Thursday, February 21, 2013

Work Habits

Dan dos Santos posted this video on the Muddy Colors blog a few weeks ago.

Not all of these ideas pertain exactly to artmaking - for example, writing down which tasks to accomplish within your 90-minute periods - but the idea of working "smarter, not harder" makes sense to me. I find that I improve the most when I take a couple of hours to sit down and really focus on something that's giving me trouble. It can be a really frustrating 90 minutes, but when I come across that particular problem again, I'll find that it goes smoother.

The idea of working in chunks and taking frequent breaks also makes sense to me - especially as a creative worker. I definitely take a lot of breaks while editing. I've also heard of this principle being applied to fitness regimens! It's called "interval training" and is usually used by runners training for marathons. They'll sprint for 5 minutes, walk for 2, sprint for 5, walk for 2, and so on - even if they feel they can keep going at the end of each 5-minute period, the 2-minute walk period helps them replace their depleted energy, so they can go farther and build up endurance. The brain can be the same way. With editing, I have days where I'm under the gun and I need to go as fast as possible for the entire day, and while I can do it, by the end of the day I'm completely burnt out.

Something that I really struggle with as far as work ethic goes is distraction (which is easy to get confused with "taking frequent breaks"). I've gotten much better lately - but with the entire internet at your fingertips 24/7, it's so easy to get off track. This also relates to the prevalence of multitasking that the video mentions. In today's society, we're expected to be always connected, always available, always knowledgeable about the latest news and pop culture. Lately I reread James Gurney's Dinotopia books (always good for an imagination boost), and paid particular attention to the "Dinotopian Code" this time around:
Survival of all or none.
One raindrop raises the sea.
Weapons are enemies, even to their owners.
Give more, take less.
Others first, self last.
Observe, listen and learn.
Do one thing at a time.
Sing every day.
Exercise imagination.
Eat to live, don't live to eat.
Don't p... [the rest is cut off]
It seems to me like these are good rules, not just in a fictional utopian society, but in real life. The one that stuck out to me the most was "Do one thing at a time." I've been trying to remember and apply that to my own life lately.

This article, "Relax! You'll Be More Productive," also appeared in the New York Times recently, and seems to back up much of what the video claims. It makes for a good read. The more we understand about how our brains & bodies work, the more we can implement this information to improve our lives.


  1. Great post, Gina - thank you!

    I heard somewhere (and I don't know if it's true or not) that George Lucas doesn't answer phone calls or emails Monday through Thursday, and dedicates several hours on Friday to miscellaneous communications.

    True or not, I always thought it's a great strategy for getting more done during the week.

    1. Wow - thanks for sharing that! That is a REALLY interesting strategy - because emails, texts, calls and IMs definitely make up the majority of the things that distract me during work. That makes a LOT of sense to me. It would be interesting (but difficult) to try!