Whether in art or in life – and really, aren’t they one and the same?! – it’s essential to develop a clear area of interest. Before beginning any painting, I try to ask myself “what is this piece about, what am I trying to capture here?” And similarly “what is my life about, why am I here, what is my purpose?”
In this fast-paced world, it’s easy to let life happen to us or pass by us. To be distracted by anything and everything going on in the world around us. It takes real courage to not only develop a clarity of focus, but to maintain it with our daily habits. But it IS possible!
How? These are a few ways – in creating works of art and a daily life – that work well for me:
Knowing what truly matters.
Exactly what areas of this painting are of particular interest? In this piece, the small and large trees and the cloud shapes and colors; all other elements are in service of these key areas. Similarly, what are the essential few actions that will truly make a difference in fulfilling on my life and business goals?
Identify the top 3.
What are the top 3 techniques for this painting that will make it a success? I chose color, shape and value for this piece. Each night I ask: what are the top 3 tasks for tomorrow that will move me closer to my big goals? And I write them down. Why tomorrow? Because identifying them the night before gives me a jumpstart the next morning: my mind and body already knows what to do when it wakes, it just needs to get up and do it.
Do them first.
Whatever those top 3 daily actions or painting techniques are, make sure they get done first. In a painting, the key areas are blocked in first, and given the most attention. In my day, these actions get accomplished first thing in the morning before anything else happens, and are given the most time and energy.
Work in uninterrupted chunks.
Specific areas of a painting are attended to one at a time: for this hour I may finish the foreground marsh area, or the trees. During this time, I’m not working on the sky or cloud forms. In life, this hour is devoted entirely to accomplishing the specific task at hand, whether it be painting, writing, working out or eating dinner. Email and social media get their own time chunks, so do not need to ping, zing or push me all day. At the end of the hour (literally when the timer goes off), I stop the activity, step away and take a 5-15 min break before my next chunk.
Commit to finishing strong.
Not just finishing. Finishing strong. This is the next level beyond choosing to finish. Sometimes this means working at the task as long as it takes. More recently I’ve found better results in holding myself to a set time limit. Knowing that I have to complete the clouds within in 1 hour forces me to bring a focused attention to this particular task in this particular moment, because this is IT: cloud time is NOW. And likewise, if this blog is going to get written, this is the time, right now. So I sit down and do it. But not slap-dash just to do it (and then re-do it); rather do it once, deliberately, and well.
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of a job well done! While that is reward in and of itself, a little celebration makes a big difference. It can be as simple as a few deep breathes and a mental hip-hip-hooray, a walk outside or a cup of tea, perhaps even a bouquet of flowers or going to see an afternoon matinee (on a Tuesday, hehe) if I’ve accomplished my top 3 tasks for the day. Sharing a completed painting – such as this landscape – in a blog post or on social media is a great way for me to feel good about completing each work of art.
Which of these ideas works best for you? Share in a blog comment below!
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