Make Space


First up, to set yourself up for a creative mode of operating, you might need to make some time and space – psychologically, physically and temporally.

PART 1 – COMPUTER
Internet
Notifications
Sound

PART 2 – HOME
Space

PART 3 – JUMPSTART
Juice Fast

PART 4 – YOUR DAY
Make First
Triage
Schedule

PART 5 – LONGTERM
Planner


PART 1 – COMPUTER

(These are applicable if you’re using your computer for creative activities, like writing, illustration, etc…)

Internet

  1. Sign up for Pocket.
  2. Set up the Pocket bookmarklet on your computer.
  3. Slowly get in the habit of pressing this button when you are looking at a page that you don’t need to look at right now. Train your brain to feel like it’s okay – that site isn’t going anywhere – you have saved it for later.
  4. Funny YouTube video? Pocket. Funny link? Pocket. Something on Facebook? Pocket. News article on the world’s weirdest person? Pocket.

Notifications

  1. On your computer, go into Notifications and change the “Messages alert style” to “None” for as many programs as possible. This is to stop the programs from being in charge of you, and make you in charge of them – now, you decide when you are ready to go and check new messages.
  2. On your phone, go into Notifications and do the same: change the “Messages alert style” to “None,” but leave the “Badge app icon” turned on.

These tips are for Apple devices, but I’m sure you can figure out the equivalent steps if you are using Windows/Android/Linux. Basically, change your notification settings so that nothing pops up to distract you, but keep a way to see what’s new (for example, your email icon might change colour to show that you have new messages).

Sound

  1. Turn the sound off on your computer.
  2. If you listen to music, use a separate device, like a Jambox or your phone.

PART 2 – HOME

Space

Make a space that is yours, and only yours, at home.

  • This space is specifically for creating.
  • Make it nice, so that you feel good when you’re sitting there.
  • Make a rule: No distractions near your space.
    • No bills lying about, no object that needs to be put away, nothing that needs to be actioned. These things need a different home in your home.
    • Phone on mute or do not disturb.
    • No food in your space. Eating and food is for having a break, not for being distracted and half concentrating on your personal project, half concentrating on the food.
  • Make a rule: Something that indicates you’re now in Making mode.
    • You don’t need to think about anything else, do anything else, worry about anything else, while you have this indication.
    • It might be lighting a candle. It might be wearing a baseball cap.
  • Make a rule: You have 1.5 hours in your space.
    • It might be once a week, or every weeknight; whatever it is, give yourself 1.5 hours, no more, no less, to sit there, think, and maybe make something.

PART 3 – JUMPSTART

Juice Fast

Just joking. This isn’t about juice.

Reading Fast

  • Do a Reading Fast for one week.
  • You might find this tricky if you have to read for work, so either try not to read anything that isn’t work related, or try this when you’re on holidays.
  • No reading at all! You can watch TV, and you can look at pictures in magazines, but no reading the internet, or your phone, or emails…
  • It’s really hard. But it will shake up your brain a bit.

PART 4 – YOUR DAY

Make First

  1. First thing in the morning, try to last as long as possible without letting the world in.
  2. Prepare for this at night by closing your email, turning off wifi, and setting your phone to airplane mode. Then when you wake up, nothing can distract you.
  3. So, you might get to work, do your priority list, and start working on the frog. Then, about 10am, your head might blow up because you simply can’t ignore your inbox any longer, so you check your email. But by getting in this habit, and hopefully getting better at it, you can get more done before letting the distractions in. (Apparently, we think better in the morning, so let’s use that extra brain power while we can.)

Triage

If you ever get sucked into the email vortex and it distracts you from what you had planned to do, this might help, especially if “Make First” is not an option for you, and you have to check email first thing, due to the nature of your work.

Setup
  • Set up 3 new folders in your email program:
  • 01 Action
  • 02 Followup
  • 03 Misc
  • Set 30 minutes* for Triage every day in your calendar. Hopefully this can be mid-morning (or even later), but whenever suits you!
  • Set time for Email in your calendar. This needs to be separate from Triage time. It can go straight after Triage, or you might prefer it later in the day. (I only do it on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Whatever works for you.)
Triage Time
  • When it’s Triage time, go through your new emails – and only sort them. Don’t reply to any. This is the emergency room at the hospital, and all you’re doing is triage. By dealing with your emails in a different way (only sorting, not replying), you can change the way they distract you.
  • If you need to action the email (read, reply, save files, etc), move it to “01 Action”
  • If you need to followup the email (e.g. The email is someone saying, “I’ll do that later”), move it to “02 Followup”
  • If you would like to read the email, but it doesn’t need to be actioned, move it to “03 Misc”
  • If it doesn’t fit these scenarios, and can be filed straight away to another folder, or simply archived, do that
  • If the email is urgent, add a “Priority” flag so that it will stand out in your Action list
Email Time
  • When it’s Email time, you might find that you need to do a bit more Triage. Then, work with your “01 Action” / Priority items first.
  • If you still have time, go through “02 Followup” and “03 Misc.”
  • If you’re using Gmail – If you send an email and want to make sure that you get a reply, label the email “02 Followup” before you send it.

And don’t forget… email begets email, so think of all the ways you can send less email, automate email, etc.

Schedule

TBC.


PART 5 – LONGTERM

Planner

TBC.


*Triage might take you… 15 minutes, max. So why set it for 30 minutes? Because, if you set a calendar event for 15 minutes, it may get forgotten, pushed out, or otherwise wrecked. I don’t think we do well with 15-minute events.


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