I don’t know about you, but my to-do list is getting longer and longer.
It’s not just that I keep coming up with new things to put on it, it’s that I don’t manage to complete all the things that are already sitting there.
So I’ve been thinking a lot about why this happens. The tasks on my list are not gargantuan or unfathomable. It’s not ‘Build rocket’, ‘Fly to Mars’, ‘Find alien life’, ‘Win Nobel prize’. It’s pretty common stuff. ‘Finish new artwork’. ‘Decide on website layout’. ‘Update Behance profile’. These shouldn’t be impossible to achieve. Why do I keep shuffling them around instead of ticking them off the list?
I came up with a couple of reasons.
One – I suck at saying ‘no’ to things. Everything sounds like a good idea. ‘How about I make an animated GIF showing my work process on this piece? That will be a fun addition to its Behance project page!’ Sure, it’s fun to make process GIFs; it’s fun to look at them too. Except that sucker takes about half an hour to make. I could have probably spent that half hour more effectively.
Here, you be the judge.
Two – I hide from the tough tasks. Earlier this year I bought the domain name celandinedesign.com, with the intention of setting up a professional-looking website. I wasn’t careful when choosing my first domain registrar, and by the time I realized their terms sucked I was trapped in Customer Service Hell. Switching registrars turned out to be a two-month process, with a lot of e-mail writing, waiting, chat helpline contacting, more waiting, fiddling with domain settings, and then even more bloody waiting. Once it was done I felt so drained by the process that I then proceeded to completely ignore my new baby website and new domain name. Why? The task of actually deciding what pieces to upload, in what exact layout, felt insurmountable. A new website is effectively a blank page – you have to make every – single – decision, from heading font size to page layouts to image format to navigation menu item order, and all of these have to somehow represent your brand in a consistent and professional way.
Obviously the answer is to hide under the carpet.
I finally came out of hiding tonight, made some progress, and I’m hoping to have a new site to share with everyone in a few more weeks. If it doesn’t show up by then, feel free to peek under the carpet again and try to shoo me out with a broomstick.
Three – So many things are booooring. Anyone who has ever uploaded artwork to Print on Demand sites like Society 6 or Redbubble knows the infinite tedium of formatting artwork to fit the various product requirements. I know that regular updating is the key to success on PoD sites, because it keeps you visible and gives the people who follow you there something new to be excited about. But that doesn’t make it any less boooooooring. Sorting out old files and clearing up disk space when you start to run out is superbly boring. Keeping resource files in order and making sure your downloads folder isn’t a giant Forest of Mystery Downloads is exceptionally and thoroughly boring. It’s also crucial if you ever intend to use any of the resources you’re collecting. I’m sure there are a couple of new species of digital life forming primitive civilizations in the depths of my downloads folder.
Four – I’m under the illusion that my current busy schedule is somehow a temporary thing, and new time slots will become available in the future. This is the pinnacle of naïveté. Natural sciences teach us that obligations, like gas, expand to take up all available space. Time will not spontaneously become available. If you want to insert something new into your schedule, you have to bludgeon it in there with a sledgehammer. If you think the new thing is worth it, just pick the tiniest sliver of free time and start using it to do the new thing. Then miraculously you’ll find other things moving aside a little to accommodate the new addition. It’s literally the only way I’ve ever discovered of finding time for something new I want to try.
What stops you from completing the items on your to-do list? What helps you get stuff done? Let me know in the comments!
If you’d like to learn more about my creative process on the piece from the GIF, sign up for my cute monthly newsletter! Tomorrow I’ll be publishing the final third chapter of a detailed process tutorial explaining step by step all the work that went into it. It won’t be posted anywhere else, so if you’re interested, this is your chance 🙂 I’ll include links to the previous two chapters too.