Productivity Upgrade

I usually do not pay attention to ads in Instagram. But when I saw an ad for a Creative Live class taught by Lisa Congdon on productivity, I was interested.  The Creative Live format is so good and I have taken several of their classes online over the years. Lisa Congdon is an artist whose work I have always loved as well as her very business-like approach to art and organizing yourself. I read her book Art, Inc a few years ago. She has written honestly about overwhelm and the need for boundaries in any creative business in a blog post entitled, On Self-Employment, Workaholism, and Getting My Life Back.

The course in Creative Live is Workflow, Time Management and Productivity for Creatives .

In the introduction of the class, Lisa starts with a vision of ease and control. You wake up knowing what to do every day and have the time and energy to do it.

What a vision. I am hooked. I want that.

Color inspiration from hiking this weekend on Poppy’s Rock In Wisconsin which is a hill of exposed glaciated smooth fine -grain pink granite.

I'm just starting this class today. In the past, I have tried different approaches to time and space organization for years and have written about it many times in these Studio Notes. I have improved dramatically in my productivity. However, I feel I need a reboot. My weekly schedule has changed with a part time job so my creative time is cut in half. I want to be more productive in the time I have available instead of feeling always behind. As anyone who creates knows, feeling that you are behind schedule, or rushed, shuts off the creativity pipeline in your thinking. This Lisa Congdon course is my antidote to this feeling of “never enough time.”

The topics she covers ranges from, How to create an effective workflow, Working with a rolling to-do list, and Time blocking.

I am particularly interested in the Time blocking. I used this strategy when I first started my daily squares back in 2015. Then I got a little too sloppy with just fitting in the studio time whenever. I have blocked out the studio time on my calendar but it has not been consistent. Other things seem to crowd out the studio time.  I am hoping to learn some new strategies to right the productivity ship. I will update my progress in future Studio Notes.

As I wrote last week, I am opening up my studio schedule this Fall for the Holiday gift giving season. If you want to give the gift of a commissioned EcoMemory to a loved one this Holiday, let me know.

Here is what one of my client’s said about their EcoMemory artwork.

I loved reliving my memory when I described it to you. I loved how your questions prompted me to think about the feel of the sand on my toes, the Dominican heat and the smells and sounds around me. I also really enjoyed seeing your sketch and the fabric choices. It made me so very excited about what was to come and about my brother seeing the final piece.

I would tell my friend that Kathleen's work is wonderfully colorful and joyful. That it's a perfect gift for someone you love and know well but it's also a beautiful memento for yourself. That it has a way of transporting you to your favorite place while allowing for room to dream and modify your memory as you wish. When I see mine I think of different moments in time, each fabric square tells a different story about the place and the elements in it. I simply can't stop looking at it! :)

-Natalie from Connecticut

Space is limited so contact me by November 1, 2018 to schedule a time. Click HERE for the Contact Me form.

If you want to learn more about the process, click HERE. I’d be happy to answer any questions you have about the process. Just let me know.

View from the Edge of the Water

I delivered a commissioned EcoMemory to a client last week. I find the “big reveal” very satisfying. By the time I have presented the art to the client, we’ve already talked for an hour about their favorite place in nature. We’ve already discussed the written report I wrote which outlines my ideas for the color palette and design of their EcoMemory based on our interview. I have a very clear idea in my head for the design and the fabric colors and what it will look like. However, even if the client has read the report with a line drawing of the design and an image of the stack of fabric I will use, it’s very hard for people to imagine what the final piece will look like. For that reason, it is always a joy to watch them unwrap their EcoMemory or to hear about it from client’s I needed to mail the EcoMemory to.

In particular, this was a special EcoMemory because the client is a good friend of the family. Her daughter commissioned me to create this EcoMemory for her mom’s birthday. One thing I’ve learned from this process is asking a simple question “What is your favorite place in nature?” is really not a simple question. In this case, we went on a journey of my client’s life and how being near a body of water was essential to her story.

It was the peace and quiet she would find on the edge of the water, be it from a creek from her childhood, an ocean in Maine or one of the Great Lakes in the Midwest. This concept helped me free my idea of an EcoMemory as being just one location. At first, during our conversation when she said it wasn’t just one place, I struggled to think how I can create an image of multiple places. By the end of the hour, I knew that it was just a calming presence of water, in general. I had the idea and now I could run with it.

I researched the different places that she told me about on Google images and used these photos to give me ideas for colors and design. In this piece, Edge of the Water, in the image below, the three design anchors are the white lighthouse with the black top on the left, the green for the tall pine trees on the right and the pewter color of the waters edge with a section of Duponi silk which represents my client on the waters edge looking out over the water at sunset with a sailboat in the distance.

Edge of the Water, 2018.

After I presented her the Edge of the Water, we ate some lobster rolls as a reminder of Maine. We found a place for her to put the artwork and hung it up immediately. My hope for each EcoMemory is that when people look at their artwork, they feel all the emotions we discussed in our initial interview; be the place one of solace, or a nostalgic time in childhood, or a vacation spent with family.

Every single EcoMemory I have created has been different, not just in the obvious way by location, but also in the way the artwork makes the client feel. But for the most part, it is always about the peace and calm we feel when we are in nature.

I am opening up my studio schedule this Fall for the Holiday gift giving season. If you want to give the gift of a commissioned EcoMemory to a loved one this Holiday, let me know.

Space is limited so contact me by November 1, 2018 to schedule a time. Click HERE for the Contact Me form.

If you want to learn more about the process, click HERE. I’d be happy to answer any questions you have about the process. Just let me know.

Looking In All the Right Places

I have rededicated myself to writing morning pages every morning. For those not familiar with this technique from Julia Cameron in her book, The Artists’s Way, it is a writing exercise done first thing in the morning where you just keep writing 750 words by hand, the old fashioned way. Every day. I have made some modifications to her process. I fill one page of my composition notebook daily while drinking my morning coffee. Sometimes I do stop writing but get right back to writing when I notice this. This writing practice has a way of bringing up your deep thoughts. Somehow it is easier to write them out and then you realize that is exactly what you were thinking in a kind of hazy inarticulate way. I started this morning pages practice in 2012. Sometimes I am more consistent than others. I use the same Deconstruction composition notebooks in various funky designs and special colorful gel pens. It is the kind of habit that spills over into your every day life and effects many other things. It can be a direct line to self awareness. It helps me take action and not wallow in negative thoughts.

I know how powerful this practice can be, but I was astounded when I found myself outside writing in my decomposition book and realized I started seeing color combinations and design ideas right in front of me as I was staring out at our prairie garden. Some of you sharp readers are like, “hey, you were supposed to be writing, not daydreaming.” Yes, correct. Sometimes I alternate between the two activities. 

Looking In All the Right Places. Sunset down the road last week. Variegated leaves for a great design idea. Brilliant green moss color. Prairie color combo of lavender asters and mustard goldenrod.

This is exactly what I said I had missed most taking a summer sabbatical in my Studio Notes last week in the article, Just Start. Here I was thinking about color and design, looking for inspiration. I obviously was looking in all the right places. I was outside on our kitchen patio on a windy first day of fall. I was letting myself daydream and be open. Simple stuff. An idea or intention to think more creatively, some time where I had no pressures, and a beautiful spot in nature. Perfect combination. I gave myself the time to be open and the space to be inspired.

I did something I have rarely done. I posted the photos of the color combination and design ideas on Instagram. As a rule, I have only posted my art on Instagram. It just felt so natural and I was giddy to be seeing inspiration all around me again.

If you feel a little down in the dumps creatively, try giving yourself the time and space that you find the most inspiring. And then keep doing that. This works if you are a knitter, a quilter, a musician, a dancer, a poet, a woodcarver, etc.  You get the idea. It can work for everybody.

Just Start

Have you ever had an experience where you need to take your own advice? For two years I’ve written about creativity and how to make time for creativity on a regular basis. The advice I give most often is to Just Start. I have found myself in need of this advice after my summer sabbatical. It was the right thing to focus on my family over this summer. However, I missed the regular creativity. After a while in the beginning of the summer, I stopped searching for new ideas for designs and color palette. I stopped thinking of ideas to share in these Studio Notes. These good creative habits were temporarily “out for lunch.” I need to get them back. 

I’m someone who needs the structure of getting into the studio at a certain time and working on a certain project. So I told myself I would start just hanging out my studio for an hour every day last week. Something always came up. Granted, some were family emergencies which I needed to help with. But I’m having a hard time being consistent. The ironic thing is I enjoyed being in the studio so much last week.

Playtime in the studio, September 2018

Playtime in the studio, September 2018

When I was in the studio last week, I worked on a commission piece as well as an idea for a long-term project. So while it’s easy to say Just Start, it can be difficult to execute. We all have competing demands: jobs, children, extended family obligations, grocery store runs, errands and administrative things that just need to happen. I realized I need the structure of studio time on a regular basis to give my creativity equal weight with other competing demands. More importantly, what I really want is that habit of creativity back, that mindset of always looking for ideas to create art or to write about.  So the important thing is not just the time in the studio, but how it changes your thinking by always looking for new ideas to try.

So tomorrow I’m going to be in the studio again and start exercising that creative habit. 

Coral Reef Updates

Coral Reefs,  2017.  Available for purchase. CLICK photo above to learn more.

Coral Reefs, 2017.  Available for purchase. CLICK photo above to learn more.

My last big series with a nature theme is my Coral Reefs piece. These last three series I wrote about inspired me to offer custom EcoMemory art for people to remind them of their favorite places in nature.  It is basically what I was creating for myself with the Clouds, Forest, and Coral Reef series.

Part of my studio time this Fall will be dedicated to creating custom EcoMemory art for the holiday season. As one of my customers said, a work of art that is designed specifically for you is a very personal gift for yourself or for a loved one. Click HERE to learn more about my EcoMemory process of interviewing the client, writing an EcoMemory report explaining the design and colors, and the final artworks.

My summer sabbatical is ending and I am getting back into the studio again. So look for updates next week.  

Here is the original article.  

Last week, I started a  new series called Coral Reef, Lizard island. The inspiration for this idea is a documentary on Netflix called Chasing Coral.


Collage of images taken by our daughter at Lizard Island, 2014. Turtles and cuttlefish are her favorites in the second row down.

The documentary tagline from their website is... "Divers, scientists and photographers around the world mount an epic underwater campaign to document the disappearance of coral reefs."

I highly recommend this documentary. You can see a trailer in the link above. It is powerful. You see people who love and study coral reefs documenting the effects of warmer ocean temperatures. 

This documentary hits close to home. The last part of the documentary was filmed at Lizard Island, a research station on the Great Barrier Reef off of Australia. Our daughter spent 10 days on Lizard Island in 2014, the year before the coral bleaching events that occurred in just 30 days and are documented in this film. Watching her see the damage done to a place that she loves was heart breaking. A significant portion of the coral died, along with the ecosystem that relies on it.

When I decided to write about this series, I asked our daughter, "Why is Lizard Island one of your favorite places?" 

She said,

"Lizard Island is one of my favorite places because it is an isolated island that is very pristine. There are not a lot of humans who live on the island since the only people allowed are researchers that really care for the island. You can tell in how they take care of the island that it is a labor of love. Also it is a remarkable place for seeing unique coral, sea turtles and cuttlefish (two of her favorite animals in the world). There is a huge biodiversity of life. The island is a little oasis in the coral reef that isn’t plagued by eco tourism and is remote so you feel like you are exploring an ancient sea because there are no people. And, of course, it is also beautiful, very colorful."

How does it make you feel when you think of Lizard Island?

"I feel grateful for being able to see such a beautiful place. I also feel Inspired by the diversity of animals and plants that are there."

Coral Reef, Lizard Island series. Day 227 of 2017. October 3, 2017. One of 25 six-inch squares sewn together for the final piece.

Coral Reef, Lizard Island series. Day 227 of 2017. October 3, 2017. One of 25 six-inch squares sewn together for the final piece.

So I wanted to do an ecosystem series and I knew after watching this documentary that coral reefs would be the first one. I researched the organization involving the Chasing Coral team, The Ocean Agency. I love how they describe themselves and their mission.

"The Ocean Agency (formerly known as Underwater Earth) is a not-for-profit organization founded in 2010 by a group of ex-advertising execs and creatives. 

We believe, above all else, great communication is key to finding solutions. We've allowed the ocean to lose it's magic - we've allowed it to become irrelevant. That needs to change and it needs to change quickly.

People can be inspired to act - we're just missing that all important word... inspired. "

Then I found out they have an initiative called 50 Reefs where they are focusing on how to solve the problem. 

"The 50 Reefs initiative aims to rapidly bolster existing coral reef conservation efforts globally by catalyzing new targeted action and investment in key geographies. It will identify and protect coral reefs that are least vulnerable to climate change, that also have the greatest capacity to repopulate other reefs over time."

Now, I was fired up to help connect people to the coral reefs through my art. Art can be a powerful vehicle to tap into people's emotions and inspire them. I do this to honor our daughter and all the people who are inspired by our oceans and all of its inhabitants.

I went about planning this series in my usual way, deciding the color palette and the design parameters. My color palette is based off of images at Lizard Island. I have 3 different shades of blue for the water on the top row of the final piece, tan for the sand on the bottom row with various shades of purple, coral, orange  and yellow to depict the coral itself. To be true to the images, I held up my fabric to the images to match as closely as possible.

My design for this series is different in that I am providing a scene for a real place. Usually my work is more on the abstract side but I wanted to give the feeling of the water above and sand below which really struck me in all the images. The coral reef part in the middle will be vertical strips of the different corals colors. When seen all together, it will be like one large healthy coral reef full of diversity. 

I want this series to be a tribute to all the people who care about our oceans and the work that 50 Reefs is doing to protect our oceans and coral reefs.


Coral reef near Lizard island images from The Ocean Agency

Imagine Standing In a Forest Looking Up Updates

Forest,  2017.  Available for purchase. CLICK photo above to learn more.

Forest, 2017.  Available for purchase. CLICK photo above to learn more.

As I wrote about last week, this article is all about the Forest series.  It is still one of my favorites. I felt like I was able to capture the mood I was going for. Sometimes that can be an elusive thing, chasing an idea and making it visible in fabric sewn together.

Here is is the original article.

My current series the Forest has been getting some attention in my Instagram account. Even people who have followed me for years said there was something special about this series with the multiple greens and the varying compositions. When I was trying to describe it to one of the commenters the thought came to me I really imagine standing in the forest looking up at the trees with dappled light all around and seeing the blue sky peeking through. I captured the emotion that I use to create the Forest series into words. Sometimes it is hard for me to capture that essence into words and I am practicing doing it. This time I felt like I succeeded. I shared this with one of the commenters and they got it.

The Forest using fabric. Day 207 of 2017.

The Forest using fabric. Day 207 of 2017.

Art evokes an emotion. Then what does this Forest series say? The calm greens and blues remind you of the peace you feel in nature as you are standing in the forest yourself.

Now people may say I had no idea it was about the woods since I never read the title of the series. This is the beauty of color. The colors themselves do the calming. You don't even need to have the image of the nature scene in your mind.

This series has been so fun to work in. But I say that about whatever series I am working on. In this case, I do feel that special connection having spent time in forests myself. That knowledge of time spent observing nature comes out in this series.

The Forest using acrylic paint

The Forest using acrylic paint

Last week I was in a bit of a creative slump. As I was talking to one of my artist friends about this she suggested I just go and play around with acrylic paint and the palette knife like I wrote about in Studio Notes last week. I shared an incident last week that a piece of art I made in high school with a palette knife and acrylic paint is similar in composition to what I make to this day. Back then, I thought I couldn't be an artist because I could not draw so I never picked up a palette knife again until Wednesday. At first I hesitated and thought it would be a distraction. It's not my medium and it might muddy my creative waters. But then I said why not. Be adventurous. It sounded kind of fun to do. I found an old paint set that I bought a few years ago thinking it might help my creativity flow by trying a different medium. I guess this seemed to be the time. The odd thing is that the set actually had a palette knife. So I just started by setting up the supplies. But I didn't know what to paint.  I realized I had the Forest series color palette and design parameters from my current series. This would be a variation reinterpreted in paint instead of fabric. This experience got me thinking.

If art is about emotion, the medium of that art is just the support system.

The emotion comes from the art no matter the medium. This goes a long way to quelling the issue is fabric art like other art like oil painting or watercolors. Art is art if it is made of fabric or paint or colored pencils. Art is about the emotion evoked in the viewer.


Landscape Artist Updates

I decided to close this summer sabbatical session with articles about my three favorite series. For my long time Studio Notes readers, even if you have read these articles in the past, most likely you will find something different in the article this time around.  I have found I can read the same article a year later and it seems like I am learning something all new again. This week I will discuss the origins of the Clouds series. Next week, the process I used in the Forest and then the final week, the story behind the Coral Reef. These three series represent when I made the switch to the realization I am an abstract landscape artist. In mid-September, I will share a recap of what I’ve done and learned during this summer sabbatical. This year has been one of transition from going to daily creating in a series for more than 2 years to commission work. I needed this time to figure out how I can balance the two and what I want to do going forward. So look for some changes this Fall.😀

Here is the original article from last year.  

After spending time on lakes in the woods this summer, I decided to focus more on landscapes in my upcoming series. As an artist I have used the natural world for inspiration for many of my series over the past years. As I told one of my artist friends, I am really a landscape artist.

Going Up North

Going Up North

For some reason, this was a very clarifying moment for me. So what does this mean and how will it change my creative practice?  I plan to focus on the geometric elements of the natural world that inspire me to help inspire others to see the beauty all around us.

In my article Lakes and Forests, I wrote about two new series ideas inspired by spending time on a lake in the woods. The first series will be titled Forest with green squares and rectangles to portray the layers of a healthy biologically diverse forest with some shapes of blue for the sky glimpsing through the tree branches. The second series is Reflections inspired by the mirror reflection of the trees on the shore of the lake making a double image. This series will have greens and blues but in horizontal strips radiating out from a central horizon.

As I headed up to another lake in the woods, I remembered the excitement of going up north to a lake we have visited since I was a teenager. I designed a series called Going Up North based on the great many photos I took from the passenger seat of the road in the middle with trees on either side and blue sky with clouds ahead of us. The execution of this design may be a little tricky but I always start with the vision first and then make it work.



The fourth series idea is Clouds. Almost every time we drive up north we see the most beautiful clouds in the sky around dusk. This part of the country has some evening thunderstorms that only last for a while.  The evening sunlight angling through the large cotton ball towers of clouds for the thunderheads is striking to say the least. This will be my inspiration. Currently I envision using a similar design as the Forest construction but with greys, white, and yellows as my color palette.

I want to use my art to capture that feeling of when we see the beauty of the natural world all around us.

When we see this beauty and feel that connection, it enables us to see even more good in our lives that was just waiting for us to acknowledge.

Every time we focus on the good in our lives, we are lead to see even more good surrounding us.

My art practice feels reinvigorated after these vacation breaks to recharge.  My current series Skylines has been a joy to work on in the studio. My future series ideas are providing the perfect balance of challenge and a sense of ease as I sew one strip of fabric to another building the daily 6 inch square.

More on the Forest next week. 

Lakes and Forests Updates

I wrote this article last year and all the sentiments are still the same. Being out amongst the trees, prairie, forest and sky are where my mind clears and my heart rate settles down. I am trying to enjoy all the times I get to be outside, even the short periods during a busy day. 

Working with clients creating art to reflect their favorite place in nature over the past year has made me realize that I am not alone.

Here is the original article below.  

After spending a week on a small lake in the Northwoods, I realize that most of my inspiration for both color and design in my art comes from the natural world I see around me. I feel like a landscape artist even if my art may seem abstract to some. This vacation brought me new insights into the importance for me to be immersed in nature on a regular basis. I do some of my best thinking in nature.

Trees reflected in a lake like a mirror

Trees reflected in a lake like a mirror

For example, the further north we got, the forest changed color with the addition of the deep greens of red and white pines. The forest also got more dense so it looks like a head of broccoli with minimal space in between the crowns of the trees. On the drive up north, I designed my next series called Forest with all different types of greens comprised of different squares and rectangles with at least one blue shape to signify the sky. I am already looking forward to making this series. I haven't worked with greens for a while and greens are some of my favorite colors. It seems appropriate in summer to focus on greens.

One morning I got up early to spend some quiet time in a kayak on the lake. The water was like a mirror. I kept thinking the lake should've been called Mirror Lake. As I looked around me, I saw the trees on the shore and their perfect reflection on the water. It almost looked like one of those kaleidoscopes where you have the doubles of the images spinning around. I just stared at the reflection amazed at its clarity and accuracy. Later on during the day, I looked to see the reflection but there were enough waves so the water surface never got that still again. My series after Forestwill be called Reflections. Again it will be based on nature colors of the forest, greens, but will include other colors to reflect the sunsets and the flowers in the water. We were fortunate enough to be there when the water lilies were in bloom.

So all in all, I was inspired to develop two themes for future series from this week vacation. 

Next week our family is going even further north on vacation into the woods staying in a cabin on a lake. There is a theme developing here. I hope to come up with more series designs there as well. Spending time on lakes surrounded by woods has really clarified for me that some of my most important inspirations for my past series are rooted in nature and landscape.

I think people have certain natural habitats that resonate with them. I grew up in a house surrounded by big trees. I spent part of the summers almost every year of my life on a lake boating and swimming. I guess it should be no surprise how much I love being on a lake in the woods. But I was taken aback about how comforting it was to spend time in a canoe or kayak just hanging out on a lake.

Sometimes the older you get you realize what things are important to you. Then you can make sure you make time for those things in your life.  

Possible Solutions Updates

As I wrote about last week, changing my question to ask for the #1 tip for helping with issues of time and focus got the conversation rolling again. It is so much easier to think of one answer than try to tap into many answers. Your thinking mind seems to say... OK, I can come up with just one answer.

Here is the original article.  

Last week I talked about the challenges of Time and Focus in my Studio Notes. The majority of the responses to my previous Friday Question ”What are your top two challenges?” revolves around these two issues, Time and Focus. Not enough time to do everything you want to do. Difficulty in finding your focus and maintaining that focus. Last week I listed some potential solutions I have tried and ones I have been meaning to try. As I wrote last week, if you solve the challenge of time by deciding upfront to do less things, then the focus issue becomes easier because there is less to distract you. In my Friday Question series last week, I asked, "What is one solution for your top two challenges?" I am looking for ideas from people to add to this Solutions list. The more potential solutions the merrier.  In this article, I add the responses I received last week from readers to the Solutions list.

Ideas to help with overwhelm and too many things to do…

Define your priorities
Go through them again and limit to a certain arbitrary number like 5 or 3
Say no to non-priorities
Use your creative time as one of relaxation like a creative meditation practice, not a source of more tension (This was key for me to set up systems to make this one work for me.)
Build in transition times between activities to slow yourself down
Seriously consider your use of technology as a tool not a distraction
Consider a minimalist approach
Just show up
Trust your instincts
Mindset modification
Meditation (the sitting or the moving kind)
Solutions based on Readers Responses
Organize your Work Space.
Minimize Distractions
Enjoy the Process
Be Mindful of your Daily Energy Levels
Clearly Define your Weekly Tasks


One reader suggested the Just Show Up option is helpful. Start on something. Just progressing on one thing can cause the momentum to shift.

Another reader suggested the best way to get out of the thinking/overwhelm part and move to the action part was to Organize your Work Space. The beautiful part is she says this always works for her and gives her the momentum needed to carry out the rest of the task at hand. Movement begets movement. She also keeps all technology out of the studio with her phone across the room to Minimize Distractions.

Adding it to the list. Organize your Work Space. For some reason this helps so much. It is like a metaphorical mental housekeeping as well. I always clean up before I leave the studio because the last thing I want is resistance to go into the studio the next day because of the mess.

Also adding Minimize Distractions (meaning access to your cell phone). This reader suggests that quick access to social media or the internet in general "interrupts the flow of creativity."  Absolutely agree.

Another reader said Trust your Instincts and Mindset Modification were "spot on." She took her power back as an artist and said no to the self doubt that can plague so many artists. She trusts that her art will come together with her designs and her color palette. She relaxes into the creative process and enjoys the creative meditation time. Now she feels free to express her creativity. Such joy and power in her words.

So adding Enjoy the Process to the list.

Another great response came from a reader involving Be Mindful of your Daily Energy Levels. Do more difficult task when energy levels are high and mindless things when energy is lower.  I am grateful I found I have a morning burst of activity.  I always do my Studio Notes writing first thing in the morning when everything seems easier.  I do studio work in the afternoon as it is more relaxing for me and offers a good break from the thinking/writing part of my day.

Adding this great tip to the list.

One reader suggested Clearly Define your Weekly Tasks.  It may be hard to decide what those are but once you got a list, Just Do the List.

Adding in Clearly Define your Weekly TasksClarity ignites action.

The list of practical tips this week is awesome. Thanks to all the readers who responded. Keep them coming! I hope that this article inspires you to try one thing to help with your Time and Focus challenges.

Challenges and Solutions Updates

Last summer, I decided to ask my Instagram followers and Studio Note readers some questions to get to know them better. I found out we had many issues in common, mostly concerns about time and focus. Nice to know I am not alone.

Here is the original article.


One of my questions for my Friday Questions series on Instagram was, ”What are your top two challenges?" The responses came in quickly. It occurred to me that these challenges are issues that are "top of the mind" issues. It was easy to respond because everyone knew exactly what their challenges are because it runs like a loop in the background of your thinking on a daily basis.

There was plenty of overlap on the top two challenges by many of the commentors. People said it in different ways but it boiled down to time and focus. 

Time and Focus were the top two challenges...too many things to do and not enough time to do them and difficulty in deciding what to focus on and maintaining focus on what you eventually decided to do.

People said things like self care and choosing how to spend my time, wandering eye for new art forms, filtering ideas to get to the best ones, planning too much for one day, making a decision on a direction and then following through. Time and Focus are really related sequential topics.  One causes the other one. When we feel overwhelmed by too much to do, by definition it is hard to focus. Just like it is hard to be kind when you are angry or feel grateful when you are complaining. So the one thing that would help is to not feel overwhelmed.  Easily said, but hard to do.

One of my strengths is I am a problem solver.  But, this only kicks in when I clearly define what the actual problem is. This exercise of asking what are your top two challenges gives us all the opportunity to be clear with ourselves and kick in this "problem solving self" we all have to some degree.

You may not have even articulated your top two challenges very clearly before. But then once you start thinking about it, you realize you may be ruminating about something in your mind many hours of the day, like a recording on a loop.  

First step. Identify the challenge.
Second step. Think of one idea that may help.
Third step. Try it. Repeat if necessary.

So if the problem is overwhelm, too many things to do and all the other challenges stem from this cause, then it is important to focus efforts on this and it will solve other challenges at the same time, like a double problem solved. I have read books about time and focus productivity hacks for years. I am throwing out some ideas I have tried and ones I have been meaning to try.

Ideas to help with overwhelm and too many things to do…

Define your priorities
Go through them again and limit to a certain arbitrary number like 5 or 3
Say no to non-priorities
Use your creative time as one of relaxation like a creative meditation practice, not a source of more tension (This was key for me to set up systems to make this one work for me.)
Build in transition times between activities to slow yourself down
Seriously consider your use of technology as a tool not a distraction
Consider a minimalist approach
Just show up
Trust your instincts
Mindset modification
Meditation (the sitting or the moving kind)

I am looking for more ideas from people to add to this list. Many ideas may help spur a creative idea which just might help you with these challenges.

So my Thursday question last week was “What has helped the most with your top two challenges?" I got less responses, like I could "hear the crickets" kind of silence. First of all, I changed the Friday questions series to Thursday. As my husband pointed out, Friday is the end of the work week and people are more chatty than on a weeknight like Thursday. So, lesson learned and moving the series back to Friday Questions. But I also think that it is easier sometimes to focus on the challenges because they are top of the mind, like I said earlier it is the recording playing in your head… Too much to do..AHHHHH.  Sometimes there is inertia when trying to move to the solutions side.

So I am going to reword the question since it is easier to come up with one thing rather than a whole bunch of things. I will ask people to focus on one possible solution and try asking again this week on a Friday.

A brave soul answered last week and said just do it. She found that just the active working on something can even help with other projects that she was not even working on at the time. I thought this was very wise because it really shows just doing something helps. I shared with her a quote from the author Isabel Allende used in the 100 day project that helped me to decide to do the 100 day project in 2015. I have a deep respect for Isabel Allende and all of her work.

The quote from Isabel Allende is, “Show up. Show up. Show up and after a while the Muse shows up too.” Yep. That about sums it up.

What are your top two challenges? What is one solution you want to try to help with your #1 challenge?