Recap, Regroup, Restart

Traci Turner_art_Hemorrhage_Distance

“Distance”, oil on canvas. By Traci L. Turner

Coming to the end of another year, it’s about that time again for reflection. I hope it has been an eventful and productive year, Creatives. Personally it’s been the best year yet in my own art-life. I had my first solo show, set up my artist website (finally!), sold some original work and prints, and I’m closing the year with an art schedule set up for the first half of 2015 already. For the most part I’ve been able to fulfill goals I projected at the beginning of 2014. How about you?

If some of your goals weren’t met, it’s ok! I didn’t hit all of mine either, and some of those goals were stupid-easy so I had no real excuse for dropping the ball. All that means is that we now have a jumping-off point for 2015. These types of lists and aspirations are on-going, so cut yourself some slack if some of your goals didn’t get the attention that you meant to give them. To help get you back on track, here are three steps that I hope will motivate you as we close out 2014 and enter 2015 with renewed energy.

Recap
This is the stage of reflection. Take an objective look at what you’ve done in the previous months. What did your creative life look like this year? What goals did you reach? What worked? What didn’t work, and most importantly, why? Asking yourself these questions (and being honest!) should help set the framework for the next step. I understand the inclination to want to maybe bash yourself for being inactive, or compare yourself to others who have more going on, but don’t. It’s not productive and it’s discouraging. Acknowledge where you fell short, yes, but try not to get stuck in it. The flipside is that you should also be looking for the times when you excelled. Overall, the point is to reassess and make necessary adjustments moving forward. That brings us to the next step.

Regroup
Now that you’ve reviewed the year you’ve had, it’s time to regroup. This is a planning stage. This should also be considered a resting stage. Yeah, take a bit of a break from life.

“But Traci, how can I be productive if I’m taking a break?”

Hush, because planning and chillin’ out IS productive as long as you’re intentional about your time and set a time limit. Setting a limit is important because deadlines push us. Maybe you can commit to 2 days to get your head back on straight. Or maybe you only have time for about 2 hours to yourself. Whatever time you can force yourself to spare, do it and make it count! You have to use this time wisely or you will fail yourself before you can start the final step. In the regroup stage, you should be taking the information from your recap of the year and using it to help loosely plan out your goals for next year. I say “loosely” because it’s more realistic. Nothing is permanent and you have to allow yourself some wiggle room for your goals and timelines or else you risk stressing yourself out and losing motivation. From the goals you were able to meet this year, extract what you did to reach them and plan to reinforce those good habits to meet new goals. The goals you didn’t meet should be high priorities for next year, unless other things prove to be more pertinent. Recall the habits that hindered you then resolve to avoid those pitfalls as best as you can. I suggest doing this during a planned period of downtime so that you can truly focus on this stage. The end of the year is usually a great time to do it because most people are already in a mindset of reflection and will be able to have some time off because of the holidays. And personally, I think having that kind of break to rest and visit loved ones, or being on your own, will allow you to return to everyday life refreshed and more prepared for what’s ahead. So once you have some goals in mind, have a good idea of what has worked for you this year, and are more refreshed, you are set up for a better position to do the final step.

Restart
The execution stage. Here is where everything comes together and plans can start to be put into action. The beginning of a new year is a prime time to build the momentum you’ll need to accomplish whatever you’d like to do. At this point so much looks possible, right? If you’ve done the work appropriately in the planning stage, you will already have a personal roadmap and a forward-thinking mindset by the time you are ready for this step. So follow it! Ride the flow of that renewed and refreshed energy you’ve taken the time to store up and finish off your tasks one by one. Just like with an exercise regimen, once you start to see results and make progress you will have more incentive to keep it up. But the trick is to just DO it – that’s it! Any little bit that you can do is way better than nothing.

That sums up my suggestions for figuring out your creative goals for the coming year, but I would love to hear any tips that you have to share in the comment section. Let’s keep this conversation going! What are your thoughts? If you end up trying out these tips, come back and let me know how it went!

Advertisements

6 Tips for Planning Your Creative Goals

meme-18

Now that the energy of the holidays has begun to die down and we’re well into the first week of a new year, it’s a great time to hop on the wave of change and plan out some of your creative goals. I think the key to setting yourself up for success is starting off with a broad idea then breaking it down into smaller, attainable goals. But there are also a few other things you can do that I’ve found to be very helpful. So if you’re ready to get a leg up on the creative goals you’d like to reach by the end of this year, here are some tips I hope will get you on your way:

1. Write them down
Seems like a freakin’ no-brainer, right?! But yes, seriously, write them down. The physical act of writing it out is literally a release, putting your ideas or goals out into the universe where you can see them. It’s a great way to organize yourself too. Sometimes just keeping it in one’s head isn’t enough, we need to see ourselves putting energy into the planning. If you don’t want to actually write it out, then type it out. Keep the list in a place where you can easily access it – be it a small notepad you keep with you, a file on your computer, or even as a task list on your phone. Use whatever you think will fit best for you. Overall I suggest doing SOMEthing to get your task list out of your head and made into a real thing that you can see and revisit.

2. Break your tasks down into smaller goals
A friend shared the this Creighton Abrams quote with me: “When eating an elephant take one bite at a time.” That encompasses the whole idea with tip #2. List your goals as broad statements. Then underneath each statement, jot down some smaller tasks or ideas that will allow you to reach the main goal. Here’s an example of one of mine:

Sketch more
– Carry a small sketchbook and pencils with me
– Sketch ideas for paintings
– Practice drawing figures
– Get useful drawing books to help improve skills and confidence
– Try to sketch at least a few hours a week

I’d like to use some more of my time to practice drawing, so I just used the umbrella statement of “sketch more” then listed some things that I wanted to do underneath that category. Organizing your thoughts in this way will give you an idea of what you should be doing so by the end of the year you will be able to gauge how successful you were at pursuing the particular goal. I like to keep my lists pretty loose, not necessarily sticking with too many quantitative goals (i.e. 3 drawings a week, 10 paintings by the end of the year, take 2 classes by the end of the year, etc.). That’s just a personal preference. However if it’s something that you need to put out there in order for you to commit to it, by all means write it down!

3. Tell someone
Let people know what you’re trying to do! I suggest telling at least 1 or 2 people that you trust, people that you know will make a personal investment in your goals and will hold you accountable to them. It doesn’t have to be someone with a militant personality (unless you think that you need that!). I’ve found that the best accountability partners are those who are also actively pursuing goals of their own. These people understand the process, and appreciate the energy of others who want to be productive too. These people will push you. If you’re not around someone like that, then of course someone like a spouse, a sibling or a best friend will also work perfectly. Basically, choose someone who you know will genuinely care about and support what you are trying to do. Someone that you wouldn’t want to let down.

4. Check in with yourself
This is where you revisit your list to evaluate where you are with your goals. This part will vary from person to person, and will also depend on the tasks in question. Personally I have an informal and formal way of doing this. Last year and the year before I’ve been doing a more formal check-in every 6 months. So at the beginning of the year I’ll make a list of things I want to try to do, while seeing if anything from the year before should roll over. Then in the middle of the year, around June or so, I’ll check my list again to see if I’m satisfied with how things are going at that point. This is also when I may tweak the list as needed. Six months later, at the end of the year, I’ll check again to see how much I’ve completed from when I first created the list. Then it’ll be time to plan again for the next year!

Informally, there’s no real timeline for how I check-in. I’ll just prioritize maybe one or two main goals at a time, working around the list in a loose way. Making some progress here and there, then switching it up. That’s just how I am though, kind of scatter-brained and juggling a bunch of stuff at a time. Lots of unfinished thoughts and actions. Then I use my formal check-in to reel myself in and refocus. You might need to be a bit more structured to keep yourself in line. As I mentioned before, checking-in will vary from person to person.

"To Do" An installation by the art collective, Illegal Art.

“To Do” A post-it installation by the art collective, Illegal Art.

5. Add or subtract as needed
Sometimes it’s easy to get in over our heads and create goals that we can’t achieve within a certain timeline. Or sometimes we just plain lose interest in it. It’s okay, just scratch it off! On the other side of that, you may knock out your goals early and are looking for more to do. Or you may realize that some tasks need to be added in order to supplement other goals. Well, then just add on whatever you need! Allow yourself some flexibility. Nothing has to be permanent just because you started out with it. Change it up if you need to!

6. Roll ’em over
Here’s where flexibility comes to play again. If you have goals that you didn’t get around to accomplishing by the end of the year, don’t beat yourself up and cling to feelings of failure – shit happens. Just roll the unfinished goals on over to the list for next year! Really simple. Maybe set them at a higher priority next time around so they have a lesser chance of getting lost in the shuffle. Either way, I’m sure by then there will have been a bunch of other stuff that you DID complete, so don’t get too hung up on what didn’t get done. I’ve rolled over my goal of putting together my personal artist’s website for the 2nd year in a row now. But this awareness has made me more determined to get it done, so it’s definitely a high priority task for me this year. Rolling things over isn’t lazy, nor does it mean that you don’t value those goals. It ensures that you’re always planning and working towards something.

Those are some of the main tips that I keep in mind when setting creative goals, though I suppose they could also work with any non-creative goals that you may have. I hope this post has been helpful! What are some artistic goals you’d like to achieve? What has helped you stay productive in the past? I’d love to hear it!

Making it work!

Since I started having to be held accountable for homework assignments for my portrait painting class with The Art League, I’ve found that I really have no excuse for not painting more often. In my mind, I couldn’t paint more because I didn’t have enough space or the right lighting, or enough time, blah blah [Insert procrastination reason here]. So many of us make up excuses to put off a lot of things we keep “meaning to do”. Why is that? For me, I’m now starting to believe that the root of my excuses about not painting is the fear of actually starting the task. Once I get going though, it’s all over.

This string of thoughts, and the fact that I want to take my class seriously and DO the homework assigned, inspired me to do a post about making art with limited space and/or resources. Because let’s face it, so many of us out there that want to work on creating masterpieces probably don’t have the funds to rent studio space or build such a space at home. I live with my mom in a 2 bedroom condo, so I damn sure thought I wasn’t going to have the space to be creating much of anything. Boy was I wrong. Turns out, just like in life, when you want to do something, you just find a way to do it. Period. It may not happen right way, or it may not be the most pleasant experience, but you somehow get yourself down that path you want to take. Wanting it just isn’t enough after a while.

There isn’t a whole lot of room, but I have been able to to turn the dining space into a makeshift studio of sorts. Now I really have no excuse not to be more productive in some way.  Here are some pictures of me completing my first homework assignment for class, which also happened to be the first time I set up the dining room space as my “studio”:


This was truly a humbling experience. It only makes me wonder about all the other things we tell ourselves we can’t do, when we actually really WANT to do it! The only thing in your way, is you.