fire up my labtop when I want to write code, or write a blog post/email newsletter, or edit images or a podcast or something. My computer will be a content creation device again, and I will (hopefully) be able to break the distractions in this process caused by content consumption.

My other computers will once again be tools for primarily getting work done.

I could probably write another 500 to 1000 words about how this tablet will change how media is consumed, blah blah blah, and it probably will. This will have an impact on the arts, media, and all sorts of stuff.

Ultimately, however, having a separate device that mixes the best of how an iPhone accesses the internet with the best of how a labtop access the internet is going to make me more productive.

That alone is what sold me on this device.

What do you think? Is this device the future? Are you going to get one? Why or why not? Leave me a comment, let’s discuss.