Wanna Meet at the Progress Bar?

This one is about motivation.

If you’re an artist or work as an independent filmmaker, you have to constantly motivate yourself as long as you ever want to finish your projects. The less outside pressure you have (say, other people’s money involved or a tight schedule), the more true this becomes.

I guess the most common advise is to simply get started. But for whatever reason this sometimes doesn’t work. So I wrote a post about being gridlocked some time ago because I know a lot of artists having gridlocked moments from time to time, and so have I.

The other day I read an article in which the author mentioned a very helpful trick. I’d like to share this trick with you because it worked pretty good for me, and for my spouse as well. Hopefully, this will be helpful for you, too. Okay, ready?

Limit yourself

Perhaps you now think she’s nuts. Why should you limit yourself if you haven’t even started yet? The idea is simple: Take any alarm clock, set its alarm a good hour from now, and start whatever needs to be done. You have just this one hour. Nothing more. Do you feel the pressure raising? When the alarm starts to ring, immediately stop. Have a break.

If you love what you’re doing, you’ll definitely want to spend some more time doing what you’re doing right now. You could set the alarm for another hour straight away (though I guess, you won’t need that anymore…). If you’re doing something because you simply have to, just relax. You did a great job so far, you worked on your project for at least one hour, and I’m sure you have some results now. Reward yourself with something nice (nibble some sweets, have a walk, work an hour on beloved projects…). If your unloved project isn’t finished yet, work on it for another hour later (hey, it’s just one hour!), or try to finish it within those initial 60 minutes when possible…

Here’s a list of things I successfully completed during the last three days using this technique:

  • a website design for a client
  • an illustration layout for a client
  • some video editing for my students
  • some garden work being absolutely overdue
  • some more designs and ideas for the film and
  • this blog post.

For me, it’s working amazingly well… Let me know when you tried it, and if and how it works for you. I’d love to read your experiences in the comment section.


Underworld Entry Sketch.

It took me one hour to draw this draft of the entry to the underworld and by this, realizing some other important things about my set design. Before I did it, I wasn’t sure how Orpheus would know where he has to look for his beloved Eurydice. I hadn’t a clue of what the entry would look like – Tim Burton-esque with screaming colours and a lot of dancing skeletons, or more simple, empty and calm like the rest of the graveyard? I decided to design it the latter way. The skull embracing the door and the crematory-like chimney are the only references to death here.

When I scaled the drawing to the buildings final size, I found out that my set will be much bigger than I believed so far. The final premises are about 40 cm high. Since I’m now going to build the big stuff, I’m getting really exited… It’s fantastic to see what one could achieve in just one hour!

26. May 2010 by Jessica
Categories: Stuff | Tags: , , | 7 comments

Comments (7)

  1. I’ve been using timers since 1993. I think they are fantastic tools for training one to concentrate on a task.

    Also, it’s really valuable to take notes when you use timers — so you can look back at the end of the week and see how much you actually accomplished. Most of the time, I discover I actually did more than I remember. That’s a morale boost.

    Keeping track of time is also a good practice if you’re doing freelance work… Both so you can bill the client the correct amount, and so you can slowly get better at estimating how long specific tasks are going to take.

    Timers are such useful, powerful tools! I can’t recommend them highly enough!

  2. OMG!! Jessica! The Progress Bar would be the PERFECT name for our site!? No?!

    I’m rocking over here too, more on 1/2L than ever all while getting more graphics done than I normally do in a year! When something needs doing give it to a buy person?

    I think this post and your other articles should appear on the production organization site. You’ll help so many get going!

  3. Sven, hallo!
    Nice to have you here! I absolutely agree on the morale boost thing – heck, I’m still stunned from what I have accomplished in three days… It’s nice to have some other people freaking out on working in measurable time slots… ;)

    Shelley, I just grabbed the domain theprogressbar.org! Ha! Well done, we! I was wondering what you’re doing since there were no life signs at all for weeks…
    Do I really help so many people? I really hope so though I almost can’t believe that…

  4. m_) HAHA! this was a great post actually.

    m_) The title was very amusing to me, and at the same time the topic you brought was a very serious one, thanks.

    m_) When I set the time to have some limits things never go so well. When I have no idea what time it is [or when I suppose to be over with it] is when I tend to do more.

    m_) Well, that is how it works for me. I’ll try your way and see. Very structural still but it should work for anyone.

  5. Feel like I could enjoy hanging around at the Progress Bar myself – but that would probably be procrastination… ;) Our good friend Nils, of course, could be “bouncer at the Progress Bar” (he knows karate).

    My problem with progress bars is that you need to estimate how far you are done. It may be good help if you can assess what you have done so far, and what still needs to be done. But people tend to ask me how my thesis is going, and some do it in a way that asks: “When, oh when, will you finally finish that stuff?” Yet I couldn’t find a measure so far that satisfies them. (Counting pages doesn’t do the trick – same stuff as counting frames for you, I guess?)

    Anyway, if you manage to make some “web-something-dot-another” project out of theprogressbar.org, I will be happy to join you there – even if it’s only by weekly ranting about progress. And bars.

  6. Hi Dan,
    it seems you’re talking about the flow, a state of the creative work which shouldn’t be limited at all… But my advice is pre-flow (so to say), if you want to dive into the flow and just need a little kick from the outside…

    Leo, you definitely sound like a math scientist! First, you could divide your project (your thesis) into steps, like: what steps do I have to take to finally wrrite it. 17 chapters? Ok. 17 steps. What do you need for every chapter? Research, for example, some experiments, figures… This would make another three steps. 17×3=51 steps. 100% divided by 51 is 1,961. So every completed task (or step) means 1,961% close to 100%.

    This may not make sence to a scientific approach, but it keeps you going. Others can’t tell when you’re successul, only you can! – If you think it’s a success, it definitely is. It’s your thesis!

  7. m_) I see your point now.