Slap Happy Larry

picturebooks, apps, eBooks, short stories

Tag: productivity

The Overnight Test

Leaving a project overnight in order to gain fresh perspective the following morning.

Described in detail at The San Francisco Egotist

And this from Chuck Wendig in 25 Ways To Unfuck Your Story:


Writers need time away from their work. Go at it too soon and you either hate it too much to let it live or love it too much to cut it with your steely knives. You need enough distance from the work to let you read it and believe that someone else wrote it — that distance allows you the cold, dispassionate dissecting the tale needs. Maybe that means you leave it for two weeks, two months, or two years. That’s on you to figure out. But when you dig back in, you’ll be amazed at the clarity a little time has afforded you. The trouble spots will start to stand out like a shadow on an X-Ray.

And this from Zadie Smith at Wired:

When you finish your novel, if money is not a desperate priority, if you do not need to sell it at once or be published that very second — put it in a drawer. For as long as you can manage. A year or more is ideal — but even three months will do…. You need a certain head on your shoulders to edit a novel, and it’s not the head of a writer in the thick of it, nor the head of a professional editor who’s read it in twelve different versions.

Taking Charge

If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.

– Jim Rohn, from Productive Life Concepts

Creative Block?

Don Draper’s advice to Peggy Olsen in Mad Men was to think about it hard for a really long time, then don’t think about it at all. I’m pretty sure the creator of Don Draper didn’t come up with that — I suspect it’s what all creative people learn sooner or later.

For those of us working with graphics, here is some more advice, tailored to the visual medium. I think it applies to illustration as much as to design.

How To Get Unstuck, from Eric Paul Snowden


To-Do Lists

Some people write to-do lists after they’ve already completed the tasks, for the simple satisfaction of crossing them off.

You know what else is motivating? Crossing off a task before you’ve even started doing it. This is true rebellion, and I feel like I’m in arrears until I’ve completed the task for real. Sometimes you need that little bit of urgency. Whatever works, I guess…

Making Ideas Happen By Scott Belsky

For anyone embarking on the creation of a storybook app, or indeed, any long-term creative project, I recommend the book Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky, founder and CEO of The Behance Network. I’ve written a 5 star review of the book over at Goodreads.

Related to productivity, while working on The Artifacts, Dan and I made use of a shared Google docs spreadsheet, which we set up as a fairly complicated to-do list. We colour-coded it, added shortcut keys for to-do, doing and done, the columns were all different widths and the green colour didn’t go with the yellow colour and I hated it. I don’t know if I can make a generalisation about arty folks in general, but spreadsheets always remind me of maths and other boredoms. The less I have to do with spreadsheets in my life, the better. I didn’t see any point in moaning about it though, and we created a new shared Google docs spreadsheet for Midnight Feast.

Dan has since found something better. This really cool collaborative tool was mentioned on one of his programming forums and it’s called Trello. It’s free, it’s pretty and it’s pretty darn awesome. It comes with its own ready-made to-do, doing and done columns. There’s a lot of extra functionality too, which you may not have known you’d needed.

I’d encourage any collaborative team to check it out. There’s even an iOS app. You have to 2x it in order to use it on an iPad screen, which means it’s pixellated, but did I mention it’s free? Nice work, Fog Creek Software.

Here’s how we have used Trello for Midnight Feast:




12 Unconventional Habits of Highly Productive People from Marc and Angel Hack Life


Related from Farnam Street Blog

The Single Most Important Change You Can Make In Your Working Habits

How to Work More Efficiently — The Eisenhower Matrix

A Formula For Setting And Achieving Goals

The 5 Types of Work That Fill Your Day from 99u

10 Things I Am Not Going To Do Today from Time Management Ninja

Take Control Of Your Time, an NPR interview with Elizabeth Grace Saunders

The More You [X], The More You Want To [X]

I’d like to offer that one up as a snowclone, because I think it’s true for most things. While it seems to work for all that’s unhelpful in life (watching Home and Away, eating Maltesers, sleeping in), surely this human tendency can be turned to our advantage when it comes to finding the momentum necessary to complete long-term creative projects. Stephen King works every single day of the week whenever he’s working on a novel (which is most of the time) and I figure he’s onto something. there.

As for me, I seem to work in fits and starts. While I’d like to work like a valve, I seem to be an on/off switch — all on, or all off.

If I look set to burn myself out, and force myself to take a weekend completely off, it’s not quite as easy to get back into the swing of things on Monday. This is probably something to do with what’s in the working memory. If you know exactly where you were when you left off, it’s much easier to get back into it.

I’ve noticed another few things about the way I work, and perhaps Know Yourself is the key here.

1. I do a lot more art and writing when I’m blogging. The more I blog, you know I’m doing a lot of art as well.

2. The more I tweet, the more I’m drawing and writing offline, as well.

3. The more Facebook updates I manage, the more art and writing I’ve been doing.

This is all counter-intuitive, since blogging, tweeting and Facebooking are renowned time-sucks. Some companies even ban their employees from using these sites during work hours. I don’t know how successful they are now that many people own smart phones (and are therefore not reliant upon the company server), but the question needs to be asked: is there really a negative correlation between work output and time spent on social media? Or might the latter be highly motivating for many, if not all of us? I can think of nothing more demotivating than having a Big Brother micromanage my time, including my time online.

Every now and then I wonder how much more quickly I’d have got something done had I channeled ALL of my energies directly into the project at hand rather than into the peripheral, fun but non-essential activities such as social media, but I’ve decided there’s no point wondering about that.

It could be that talking about [X] is not displacement activity; rather The More We Talk About [X], The More We Are Engaged In [X].

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