7. Get away from the computer!
I’m typing this up on a computer. I ought to admit that straight away, you’re reading this on a computer too, unless you printed it out, which I know you didn’t!
Computers are great, everyone knows that. If it wasn’t for the digital age I wouldn’t be the artist I am today. I’d probably be doing some menial job I hate because I lacked the knowledge and the drive to follow my self-indulgent dreams. The internet told me how to be an illustrator and Photoshop allowed me to undo my mistakes, posting my work online has allowed me to work for people who value what I do.
Our lives would be considerably worse without computers. Obviously there’s the helicopter game, that’s good, there’s twitter supposedly causing the Arab spring uprising and Google maps helping Al Qaeda militants coordinate attacks and there’s lolcats and solitaire and all the other things making everyone’s lives immeasurably better.
So I don’t want to appear hysterical with this- but if you want to get things done you need to get away from the computer.
At least for the planning stages. Anything you can do just fine without a computer, you should. A good old pencil and sketchbook is perfect for getting down and refining ideas before you ever need to do any digital work.
You’ve probably heard this before, it’s not revolutionary information, but I thought I could say the same thing everyone else has been saying and once you’ve read it enough it may just sink it.
It’s precisely the same reasons that computers make us happy that they also hinder our plans and consequently make us unhappy in the long term. There’s just too many possibilities, too many directions we can inadvertently move away from what we started off doing. Because we rely on our computers to do everything from playing music, watching films and chatting with friends it becomes extremely difficult to maintain focus on our work- which is is vital for artist and especially for freelancers.
Facebook is the obvious example of contemporary digital time wasting. It’s a site full of tripe with links to more tripe. You can go on there for just a second with the aim of checking to see if someone has replied to a message and find yourself spirited away to some faraway website you don’t really care about.
In much the same way that if you click on any of the links I included above then you won’t ever finish reading this I imagine, you’ll be too busy giggling at cats. In fact, I expect the majority of people who see this post will never reach the bottom, they might mean to “read it later” but they wont. I wouldn’t.
But Facebook is only the most commonly vilified of time-wasting methods. Facebook is designed to distract so it can generate ad revenue, and conveniently enough we humans actively seek distraction! We don’t even need social media sites to do that.
Just think of all the things your fancy modern computer can do. How many of them are what you actually want to get done today?
Just be aware that when you’ve been working on something a while, something meaningful and valuable perhaps- your brain will start seeking distraction, just a little break, and all the shiny icons on your screen will start to look oh so tempting!
Maybe not facebook, or twitter or even tumblr this time- maybe you’ll just check the news, that won’t take long right? But just think how even clicking the internet browser opens up all the different possibilities to be distracted. Supposing like mine your browser is covered with links to all your favourite pages- which you can see instantly with a single click- but you ignore them all to just quickly glance at BBC news? You spend ten minutes reading articles you’ll have forgotten about in a day or two, and then you wonder whether people are talking about this news article on facebook? Or maybe you could load up your instant messenger program and talk to a friend instead? Or maybe since you’re having a break and you’ve lost your focus you may as well play a video game?
I could go, but I’m just wasting your time as well really. if you’ve read this far, congratulations! Such focus! You must be over 30 at least.
The long and short of it all is this: use your computer when you need to use it for working, or when you allow yourself dedicated time to relax, but always be aware that because it’s so easy to NOT work- your brain will probably manage it.
Because we can’t afford a computer and a room for every task, here’s a few tips to get the most productivity out of your multi-task distraction-box.
- Have web browsers closed whenever possible.
- Consider making a new account on that doesn’t have access to games or things you don’t need.
- Unplug/disconnect from the internet so it becomes more effort to use it.
- Be aware that not all time is equal- If you play first you’ll not have then energy to work later- playing is easier than working.
- Get as far as you can with your work using analogue means- trust me, sketch books are the future!