Productive habits is not a misnomer.
Frequently when people discuss the word habit, they imply a negative action, and it’s my guess that it is often a subconscious attribute. We’re wired from childhood to think of habits as bad things – nail biting, bed wetting, chewing with our mouths open, heroin consumption – you see the list of things that are associated with the word does not generally ring positive in discussion, nor does it conjure up any image of productive habits.
We are, as humans, creatures of habit; this has been proven time and again, and if you browse the available books on the topic (there are literally thousands of them at Amazon, for instance), you will find advice, plans, how-to’s, why not to’s, and other systems and non-systems alike that are designed to at least part you and your wallet with a few bucks, even if they don’t make you any smarter, more organized, or even a bit closer to acquiring productive habits.
Acquiring. I did just use that word, and now I’m pointing it out to you that I chose the word specifically. Productive habits are not something that most of us grow into adulthood with, and for all the 21 day periods you might spend doing a task repetitively, that’s still not really going to create a habit that does anything for you, unless you’ve taken the time to work out why you need to create this habit, and what results you expect to gain from it.
Habits are a pain in the ass.
Habits are hard to maintain, too – just think about it – it’s as difficult for a heroin addict to figure out how to get more dope as it is for a runner to drag ass out of bed on a cold morning and stomp out a few miles. Habits are the province of the strong, the determined, the ones who have the intestinal fortitude to follow through; they are not for the weak, the lily-livered, or those who are easily discouraged.
I have not managed to get to the point where I drink at least six espressos every day without some serious conditioning, now have I? We are lucky that we have a machine, so I can just push the button and get one posthaste, and I have the choice of so many varieties… flat black, long white, latte, super dark, decaf, it’s a fairly unlimited variety.
I am one of “those” people who can drink a double espresso and fall right to sleep, I think it’s a talent really. I am impossible to talk to until I’ve had at least one strong cup of coffee in the morning, so keep that in the back of your mind if you ever find yourself on an overnight boating trip with me. I also think that I am incredibly productive after my first four cups in the morning, so I’ll let you ruminate on that little tidbit for a while.
Is the journey really all that it’s cracked up to be?
Back to the topic at hand, however – which is developing productive habits that will result in some benefit to you – whether you are an artist, an entrepreneur, an athlete, whatever. It doesn’t really matter what your end goal is, this is really a commentary on the journey – more specifically the middle part of the journey – and what sort of footwear is going to best suit the terrain you need to cover.
I’ve started creating digital collage art during the past few months. I find it both soothing and exhilarating, and I also find it absolutely incredible that people message me about buying copies of this work. I’m also working on some word art projects, although I will admit that I am failing miserably at these right now. Miserably might actually be too kind a description, although it is rather accurate, but I am starting to believe that I’ve figured out the story behind the story with this situation.
[CURIOUS? Let’s talk, I’m all ears – SCHEDULE A CALL]
I have a set of productive habits that the collage making revolves around each week, or other time period – I participate in exercises involving prompts (either photos or topics) that the collages are built around or using, and there are finite deadlines for turning in the work. It’s not for profit, it’s not even for prizes, but it is a ‘thing’ that I’ve been doing long enough over the course of a few months that it’s become a habit. At this point I actually reserve one of my IG daily posts for the completed project each week. (Ha! there’s another habit, although I’m not sure how productive it is – a daily IG square post with some thought behind it).
I don’t have any sort of organization for the word art yet, other than nagging at myself to get it done. I’ve been amassing a collection of phrases that I am going to use, and I’ve also been amassing a rather impressive font collection to put this effort into real output, but that’s about as far as I’ve gotten. It’s not that I have any kind of writer’s block, that’s for sure not the case. It isn’t that I can’t match up typefaces into pairs or trios, I do that stuff all week long.
I am a master procrastinator.
My problem is that I have not made a habit of creating X number of drafts of the word art each day – or week, whatever. I don’t really have a plan, other than I’m going to create a digital storefront where people who appreciate well thought out word art and home decor items that feature the word art can buy my stuff. Or they’ll be able to buy it on Etsy or eBay or perhaps even in some of those specialty retail stores that you see in the cool and hipster areas of happening cities and towns.
[READ SOME MORE: Procrastination as a means of accomplishment – BLOG ARTICLE]
Without productive habits in the word art department, everything else has ground to a screeching halt. The domain is purchased, the words are waiting to be transformed, the items that will be paired with the transformed words are nearly all selected, and the accounts to accept payments and calculate shipping and produce the finished pieces are all set up and in place.
If you’re reading my blog, you probably already know that I am a Grade A procrastinator, and I’ve written plenty about my ability to procrastinate in a world class manner. It’s quite likely that I’m procrastinating about this word art thing as I type this blog article, although I’ll never admit to it – instead I will prattle on about how I like to get my scheduled work done early so I have all this time to procrastinate even more about my unscheduled work that isn’t getting done because I’ve not created a routine or a habit to make it happen.
If you’re familiar with digital collage art, then you maybe have heard about #februllage, which is a 28 day series of word prompts that mathematically should result in 28 collages, one each day during the month of February. This project is one of the reasons that I got into digital collage art, I found it to be an intriguing idea, and something that doesn’t require a person to be Bob Ross when it comes to painting. There are some amazing collage artists – Robert Mars, anyone? – and I am completely fascinated by the entire concept.
Oooh, that’s nice, what happened next?
So I ran across the #februllage, I was completely wowed with the idea of it. The list of daily prompts is published in January, so there’s a good bit of runway prior to the due dates for the pieces, and you know in advance what the prompt is for each day. I completed exactly zero pieces during the month of February. Yep, that’s right. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Numero nope, not a one.
[MOBILE UPDATES: Get my stuff on your lockscreen – ADD ME HERE]
Every freaking day I would look at the list of prompts and I would tell myself that I would do a piece, and then I procrastinated until the day was gone and I started the entire cycle again. It was disheartening, it was not fun, it was soul crushing, but yet I chose to keep doing it, at least until it was March, and I could safely put it out of my head until next year. Shades of NaNoWriMo and my continuing non-participation every year since the first one.
What can we do to develop productive habits? How can we insure that we get on the right track early in the game so that we can make the most of the time we have available to us? Ha! Don’t ask me. I really don’t know what makes one thing easier and another harder to get into a groove with, especially since we don’t even make the choice based on what gives us the most enervating, tingly feeling, or even what gives us joy. It’s like a complete mystery.
I didn’t write this article as a lesson in how to do it. I wrote this article to complain about how much trouble I have with getting it done. I should likely set myself a goal to do at least 3 word art pieces each day, or 5 per week or something, anything, with an actual structure and deadline. I doubt I will get much done until I’ve set that boundary.
And I’m still adding to this article as a means to avoid having to take a serious look at that word art project, if you want to know the truth!
Interested in my collage prints? They can be found here. If you don’t see a size that you like, let me know and I can probably create a custom size for you.