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Dear friend,

Yesterday was such an exciting day! Seeing the new blog and shop up and running made me feel a great sense of accomplishment. Now that I finished the work that started several months ago, it is the perfect time to share some ideas about productivity that you might find helpful. Let’s start with an e-mail that I got from a Facebook friend:

“Dear Elsa, I always look at your fb, pinterest, blogs, etc.I wonder: how do you manage to have time for everything and besides make so much art? I need some advice…I find it hard sometimes to put my art life, wife life, all the lives women have, together. Love! G.”

My answer to G. was a short email. But her question inspired me to write and illustrate this post. Here is how I do:

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1. THINK

The first thing that I do before I start anything, is think. This means to stop everything, sit down with a piece of paper, a pen, and think about  what I want to do and why. I am  naturally impulsive, so I have to push myself to slow down and use my head before I start going anywhere. Why should we think before we start anything? The answer is because it clarifies your mind and it gives you focus and purpose. It also helps you separate yourself from everyone else so you can figure out what you want and what you need.

It is OK to use other people’s lives/careers as an inspiration, but as Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Insist on yourself. Never imitate”. Go to the bottom of your situation, of who you are, of how your life is like at the moment… and come out with a personal definition for what you really want to do.

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2. MAKE A PLAN

The second step is to write a plan. This plan is the map to get to the destination. I do it in two parts. Part one is the general map, the big picture of what I want. The second part is the big picture broken down is small steps. It is like when I create an intricate papercut. I draw the general picture first, and then I divide it in as many small areas as possible so I can focus on cutting one small area at a time without feeling overwhelmed. This works great, every time.

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4. START

It is so easy to abandon a plan once we have it in writing. Step number four is all about taking action. One task at a time. It is like walking. One leg first, then the other leg and so on. There is nothing more exciting than moving forward with a purpose.

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5. MANAGE YOUR TIME

I experience more progress when I go through periods of intense work, followed by short breaks. Let’s say that I have a few hours in the morning.  I work for  2 hours or 3 completely focused (no Internet, no answering the phone) and then I take a 20 minute break, and so on.

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6. DISCIPLINE

Discipline “is the control that is gained by requiring that rules or orders be obeyed” (merriam-webster.com). Discipline is important because it allows us to stay on track. Setting deadlines is great. If you say that a certain work should be finished in a week, you are more likely to complete the task than if you have no clarity about the deadline.

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7. HAVE FUN!

In the past, when I ended up abandoning a project, it was because it stopped being fun. My finding is that things stop being fun when I don’t do step one right. Step one is like the basement for a building. If the basement is not strong, the building will collapse. But to keep the fun going  we also need to stop taking ourselves too seriously. What I mean is, don’t over think and over complicate your life. That will only get you paralyzed. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Let your brain take a break and  use your intuition more.

Something else that works great for keeping things in perspective is to play, literally. Play with your children or pet, or anything that is fun. And don’t forget to laugh and be positive. A positive mind is key in anything we do.

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