Since this year began, I’ve gotten some private messages where people ask me how I get so much done. I’ve been posting almost every day to Instagram, making digital paintings and watercolor paintings, taking a course at CGMA, while I’m making my book and writing my blog, going to gym and all that is in addition to my day job as a game artist.
When it comes to mindset, the biggest factor for me in getting things done is letting myself to be average when it comes to personal work. In creativity and productivity there needs to be a freedom to explore, and if you don’t give yourself that freedom, you can easily get stuck.
There are also other background factors that grant me a lot of free time. Here are what I consider to be the biggest ones.
1. Getting sleep, food and exercise
Never forget the bottom of the Maslow’s need hierarchy. What’s the point in doing anything, in creating, in succeeding, if you feel like crap?
It’s funny that no matter how old you are, you might be still struggling with finding a balance with these basic needs. It’s easy to miss and go to an extreme, when there are so many people minmaxing food & exercise and hoping that will be their path to happiness. If you eat only broccoli and chicken it’s a miserable life.
My advice is to get to know yourself and not follow any given trends too strictly without bending the rules, to a point you feel you could do this routine/rule willingly for five years. If you know what types of foods and activities make you feel good, you can design your life in a way that helps you automatically grab them.
If you can find a way to make it easy or even automatic for you, you can focus on more fun things, instead of maintaining an ”optimal” sense of self, which isn’t optimal if you have to constantly use energy, or even suffer, to maintain it. I recommend a book I’ve been reading called Atomic habits by James Clear, which is a great insight to human psychology and how we can best design our environments to support better choices. Here’s a link to the book, highly recommended!
2. Having a positive atmosphere at home – avoid drama
This is also one of the most important aspects that help me be productive. My fiance is a very positive and easygoing person. We live a very healthy life together and we don’t argue a lot. And when we do have an argument, neither of us sleep well and neither of us can focus very well. So we preferably skip to the end where we admit that we both messed up in communication and try better next time.
Whatever we decide to do, our first reaction is to support one another. And if there are things that rub each other the wrong way, we talk about things and don’t expect the talk to fix things right away. Unhealthy expectations are what brings people down faster than they realise. One missed sentence and it’s all throwing-dishes and goodbye-better-luck-next-time? Instead of expecting a person to be perfect, we can allow them to grow. Why not give that opportunity to the most important person of your life? In fact, why not do that to everyone around you?
And most importantly, allow that to yourself too. Life becomes more joyful for everyone when you share this mindset with people around you. If you’re allowed to breathe, you can exhale creative things instead of obsessing over what went wrong, who said what and when and where to take the exit.
3. At work: Aim for balance, but let yourself be creative in both good and bad days
For some of us, our work leaves more time and for others they leave very little time.
In my case I happen to be in a quite lucky position, in that my employers / colleagues are people who allow me freedom. This doesn’t mean that I do my personal work at work, quite the opposite actually. What I mean by freedom is, that I can take as many short breaks as I want and avoid general overwhelm. It’s important to me to not get my anxiety levels up as it will end up being really draining for days.
My employers are also very empathetic, encouraging and considerate, which results in that when I get home, I usually feel very positive and energetic, ready to do art for myself.
And if for some reason my emotion turns more negative towards the evening, which can happen during the dark season in Finland, I take that emotion, find an extreme version of it, fuel it with suitable music and turn it into art. That’s the best thing about art: it takes the common disappointments and pain in life and turns it into something entertaining, something worth getting off the floor for.
Also having differents kind of situations at work can spark out ideas that could be worth illustrating. Even just a bus ride, or a said sentence can fuel an idea.
4. Combine habits and make room for art
The situations with people can vary a lot, and some have generally more time than others. Some people get a lot done even when they have kids, and my hats off to them.
Personally I do find myself with a lot of free time and in fact I don’t have any time-consuming hobbies at the moment. I don’t use a lot of time for cooking, I don’t clean the apartment every other day and don’t shop for new things. In fact, there are some weekend days when I don’t even leave the house during the day. I just wake up, have coffee, do art, eat once or twice a day and use the rest of the time for the things that I find meaningful enough to do.
What comes to consuming entertaining material, I only do it if I’m doing something else too. I don’t watch tv, but I might watch shows/podcasts if I’m painting. I also avoid playing video games in my free time, I have to do research for games for work but I try to do it mostly through ”Let’s plays”, so I don’t get addicted. Like Nathan Fowkes said: If you have a guilty pleasure that sucks the time that you could use for art and studies, it has to go.
I also really enjoy listening to music, but that I combine with gym or for making moody art. Maybe you could also combine something you enjoy with something you don’t enjoy that much?
In short: if you make your life comfortable and enjoyable, it’s easy to get things done. Allow yourself to be average and also allow yourself to express the absurdity of life in the way you experience it. If you feel like there’s a sense of purpose in your creations that is bigger than you, it can also help you motivate yourself.
I’ve been also asked where I get my ideas for my paintings, which I can make a blog post about another time.
Enjoy your weekend!