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Do It 2017 #13: Making Excuses

September 21st, 2017 2 comments

Do It 2017 #13: Making Excuses

Glenn Carstens-Peters

Do It 2017 #13: Making Excuses

“Stop Making Excuses,” is a phrase we often hear from our parents, our teachers, and even our employers. Making excuses is akin to be called lazy — a slacker — a loser. Making excuses isn’t the problem though. Failing to think deeply about why we are making the excuse is what is really required,

Yes, we all make excuses for a wide variety of reasons, myself included, but the worst part is that there is often a valid reason for the excuse. We might be missing an important skill. We might be missing the basic desire to do something. We might be fearful that we cannot do the task at hand. Typically, it isn’t the excuse that is the true reason we aren’t doing something, but rather something deeper. Something hidden. Something scarier. Something that keeps  you awake at night.

As bad as it might seem to others, we often dislike ourselves for making excuses, too. We know we aren’t doing the right thing, but it can be difficult to do the right thing, so we make the excuse so we can move on.

If you have recently offered an excuse for something, take some time to deeply think about why you made the excuse. Is there some smaller part of the issue that you can tease out and solve that might allow you to avoid the excuse in the future? Can you break the situation down into manageable chunks that you can address one at a time? If you are like me, you might surprise yourself with how many excuses you can avoid by taking them piece by piece and issue by issue.

First, do you have a good reason for learning new skills? Do you enjoy doing that kind of work? Sometimes it is the case that you simply aren’t interested in pursuing a particular area of work. If you aren’t, there is little that can persuade you to learn that new skill, much less become accomplished. Even if it might bring you better jobs or a higher income, you have to honest about where your interests lie.

If you decide you do want to learn new skills, how can you learn them? Can you go to school or training center? Maybe. Your next hurdle might be that you can’t afford to pay for school. Ok, that is indeed a reality for a lot of people. If you can’t pay for school, can you learn the skills you need online? Can you teach yourself from books? Can you ask someone knowledgeable to show you for free? Can you take out a loan – will it be worth that financial burden to obtain this skill?

The important part of breaking down any excuse is not to let one particular problem stop you. If you hit a roadblock, think about ways of circumventing that particular, smaller, issue. Attack each of the small issues in turn and see how far you can get. I think you will be surprised at how far you can progress through any excuse if you want to.

Of course, that is the real issue with any excuse. Do you really want to progress beyond the excuse, or is it simply easier, quicker, less stressful to use a blanket excuse and move on? I think for most of us — and most of our excuses, — we would feel better about ourselves if we made fewer excuses. It would have so many benefits in our lives, but it requires hard thinking to do this, and too many of us give up rather than face the hard work ahead. It is a constant challenge for all of us to see what we want and need from the future and how we can get there and not take the easy path out and make the excuse.

What is one excuse you have fallen back on lately? Can you break it down into smaller parts and slowly chip away at it? Do you even want to? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Do It 2017 #12: Don’t get stuck in your technology tastes

August 12th, 2017 Comments off

Do It 2017 #12: Don’t get stuck in your technology tastes

Do It 2017 #12: Don't get stuck in your technology tastes

Tommy Lisbin

There is a point in everyone’s life when our music tastes atrophy. It maybe the 1980’s or 90’s or for some of us it might even be the 60’s or 70’s. We simply stop listening to music after a certain date, or, worse still, we actively denigrate any music outside our chronological range.

There is an even worse version of this syndrome, though. We can get stuck in our use of technology, too. Where our taste in music doesn’t usually fundamentally affect our lives, getting stuck in our technology choices can affect your productivity, your work, and your career. If you don’t keep growing your technology skills the world — personal and public, home and work — can quickly pass you by while those around you continue on their productive way.

Let me be clear. I am not suggesting you immediately adopt every new service, social media site, software or hardware. Rather, you need to be aware of those new innovations so you can actively decide which ones can help keep you keep growing your work and productivity.

This was all brought to mind as I watched several people struggle with organizational issues over the last few weeks. Whenever I see this occur I can almost immediately think of 2-3 ideas that would ease their organizational issues and lead them to a higher level of productivity. In almost every case, though, they are extremely reluctant to make changes, even if those changes would be better for everyone involved. The most common reason I hear for not changing is “I don’t want to learn something new.”  Even if the changes are something I would consider minor, they will continue to struggle along — adding hours to work day — when 10 minutes of learning could save them hours instead.

Why does this happen? Well, much like the music example above, they are stuck. Even worse, they have decided to remain stuck, no matter what the cost. I’m sure you’ve seen it in your own life and work, too. While it affects those who are stuck, it also affects everyone around them. I know I can find this extremely frustrating when faced with a situation like this and I am sure are, too. No matter what you might say or do, nothing will change.

So, how do you keep your work moving forward? How do you prevent yourself from getting stuck?

First, when faced with an issue — especially an issue that you have faced multiple times in the past — take 10 minutes and see if there is a way of preventing the problem from recurring ever again. The truth is, there might not be a good solution, but in many cases, there will be an easier and faster way of accomplishing your goals. Technology moves at breakneck speed — and always has — and today’s unsolvable problem could very likely be done and dusted by next week. Again, you don’t have to research and adopt every single new piece of technology out there, but when you see one, think for a moment of how it might make your life a little bit easier. If you have a use for that technology, then go and use it. Sure,  you might have to take a few minutes to learn about it, but the overall effect on your productivity could be dramatic.

A couple of examples

From my recent experience, there are 2 areas where technology could most people greatly if they only took advantage of it. First is technology that helps you communicate and coordinate with groups of people.

In the past, if we wanted to work on a document with someone else or communicate with a group of people we had to pass around files on floppy disks or use reply all on our emails. This often leads to files having multiple, different versions and people who are “out of the loop” on important discussions and decisions. That doesn’t need to be the case anymore, though.

Google docsThere are many options today that can help groups work together no matter where they might be in the world. My own favorite is Google Docs, which includes word processing, spreadsheets, slideshow presentations and more. There are many others available to you and it matters little which one you use. The benefit comes from using it.

 

Whenever I am starting a new group — whether it’s organizing my CareerCamp unconferences — the first thing I do is start sharing any documents with all the involved parties using Google Docs. In this way everyone can View, Edit or Comment on the files to include their input AND, more importantly, everyone else can see their input immediately and build off it. Never again will you have people commenting on different versions of a document, changing sentences that have already been changed or figures that have already been connected.

The same benefits also apply to calendars. I have spent years using shared calendars and I can say that nothing has a greater effect on my sanity. All three of us have different — and often competing — schedules. It is important that when I enter something in my calendar I have an up to date view of everything in everyone else’s calendar and vice versa. If you can stop multiple bookings, issues with who has a vehicle that day and where everyone is on a specific day, you can do a lot to ease your stress, worry, and confusion. This is so much better than a calendar that is saved into a document and then emailed around. Static documents are out of date the moment they are saved. Wouldn’t it better to have a shared calendar that can be accessed by everyone and is guaranteed to always be correct?

Finally, every group should have an email list or productivity service such as Slack to facilitate real time discussions between group members. For email, you shouldn’t rely on everyone’s due diligence to hit Reply All on every email. Set up a mailing list like mygroup@googlegroups.com instead. Then, when people send an email to that address, everyone on the group receives the email automatically.

SlackSlack (Slack.com) is a more “real time” version of a mailing list where people see new messages from members as soon as they are posted. Workgroups can be thousands of miles apart and still feel they are connected on a daily basis.

Using either of these methods you can drastically cut down on situations where people say ‘I didn’t see that. What version is this? Did such and such do what they said they would?” These systems keep everyone on track and in the know.

Don’t let yourself get stuck in your use of technology in your life or in your business. If you are facing issues over and over, reconsider how the application of a little, new, technology might help smooth your path. While you can happily keep listening to your favorite hits of the 60s, 70s, and 80s without any undue effects, ignoring new technology and the productivity benefits it can have for you can be painful and slow your work and career.

Are you stuck in your technology tastes? How can you break out? Share your comments below!

Categories: Business, Careers, Creativity, Do It!, Education Tags:

Do It 2017 #11: Eat the frog and other productive advice

July 27th, 2017 Comments off

Frog Photo by Jack Hamilton on Unsplash

Photo by Jack Hamilton on Unsplash

Jack Hamilton

Eat the frog!

It has been said — in variety of forms throughout history, that…

“If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.”

A thoroughly disgusting thought, but a good one for my productivity of late. I am as fond — if not fonder— of procrastination of specific tasks that most people. Tasks like balancing the checkbook to doing my daily blog posting to sweeping the patio. Many of these tasks are extremely important, but most also come with an unpleasant side. Sure, it isn’t like mucking out the horse stalls of my youth, but we all face them with a certain amount of distaste.

So, in an effort to keep things moving forward in all aspects of my life, I have taken to “eating the frog” whenever possible. I’ll get up, make my coffee and then face the most procrastination-causing task on my to do list. Once that’s done, I can move on to other, more enjoyable tasks without feeling guilty about avoiding them and knowing that that is probably the worse thing I will have to do today. It doesn’t always work, but I have used it to recently move a couple of projects forward that have been languishing for a while now. Can it help you? It might. Then again, you might be someone who is blessed to never procrastinate on anything. I envy you, but we all have to find out own way through the swamp that is any given day.

Bird by Bird

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table, close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’” — Anne Lamott

This phrase crops up in our household on a daily basis. There are times we all need a reminder that every big project is made out of many smaller steps — and sometimes even smaller ones. The only way to complete a big project is to take it “bird by bird.” In my case, this means making a daily to do list — separate from my overall to do list. This list contains all my typical daily tasks as well as those weekly items that occur on the same day each week. Partially this list is to help me remember all the little things, but they are also a “bird by bird” breakdown of tasks that move each project forward. Typical entries include my daily posts to Instagram, a blog post on Garden Decor, video clips from my talks, reading time-related documents and articles, feeding the birds (the real one’s outside my window), phone calls, emails and more. Breaking my larger tasks in these small, even tiny, steps, helps to keep me progressing even when I might not be able to complete the entire project today.

To some, such a detailed to do list can make projects seem overwhelming, but for me, I find great joy in progress, even the smallest progress. If I keep on doing the small steps each day the overall project will eventually get done. If I never start on the big project because it is too big then it will, guaranteed, never get done.

Work on a variety of tasks throughout your day

I don’t have any pithy quote to accompany this advice, but for me, it is probably the most important. If I focus on any one task for too long, the quality and speed of my work quickly diminish. I start making silly mistakes, misspelled words, fuzzy thoughts and more. I have to switch up my work throughout the day to prevent this from happening while still getting work done. This means I might do something like writing this post and then switch over to some video editing for a while. Sometimes it means culling a bunch of photos and then working on an Arduino program I have been trying to get running. Finally, sometimes it means I set an alarm for 20 minutes, lie down on the couch, allow the cat to sit on my lap and dose. Never underestimate the power of a short nap to reenergize your day!

Douglas E. Welch To Do List

I have learned over time that I am a variety junky in all aspects of my life. My way of working may seem scattered to some, but it works for my and my overall productivity seems to prove it. In many cases, some of my best ideas about a project come from when I am thinking or working on an entirely different project. You can never tell how moments in your life are going to interact, so it’s important to experience as much as possible and see what happens.

What are your favorite pieces of advice that keep you productive in life and work? Share them in the comments!

Do It 2017 #10: A gentle nudge can work wonders

July 20th, 2017 Comments off

It is a simple fact that, when it comes to productivity, we can all use a gentle nudge every so often. Our latest nudge came in the form of our new, young, neighbors. After renting the house next door for a long time, the owners were finally able to sell it outright to this couple. This has meant a lot of change…for the good…on both their property and ours.

We have been wanting to replace out south fence almost since the moment we moved in 21 years ago. At that time, our neighbor had some issues that made him reluctant to replace the fence. Then the new owners were not living in the property and so the fence was not a priority item for them. Over the years it descended further and further into disrepair — completely falling over in some cases.

Enter the new neighbors. They needed to dismantle the worse parts of the fence in order to complete their mortgage funding and we were fine with that. Even better, they wanted to replace the fence immediately. One of the reasons we hadn’t simply replace the fence ourselves was the cost. Paying for it all by ourselves was going to be expensive. Luckily, they were willing to split the cost. Just like that, workmen were on-site and 3 days later we had a nice, vinyl fence between our properties.

Moving, Moving, Moving

For me, it was a bit difficult to suddenly jump into action on such a long wanted project, but I also knew that this was the best time to get it done. It was amazing to have the young energy about giving us a push in the right direction. I have always sought out opportunities to work and hang out with younger people, especially as I crossed the threshold of 40, and this is one of the biggest reasons why. As we age, we can get a little too settled and a little too comfortable in our lives and having someone to push and challenge you a but can be a welcome change.

I know that our neighbor’s energy and excitement has certainly rubbed off on us. We have been working in the garden more lately — especially with Rosanne finally on break from her teaching for a few weeks — gotten our large tree trimmed and tidied, and we are getting our living and dining room paint refreshed after 10 years. As I often say, movement begets more movement. Action begets more action and that has certainly been the case here.

In return for all this added energy from next door, I am enjoying sharing any wisdom I have gained after 21 years of home ownership. We talk about their trees, what they want to add to the property and just general life stuff. They are free to ignore any advice I give, but it feels good to be able to offer some insight. 21 years ago we were the, relatively, young, folks moving in. Now we are in the position of being the “older” neighbors. I hope to be as good a neighbor to them as ours were to us.

Seek out energy and movement

So where can you turn and who can you turn to reinvigorate your thinking, your energy, your activity and your life? Is there a group that could benefit from your experience? Are there activities you can find that being you in content to younger folks who still have that amazing level of energy and excitement? There is nothing wrong with using a bit of that energy to add some fuel to your own fire. In fact, I think it is critical to seek out new thoughts, new places, and new adventures, especially as you grow older and more settled. Even better, you’ll find this new energy affecting parts of your life that are entirely unrelated. The simple act of being around more, good, energy means that you’ll be more inclined to do everything in your life. I know, for myself, the simple act of having these new neighbors has me re-energized to do a number of things — including returning to writing these regular blog posts.

From Today’s Perfect Moment

What would you do with a little energy boost? Take the first step and seek out those people and experiences that rev you up instead of those that grind you down. It can be a tough step to take, but it will become easier with time as each step leads to the next and the next. Like a snowball rolling downhill, it will gather its own energy and influence with just a little push from you.

 

Do It 2017 #9: When Life Gets In The Way

March 30th, 2017 Comments off

Did you miss me? Did you even know I was gone? I’m hoping you didn’t notice

I’m hoping you didn’t notice, but I have basically been a housebound invalid since Friday, March 17. We had planned a family trip back to Ohio that had to be canceled and, instead, I have spent these last few weeks moving painfully from chair to chair and doctor to doctor.

What happened? Sciatica, for the most part. I’ve never experienced this before and certainly never want to experience it again. While I am somewhat better now, I am still not 100%. Standing or walking for more than a few minutes is nearly impossible, so I have spent the days sitting — and posting to the blogs, but not much else. While I am improving, I am still not “better.” Right now I feel like it is going to take at least another week before I approach “normal” again.

Pushing through the fog…or getting lost within it

That said, this isn’t about being ill. Rather, I have been having thoughts about how to be creative while being ill. I will be the first to admit it is really difficult. Most of my output has been curated posts from other sources, photographs from the archives and such. When your mind is addled with pain it often can’t think much about anything else. It tends to push out other thoughts, distract you from reading or actively, physically creating, but it can also give you time to think and create mentally by forcing your STOP and heal. It is amazing what thoughts and ideas can come to you when you simply can’t do much else.

Looking back over these last 2 weeks, I think I have generated some interesting ideas that I can start to work on once things get a little bit better. That helps to give me some extra motivation to get better, even I can’t really do much about it. That is a reality about life in general, actually. We often come up with ideas when we have no time or energy to put them in motion. This is why it is so important to capture any and all ideas you have when they occur, so you can go back and “mine” them later. Don’t let ideas get away. You might never get them back. Sure, you’ll collect a lot of ho-hum ideas, but scattered among them could be your next great project.

On some days, though, as it was earlier this week, there is no possibility of pushing through the fog. All I could do was let myself get lost within it. Sleep is one of the best ways to heal, so I took advantage of it whenever I could. As almost always happens, though, sleep bring odd dreams, thoughts, fleeting images and more. Use them. You may have no idea why you were dreaming about far-flung planets, weird animals, odd situations and more, but you might be able to use this different frame of mind to find a new path into your creativity. I know it’s not fun, but there is some solace in making use of something that is otherwise quite annoying and traumatic.

A good distraction

If nothing else, looking to your creativity during an illness can help provide a small distraction from the day-to-day grind and boredom that quickly sets in. I have found great solace in being able to, at least, sit at the computer comfortably and engage in my typical day-to-day work. It has given me a few moments without thinking about the pain — at least until I need to move somewhere else. Small favors are better than none, though.

What distractions can you give yourself when you are ill? Is there a small “lap-sized” project you can start or finish. Can someone help bring your painting supplies closer to your chair so you can paint a little when you have the energy and attention? You might find yourself creating something entirely different from your usual work. You changed mental state is sure to effect your output. I know I have certainly been having different thoughts and ideas over the last 2 weeks. Some good. Some bad. Some weird, but all useful.

So the next time you are laid up, like I am, help yourself heal by staying creative and keeping an active mind, even if your body is still. There is often very little you can do to heal, but you can, at least, try to keep your mind, your creativity, your productivity ticking along as best as possible. I think it is as important to your healing as a good night’s rest. I’ll let you know how it works for me in the coming weeks.

Categories: Creativity, Do It! Tags:

Do It 2017! #8: Show Your Work by Austin Kleon: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered [Book]

March 6th, 2017 Comments off

From the author of Steal Like An Artist (see my previous blog post) comes Show Your Work, another excellent book for anyone who seeks to gain more visibility for their work — especially those in creative fields.

Do It 2017! #: Show Your Work by Austin Kleon: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered [Book]

My reading copy of this book came from the Los Angeles Public Library in eBook format

Reading Show Your Work was like listening to my own frequent talks on career topics. Much is exactly the same message I have preached to people for years. That is, the only way to get your work noticed is to share it as widely as possible. Music must be heard. Art must be seen. Writing must be read. Otherwise, it is a wasted effort.

Share, Share, Share

One message I share deeply with the author is the utmost importance of sharing your work via blogs and social media. As the author puts it, “It sounds a little extreme, but in this day and age, if your work isn’t online, it doesn’t exist.” If your work can’t be discovered, stumbled upon, ran into, seen in passing, found in a Google Search, etc, you are severely limiting the exposure and discovery of your work. I don’t frequently use the word “MUST”, but I will in this occasion. You MUST make your creativity discoverable, through social media or other methods, or it simply doesn’t exist. Of course, you can ignore this if you are only creating for yourself, but most who create want their work to be seen, to be cherished, to be sold, to be understood, to be an important impact on the world. Don’t let your work languish. As the Bible says, “Don’t hide your light under a bushel.” Show Your Work!

Make them come to you!

Another dream I often talk and write about is the upending of the current job search market. I envision a world where job and life opportunities comes to you instead of you going, hat in hand, begging, for your next job, you next commission, your next opportunity. Imagine what an amazing world that would be/

Kleon says, “Imagine if your next boss didn’t have to read your résumé because he already reads your blog. Imagine being a student and getting your first gig based on a school project you posted online. Imagine losing your job but having a social network of people familiar with your work and ready to help you find a new one. Imagine turning a side project or a hobby into your profession because you had a following that could support you.

I doubt that I will see this as commonplace within my lifetime, but it is an admirable goal we should all be trying to bring to fruition. We need to move beyond the norm of job search and turn it into a world were people go seeking new collaborators from the huge stockpile of great, interesting, talented people they already know. Of course, it is up to you to share “what you do and how well you do it” so that people clearly know the type and quality of work you do and you can be in the forefront of their mind when they need someone with those talents. If not, they’ll simply — and quickly — find someone else.

Show your work page

What do you have to share?

It might be more than you think. Sharing the process of your work is just as important as sharing the final product. Human beings LOVE to see “behind the curtain.” They love to feel like they are getting a special, closer, deeper, more intimate look into your work. This is something only you can provide. when friends and clients bemoan “What do I have to blog/post/status update/Instagram/Twitter/Tumblr about?”, this is my first recommendation. Share what you are doing. Share your successes. Share your challenges. Share your failures. Both you and those who follow you will both be better for it. Does this mean share everything? Maybe not, but most of us share far less than we might…or should.

If you need a good kick in the seat of your pants, Show Your Work can provide it. You’ll find yourself making notes, lists and todo items continuously as you go through it — I know I did. While your at it, check out Kleon’s other book, Steal Like An Artist (see my previous blog post on this book). I think you’ll find it enjoyable and greatly useful, too.

What do you have to share? What should you be showing off to your friends, family and the world? 

* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out! 

Do It 2017!: #7 Give yourself a creativity budget

February 25th, 2017 Comments off

Do It 2017 Do It 2017! #7: Give yourself a creativity budget

So far in this series, I have talked about being creative, making space for your creativity, and making time for your creativity. Today, though, I’ll address one of the more problematic aspects of creativity and your creative pursuits — giving yourself a creativity budget.

It is a sad fact that, even when money is available, we often discount our own creative adventures, deciding that it isn’t worth the monetary investment to pursue our creations. We feel frivolous, silly, wasteful, imprudent and a hundred other things. We might be saying to ourselves, “It is wrong to spend money on paper and paint brushes when there are bills to be paid, children to be fed, etc, etc, etc.” While it may be true that we have other commitments, most of us usually have some discretionary income, too. If you have enough money for a pint of beer, you have enough for a few sketching pencils. If you can eat out once or twice a week, you can also afford a nice set of watercolors or a couple blocks of paper. For most of us, there is money available. We just have to realize that we deserve to spend it on ourselves.

That said, creating art can often be done on a shoestring budget — or no budget at all. How many buskers have you seen that create some amazing music beats using only recycled buckets or crates? Acapella singers on the street can captivate an audience using only the power of their voice. Sometimes constraints can help us to go deeper in our creativity than we might in a fully stocked studio. If you truly have no budget for art, start making collages from newspaper and magazines. Draw with a ballpoint pen on copier paper or Post-It Notes. You can even burn the end of a stick and draw on the cement sidewalk if need be. It is creativity that is important, not the tools you use to express it. Don’t let yourself get caught in the trap of thinking you need hundreds of dollars of supplies to even get started. Do something today, using the supplies at hand. You can always get more or different supplies later once you’ve created a habit of creativity.

Budgeting isn’t just about saving your money, it’s also about deciding where it goes. You can create some space in your budget to support your creative endeavors if you try. I know I can cringe at the price of some art supplies, but I still make space to buy some every now and then. I know that a good brush or good paper can make the difference between great, fun creativity and struggling. Like a student musician who struggles with their first cheap instrument, you can struggle with cheap supplies. Once you allow yourself to dedicate time and attention to creativity, you’ll come to a point where your future growth requires some investment, so you can continue to grow in your art.

Look for sales at your local art stores and haunt them religiously. Recently, our local Aaron Brothers store had an amazing sale on art supplies of all sorts. Papers — for drawing, painting or journaling — were Buy 1, Get 2 Free! I typically see 2-for-1 sales, but this sale was amazing. The same sale was also available on a variety of paintbrushes. Instead of spending $60+ on watercolor paper, I purchased 3 pads for around $20. One paintbrush was priced at $16, but I came away with 2 more brushes for the same price. Buy as much of your supplies as possible during sales like this and you’ll only have to budget them in one or twice a year.

Finally, remember that you yourself are worthy of investment and that is exactly what art supplies are — an investment in you, your creativity and in many cases, your happiness. Don’t shortchange yourself. In most cases, you aren’t going out and buying a ceramics kiln, print presses or other big ticket items for your creativity. You’re buying yarn, paints, glues, polymer clay or papers. You can always add the larger equipment and supplies later, as our skills and needs grow.

Surely you can find some space in your budget to add some supplies to your studio — even if your studio is comprised of your kitchen table or the stoop outside your back door. Go out this weekend to your favorite store and, at least, see what they have to offer. Spend $20 on your creativity and then get creating. You deserve it and the world deserves your creativity!

Show off how you are using your creativity budget this week! What small tool or supply did you add to your studio? Why? What will it help you create?

Previously on Do It!:

Do It 2017!: #6 A Bias Towards Action and Being The Good Example

February 16th, 2017 Comments off

Do It 2017#6 A Bias Towards Action and Being The Good Example

One phrase that drives my creative life — and my life as a whole — is to always have a bias towards action. When life is confusing, worrisome, sad or dark, I find that doing something is always my solace.

Why? Well, to be as honest as I can be, I can be a moody, depressive, SOB at times. My normal(?) thoughts are pessimistic and worrisome. For me, this means if I am not careful — very careful — I can be overwhelmed and overdriven by the people and events around me. Something as simple and common as a couple having a quiet, if obvious, argument nearby can make me just as badly as if I were participating in the argument.

Knowing this about myself means that I have to have methods of controlling my downward spirals and a bias towards action is one of them. For me, being trapped in indecision affects me deeply, and in many cases, even physically. There is a tightness in my chest, an increasing pulse and a general feeling of anxiety that won’t go away. One of the few things that can help to alleviate this feeling is doing something.

Deciding to Decide

Even though I might not be able to make a particular decision or change a particular situation now, doing something about that decision can help — and “Deciding to Decide” is better than nothing. Much better, in my case.

The same can be said for bad situations. While burying myself in a project can have the immediate effect of isolating me from an uncomfortable situation, the act of doing also calms me mentally and physically. Doing something, nearly anything lightens my spirit and keeps me on the road to productivity and creativity instead of descending into the depths that my mind can conjure. Left to its own devices, my mind will create almost unimaginable horrors, if I let it.

Do something — good

When I am driven to action, though, I try to take the next step and also think about doing some good with my actions. Sometimes this takes the simple form of creating something beautiful when the world is rather ugly. I tend to not get involved in online arguments about politics or policy (unless pushed to action by the outrageous), but instead, I make a point of being a bit a beauty — a bit of light — in an otherwise dark world.

Look at my social media feeds, especially Instagram, and you’ll see little hint of whatever turmoil I am feeling in my life today. Instead, I use these sites as a salve for both my own and, hopefully, my readers/followers, souls. Whatever news surrounds my posts, I hope that my posts bring a smile or sense of happiness, if only for a moment. I know that these are the people I seek out in my own feeds and I try to do likewise.

Be The Good Example

In fact, in all my creative pursuits, I try to be the beauty, the change, the “good example”, that I can be. I believe that no matter the state of the world, our neighborhood, or our lives, we can also strive to provide a good example to others. This is the simplest, straightforward power we have and should never relinquish. No matter how crazy things get, create — and create something good, however, you might define it for yourself.

I know that, for me, creativity — making, taking action, building, drawing, painting, whatever you might do — is an important part of making the life that I want to live and, hopefully, making the lives of others just a little bit better.

What are you creating? What good example are you providing? How are you making the world a better place? For yourself and  others?

 

Previously on Do It!:

Categories: Creativity, DIY, Do It!, Make Tags:

Do It 2017!: #5 Creative progress So Far

February 9th, 2017 Comments off

Do It 2017#5 Creative Progress So Far

This week I’ll give you a few updates on how I am doing with my own creativity and creating.

First, as part of allowing more time for my own creativity I am trying to stick to a more normal 9-5 work schedule. This is always a challenge when you work for yourself. The computer is always sitting there, staring at you, and wondering why you aren’t working on something. I work in my home office, so unless I make some definitive movement from work to personal life, it all just blends together.

Watercolor Wandering

Since my wife and son have late nights at college this quarter, it has been a little easier to set aside my own time in the evenings, but I still had to nearly force myself to make some movement. First was clearing off the left wing of my desk and setting up my watercolors. Years ago I was able to get some professional training in watercolor painting — for free – and developed some skill in painting from nature. Unfortunately after years of disuse, it is taking me a while to get my skills back. That said, I did get things set up and even did 2 quick practice pieces. Movement is always the first important step, so I feel that this is a big accomplishment and it puts me back on the path of my own creativity.

Watercolor setup

Of course, it will be up to me to sit down at the desk and pull out my brushes, but having them open and available certainly helps in that regard. They also provide an easy excuse to move from work mode to creative mode as they site just an arm’s reach away and I only need to pivot my chair to change my attention.

One big help is simply seeing dinner time as my switch over time from work to creativity. After I sit down to dinner I remind myself that I need to work on something creative and not simply fall back into the computer as I might have in the past.

I have also been looking for watercolor tutorials on YouTube and have shared a few to the blog here. YouTube has a huge wealth of resources and it only took a quick search to turn up hours of watercolor demonstrations and tutorials. Make sure you dive into YouTube and see it has to offer in your creative area. I am sure you will find many resources to expand your own creativity there. Be sure to share your favorites with me and the other readers in the comments.

Youtube watercolor videos

Music Making

As I mentioned before, I now also have my guitars set up next to my desk again and I have been practicing 30-45 minutes each evening after dinner. It is a great time to work as often the family is out of the house, so I don’t have to worry about disturbing them (or embarrassing myself) (LAUGH)

At first I only had the electric guitar out of its case, but as we have put the home office back together after having carpet installed, it gave me a reason to set everything back up again. So now the electric, the acoustic guitar, tuners, music and such are all close at hand.

Guitars

What are you creating?

So, now the big question — how have you been doing with your own creativity over these last 4 weeks?  I love to hear your accomplishments, both large and small and I am sure others readers would too. Leave a comment here and let us know what is working — or not working — for you.

This week I plan on paying more attention to setting aside time for painting and playing to try and make it more of an easy habit to full into each evening. I hope you are making space for creativity in you day, too!

Previously on Do It!:

Do It 2017!: #4 Discovering what you want to create and following where it leads you

February 2nd, 2017 Comments off

Do It 2017#4 Discovering what you want to create and following where it leads you

So now that you have, hopefully, decided to do something special this year and made space and time for creating, you are ready to get started on actually creating something new. Of course, that then raises the question — what to you want to create?

Capture your thoughts and ideas

For me, I often capture ideas about items, programs, photographs, podcasts and more that I want to create in my handwritten journal. You do have a journal, right? How are you going to capture the important thoughts and ideas in your life if you don’t have somewhere to capture them? While I am a technology lover, I find that capturing raw, fleeting ideas is best done with a pen and paper. If you know me personally, you will nearly always see me with my journal in hand. Years ago I started carrying a purse and one of the biggest reasons for that was so I could carry all my technology AND my paper journal. You don’t have to use paper, of course. It is far more important to keep a journal rather than worrying about how you keep it. Use your phone, your computer, the back of your hand, whatever, but capture the ideas.

For more information on how I use my paper journal, check out this Snapguide on the topic

How to use a paper journal effectively – my first Snapguide

Now, what do you need to learn?

Once you start collecting ideas, you are sure to come across ideas that require a bit more learning to make them happen. Maybe you need to learn a bit more about watercolor technique, or how to us a CNC machine or 3-D Printer. Perhaps you need a bit more research into a historical novel you are writing or want to better understand how and why encryption can and should be used in today’s high-tech world.

We you are presented with questions related to your project, do what I do. Immediately start researching the topic on the Internet AND at your local library. Take 5 minutes to follow your interests and you will be greatly rewarded. You don’t have to dedicate hours to your research, but dive in and see what resources might be out there. I find that this research always spurs me on to more action — exactly what you need to create more in your life.

Two of my biggest sources for research are probably the most common for everyone — Google (or your other favorite search engine) and YouTube. Yes, that’s right, YouTube — source of mindless cat videos and screaming pranksters, right? Wrong! YouTube is one of the finest sources available today to help you learn nearly everything. Do many people dismiss it, often because they have never really engaged in the wealth of resources it holds.

When I started to learn about Arduino and Raspberry Pi computers I found tutorial after tutorial to help speed my on my way to actually using the devices. The best videos are like having a friend take you through a lesson, step-by-step, leaving you with something completed and concrete at the end. Even the worst videos can contain a tidbit of information or links that might lead you to even better sources elsewhere. Do not underestimate the power of YouTube to jumpstart your creativity and education, whether you want to learn about knitting, leatherwork, Raspberry Pi computers or raspberry Pie (the actual pie!) (LAUGH) I simply cannot quantify how much I have learned there over the years.

Go where they lead you

The other phenomenonal power of Google, YouTube and other online resources is that they can trigger creative thoughts and start you on a creative journey that perhaps you have never contemplated. I subscribe to a variety of YouTube channels so that I get a notification of each new video the channel creator release. While I might not watch every video, everything in their channel — and in my subscriptions — is potentially something I might like to watch. In many ways, along with Netflix and a few other video sources, YouTube has become the bulk of my daily video viewing.

Youtube channelYoutube sub page

An example of my channel subscriptions on YouTube

My subscriptions and viewing habits also means that YouTube can suggest other videos, from other creators, that I might find interesting. Nearly every day this leads me into another area of creativity. Recently, YouTube turned up videos on paper marbling, based on some other videos I had watch on artistic procedures. After watching a few of these videos, I am planning on trying my hand at paper marbling, at least in some small way. There are simple water and ink methods that you can do with just a few supplies, so it is easy to try it out and see what happens. I love this serendipetous discovery of new and amazing areas of knowledge and creativity and they simply pop up in my YouTube feed each day.

Once I find a YouTube Channel, web site or blog that I like, I can then use another tool to constantly monitor that source for new material and ideas. I use Feedly to subscribe to hundreds of blogs and websites from around the world. Feedly has replaced my daily newspaper and magazine reading much in the same way that YouTube has replaced network television. Each day I turn to my Feedly feed and find a host of new articles, photographs,projects and ideas. If you follow my blogs, you have probably seen me share some of the best of these blog posts there.

Iphone readingFeedly

Why reading apps and a page from Feedly

(Another great source I use is Flipboard which presents similar information in a magazine style format. You’ll also find my own blogs on Flipboard.)

Flipboard storyFlipboard

An example story from my Clipboard reading an My Flipboard Magazines

Further, whenever I am rambling about the Internet via links or a search engine, when I find a particularly great blog, I add it to my Feedly feeds, so it becomes part of my own, daily, customized newspaper or magazine, along with all my other sources. In this way I don’t even really have to go out searching for new information and ideas. Instead, it arrives in an easily readable (and shareable) form right on my phone, tablet and computer. Without Feedly and the blogs I follow, I would much less well informed about the world and miss many new ideas to further my own creativity.

Follow wherever your creativity and your sources lead you. You never know what amazing things you might find there!

Previously on Do It!:

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