Return On Emotional Investment

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Return on investment is a common and useful idea in business circles. If you invest money on something it should, eventually, increase your sales or profitability. For example, if you own a house, then you might think about return on investment in terms of how much a renovation, say a new kitchen or bathroom, could increase the potential sale price of your property.

In marketing circles, return on investment has become an essential way to talk about the value of money spent on advertising or promotions. So, before an advertisement is made (and space for it is bought, online, in print or on TV), marketers will expect to have some idea how much it will increase sales and awareness of their product.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of return on investment and how it relates to small businesses, especially creative and artistic small businesses. Not just in terms of things like marketing and advertising, but in terms of the wide variety of commercially oriented projects we might undertake.

A Little Case Study On Returns

Imagine a little case study. You could “monetise” your blog, by taking in some advertising, maybe reviewing products for cash, or use some other marketing driven activity. Your best guess is this will earn you an extra $1000 (yes, I’m just picking numbers out of my arse the sky). Is this a good return on investment?

To answer this you will, of course, sit down and think about the time needed and probably the skills required (implementing ads or chasing endorsements takes some effort).

Now, you start thinking about an alternative. What if you wrote an ebook, maybe explaining some part of your work in a way that’s helpful to others? Now, for the sake of the argument, lets say it will take the same amount of time and earn you the same $1000. Which would you do?

Most would say do the ebook. It’s more aligned to your work, more authentic, or whatever. Fair enough. But, what if the ebook only earned you $800? Or, $500?

This is where we start to ask ourselves what return on investment really means? It’s an equation, but what are the variables? Just time and money, or something else?

Sustainable Creativity

That’s where return on emotional investment comes in. What we invest in our craft is not just time and money and what we expect from it (and what others expect from it) cannot simply be measured in time and money either. There’s something else we need on both sides of the equation, something deeply emotional.

If your art is worthwhile, then it is worth trying to sustain. This will mean looking for ways to support yourself so you can make more work. It also means choosing the opportunities which will put in the right frame of mind, emotionally and creatively, to do more work, not just in the short term, but in the long term as well.

In our case study, the eBook example might be less profitable, but it might build a much better long term framework of support, connecting you deeper with fans, improving your understanding of your craft, teaching you how to communicate your process more clearly. All these things will sustain you.

Of course, the advertising example might also do the same, if it leads to real collaborations, or truly supportive sponsors. But, these will have a value to you beyond simply the advertising revenue you earn in the short term.

Emotional investment here is really just short hand for your state of mind, for the way the things you do make you feel about your craft and how connected they are to making you feel productive and focussed about your work. It’s worth taking the time now and then to audit your projects in a really simple, top line way using this idea.

Try this, write down three or four words that describe your work (for me it’s music, photography, writing) and then scan your projects and ask yourself if these projects make you want to do more of whatever it is that you do, or, do they make it possible for you to do more of what you do?

We’ve all been in that place where a project asks us to something we love, but in a way that makes us resent our craft, makes us want to hide under a blanket watching TV, or go out drinking, or whatever it takes to “get away” from our craft. This seems harmless enough, but, over time, it will make it harder for us to sustain our work and be committed to it. Over time, the poor return on emotional investment will close us down if we are not careful.






The Challenge Of Social Media – A Fresh Perspective

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For a long time now I’ve held the view that Social Media, for all the positives, presents a very real challenge to creatives, artists and entrepreneurs. Typically I’ve framed this challenge as being about distraction and the correct allocation of time (for example, Is Facebook Making Us Stupid? and also, Responding To The Distraction Economy).

I still feel distraction is a huge issue, a threat to the working environment we need for creative work. But, I’ve recently started to identify two other key aspects with social media – the problem of voices and the problem of connection, which we should also consider as well.

The Problem Of Voices

In my photographic journey, I’ve tried to keep the voices I listen to, the voices that influence me, to a minimum.

I love to share photos I’ve made and hear what people think. As a photographer you can learn a lot from watching what images people respond to and why. But, once the conversation turns to how the image could have been better, whether it should of being cropped this way or that, shot in black and white instead of colour, or anything else then, quite bluntly, I only listen to people who have skin the game, to other photographers or visual artists who are good at their craft and have a public profile for their work.

There are biographical reasons why I choose to be guarded this way. I spent a lot, maybe most of my twenties and early thirties ion environments where I was forced to tone down, attenuate and soften my creativity. It was only when I went back to music full time, in 2004, that I realised how deep this wounds were.

Social Media opens you up to all sorts of voices and opinions about your work. Many will be helpful or at least, harmless. But, some, well some people just have an axe to grind, an agenda to push or their own issues to sort out. We sometimes call them haters, which is too much of a generalisation for my liking.

Managing the negative inputs on social media requires a skill set; ignore, block, put comments into perspective, you just have to learn to manage it or it will eat you up.

The Problem Of Connection

For many of us, the artistic drive is a journey of self expression; to express our ideas in our own way, in our own authentic voice. Often this goes along with a desire to connect with others. Our art is a way to build bridges, to share love, to join ourselves to others.

But, social media gives us a way to short cut the process, we can build the sense of connection without creating the art. We get the pay off, the reward, without the hard work, the sacrifice.

Of course, this is not as powerful an experience as the connection that comes through our creative work, but, much like fast food, it can satisfy us enough in the short term.

Call It For What It Is

I’m not suggesting we give up on Social Media (though many people have actually given up Social Media for Lent this year). But, I am suggesting we should stop to ask ourselves, from time to time, why are we doing this?

And, whatever answer we give, let’s be honest with ourselves.

Hubris

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I’m always surprised to hear people deny luck or good fortune played any role in their success. Sure, we all want to play up the role talent, hard work, or both played in our successes.

But, being unable to accept a little luck might also have been involved might mean we need to take a deeper look at the way we tell the story of our success, or what our success really means.

Often, an inability to admit to having benefitted from some good fortune can be a sign of hubris and worse, can make those less successful than us feel shamed.

The Luckiest Person In Nirvana

Last week the band Nirvana were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Their drummer, Dave Grohl (now frontman of Foo Fighters), gave a moving acceptance speech. Grohl has actually become quite adept at giving thoughtful speeches about musical creativity. He opened his acceptance speech by saying,

“I was the quiet one in Nirvana. I was the drummer. But most of you don’t know that I was the fifth drummer of Nirvana. For whatever reason, I got to be the luckiest person in the world and also be in Nirvana.”

Grohl went on to explain how the role he played in the band was made possible by the drummers who have played before him, how his parents and the musical environment he matured in shaped his approach to music and how fortunate he was to have so much support in helping him reach success in the music industry (you can see the speech here on YouTube, or read the transcript here on Rolling Stone).

The speech was the opposite of hubris; it was humility in action. Humility is often misunderstood as being willing to “put oneself down,” but it really means being able to put one’s station in life in context, avoiding the temptation to overestimate the importance of one’s success. For me, humility is largely about being able to see how any success we have is really just a small part of a larger process. Grohl put it this way at the end of his speech.

“…you look up to your heroes and you shouldn’t be intimidated by them; you should be inspired by them. Don’t look up at the poster on your wall and think, “Fuck, I can never do that.” Look at the poster on your wall and think, “Fuck, I’m going to do that!”

Hubris And Shame

We often hear the word hubris used as a fancy substitute for arrogance. But, hubris has some important meanings beyond just arrogance or extreme self-regard. Hubris is a kind of arrogance which shames, mocks, or puts down another.

Think of the way some self-important folks treat staff in restaurants or shops, talking down to them and really talking advantage of the dynamics created when one person has more, maybe a lot more money in their pocket than the other. That’s hubris.

Thinking we got our success just because of talent (or hard work) can easily breed hubris. If we believe we deserved success, if we say luck played no part, then what are we saying to those who have not experienced success?

We are shaming them, we are saying they deserved failure. If we say there was no wriggle room in our success, no good fortune, then we imply there was no wriggle room, no bad luck in their failure. That’s harsh.

Meeting Opportunity With Intention

Maybe, some people genuinely feel luck played no part in their success because they never really took any risks, or never really attempted anything without knowing what the outcome would look like. Or, perhaps they’ve never reflected deeply enough on their lives to see places where it could have gone really wrong for them.

Luck is found in the open-endedness in our stories, the opportunities that could have gone either way, the risks we took where we didn’t know how it would work out.

Most entrepreneurs and business people I know acknowledge the role of luck and good fortune because they know what it means to take risks, to stare failure in the face, to try to carve a successful path in a storm of circumstances and market forces beyond their control.

I’m not trying to suggest that success is just a matter of luck. Success is often about meeting opportunity with intention (as I wrote about recently). It’s not so much about making our own luck as it is about making our lucky moments count.

Admitting Your Luck Is Like Counting Your Blessings

My parents taught me to think for myself, to appreciate good craftsmanship and to work hard. I didn’t choose those lessons, they chose me. I believe we all have experiences like these, either from our childhood, or the edges of our work, where things came into our experience that we didn’t choose, but which powerfully shaped us.

Maybe we could all benefit a little from taking the time to identify these bits of luck, good fortune or whatever we might call them and celebrate them, count our blessings as it were. Maybe that will also help us be kinder to those who are less successful than us and also, kinder to ourselves when we fail as well.

New Twitter

New Twitter Layout

Twitter has a new and impressive layout design. Overall, the look is big, stylish and media-focussed. I’ve updated my profile this morning and here are my impressions.

Styling Your Profile

Changing the look of your Twitter profile just got a lot easier. Everything happens on the main page, by using an edit profile button. It’s similar to G+ and LinkedIn, but even easier. You’ll want to change your header background to a bigger image, 1500×1500 pixels and your profile image ought to be 400 by 400.

Also, you can change your biographical and location information right in the main window, rather than having to go into your setting menu. And, your profile colour is now picked off a single colour matrix, which you’ll find just below your bio and location information.

Media Matters More

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Click the Photos/Videos tab next to the profile and Twitter delivers a new media page, which makes embedded photos and video a lot easier to see and navigate. It’s a big shot across the bow of G+ and has already got me wondering whether this is the final reason to (really) quit Instagram (especially when added to recent changes which allow you to tag people in photos and add up to four images to one tweet). Right now my media page is mostly curated links, but I’m suddenly wanting to fill it with my own images!

Pins And Text

A new feature allows you to pin a tweet so it stays at or near the top of your stream. This will be controversial for some users but I like it. Pinning recognises that for most of us, all tweets are not created equal. You can access the feature by clicking the ellipsis (…) on a tweet, to reveal a “more” menu. You don’t have to pin any tweets and once a tweet is pinned you can unpin it.

I’m thinking the best way to use this might be to pin the most important tweet of the day, the one you want everyone to see, for a while, not permanently. Or, you could use this to pin a link to a current project, or recent launch, whatever you want people who visit your profile to see first.

And, I have give Twitter some credit for vastly improving the typesetting and readability of the layout. While some of the sidebar menus are still a mess, the main text, in the tweets, is clear, big and easy to read. While overall, the use of whitespace and removal of distractions, is improved.

Finally, it’s worth noting the way the new layout separates tweets (unique tweets sent to everyone) from “tweets and replies” (the old format with @-replies mixed in amongst the global tweets). This might confuse some existing users, but I suspect it will help newcomers and also help when checking out someone’s profile before deciding to follow them.

The Only Complaint

Twitter can’t quite figure out what to do with lists. Right now, you find them on the main profile bar, by clicking a pulldown menu called “more” which reveals only one item, “lists.” Why Twitter didn’t just simply make lists the pulldown menu is beyond me. Lists are a powerful feature, something that Twitter does better than any other social media platform and yet, the feature is not prominent and remains unknown to many users. I wish Twitter would bring lists out of the shadows!

Still, this is an impressive update. I’d encourage Twitter users to check it out and, for me at least, the new media features have got me excited about changing the way I share images.

Five Things I Don’t Believe In

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“Those who never retract their opinions love themselves more than they love truth.”
Joseph Joubert

I sat down this afternoon to watch the sunset and my thoughts soon had me turning over some conversations and experiences from the first months of this year. Many people I’ve spoken to recently have been questioning some of their beliefs, which is pretty common as we get older. It got me wondering about some of the things where my opinion has changed, so here is a short list of things I no longer believe in.

Work As A Chore – when I hear people complain about it being Monday or listen to the famous cry, Thank God it’s Friday, I feel sad. These sentiments say nothing profound about work itself, they merely reflect poor life choices, or the consequences of limited options. Work is noble, work shapes and civilises us, work is, as Kahil Gibran said, “love made visible.”

Community – I believe in family, in friends, even in civil society, but I don’t believe in community. I understand and remember the camaraderie that comes with striving to a shared purpose, in a team, club, workplace or church group, but I don’t believe in community. Interestingly, some of the people I know who are really successful online and in social media are also skeptical about the idea of community.

Being Discovered – there is no more stupid, disenabling and enfeebling idea living parasitically in the minds of artists and especially musicians, than the notion of getting discovered. We’ve even carried it into the digital age, which makes no sense, since in every way it is now harder, not easier to discover creative work that is not being constantly pushed to the front of the avalanche of stuff we see every day.

Lifestyle – I’m always more than a little confused when I hear people talk about their “lifestyle.” I struggle to believe I once dropped this pointless term into conversations. Lifestyle seems to mean how impressive, expensive and envy-inducing your leisure time is, or sometimes it means personal moral choices which shouldn’t need to be justified or explained. Neither of which is a fertile ground for interesting conversation or thought.

The Power Of Ideas – I love ideas, but we live in a post-ideas age. Knowledge is no longer power in an age where access to information is ubiquitous. I grew up having to derive solutions from a limited pool of information I could access, but children today can google anything. Who even needs to take notes?

FujiFilm X100s – Handheld Long Exposures

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I’m currently in Adelaide, enjoying a short holiday and some warm seaside weather. As much as I like Tokyo, it’s nice to take a little break from what has been a frantic, slightly stressful start to the year.

And, Adelaide is a lovely tonic, the Portland of Southern Hemisphere, this is a vibrant, amazing city, which reveals new delights every time I visit.

It has been fun to continue exploring the FujiFilm X100s and this time I’m trying the camera with handheld long exposures and the built in Neutral Density filter. The photo above is an example of some images I’ve been making along the coast, trying to capture the striking blues and greens of the coast here.

Don’t Fleece Yourself

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I was recently chatting with a fellow photographer about my trip to Rajasthan. He was trying to convince me I should get into the teaching/workshop leading game. It’s a conversation I’ve had a after almost every workshop I’ve attended and I always swat away the idea. This time, I was trying to close down the topic with a polite “not now, maybe later” when he suggested maybe I should drop the hint, online and via email that I’m available to co-lead a workshop and see what happens.

I understand his logic. Test the waters, lay out a fleece, if it happens it happens. Maybe this works for some folks but, for me, not so much.

Gideon’s Fleece

The phrase, “lay out a fleece,” comes from an Old Testament story. God told Gideon to lead his troops into battle. But, Gideon was unsure and asked God to give him a sign. He placed a fleece (a woollen coat) on the ground and if it was wet in the morning, while the surrounding ground was dry, he would take that as a sign to start the battle. The next morning he got his sign, but just to be sure, he asked for another sign! This time, the fleece was to stay dry while the ground around it was wet. Again, he got his sign.

Theologians and preachers have wrestled with the meaning of this story for years. I don’t want to debate the original story right now. Instead I’d like to bring it forward and ask, what does this idea, of laying down a fleece and asking for a sign say about our motivations and potential for success?

Put Your Best Fleece, I Mean Foot, Forward

The fleece approach, to me at least begs at least two questions. Are we really committed to doing well and are meeting opportunity with intention?

Let me ask you, who would you rather get photography lessons from? A competent photographer who says “if someone asks, I’ll think about teaching.” Or, a competent photographer who says, “teaching is a great responsibility, so I will prepare by making a lesson plan and working out how to explain the basics of photography.”

I don’t know if the latter would be the better teacher in every circumstance. Sometimes people rise to the challenge at the last minute in amazing ways. But, I do know the second option sits better with me and my skills. I believe the success we derive from something, be it a project, career, or even a relationship is proportional, or at least connected to, the effort we put in. That’s what I mean by meeting opportunity with intention.

Don’t Fleece For Permission

A second, perhaps even larger issue is the way putting down a fleece seems to be a covert way of asking for permission. It’s like what happens when creatives, at the start of their career, are asked how much they charge for something, and in answering, they upturn the last syllable of the price they quote, turning a statement into a question.

So, the answer to the question, how much for that print, goes from $500 with a full stop, to $500 with a pleading, make me an offer question at the end of it.

If this really is the right time for you to be doing something new, like teaching workshops, for example, then it makes little sense to beg for permission. It’s either right, or it isn’t. There’s either a market for your services, or there isn’t.

By all means, I believe in starting small, testing things out, working in beta and so on. But, if something needs to be done, or doing it is the right thing, then commit, put the effort in, chance the opportunity intently and in no way, stop to beg for permission.

FujiFilm X100s – Fall Colours In Karuizawa

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Back in November, I took myself and my then newly acquired FujiFilm X100s to Karuizawa, a beautiful holiday town a few hours out of Tokyo (on the Shinkansen, or Bullet Train), in to the Nagano prefecture. The images in this post were some of the first I took with the camera, as I was trying to memorise its controls and see what kind of images it worked best with.

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An appealing aspect of life in Japan, especially after living in Hong Kong and Singapore, is having four distinct seasons to enjoy. Kaurizawa is famous for being a great place to enjoy the fall (autumn) colours, as well having a range of local delicacies, from amazing apples and apple jams/compotes, to freshly made buckwheat soba noodles. Coffee roaster and retailer Maruyama have their flagship store in Karuizawa as does the excellent Sawa Mura bakery.

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The scenic beauty and good food are only part of Kaurizawa’s charm. The town is famed for its Onsen, or volcanic hot springs. Perhaps this trio is why Karuizawa became such a hangout for writers, artists and poets in the early part of last century.

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I was fortunate enough to stay at the rather nice Hoshinoya resort, which in every way managed to balance tranquility, elegance and luxury. From the moment I arrived and was welcomed with a cup of hot, ginger-spiced apple juice, I felt relaxed and at ease. The luxury private onsen, manicured yet natural walking paths and exquisite food simply added to the sense of being unobtrusively pampered.

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And, while I was a little late to see the peak of the fall colours, walking around Karuizawa still managed to set the mood for winter and greeted me at every turn with fascinating visual moments.

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One thing I really enjoyed on this trip was the way the x100s managed what we could call “subtle” compositions. There’s something I can’t quite nail down yet about the images the Fuji gives me. They are sharp, colours render well and yet, they seem to go so nicely with subtle kinds of processing, small adjustments in clarity and negative contrast values. Maybe it’s an antidote to the overcooked styles currently in vogue or the fetish with film? I don’t know.

But, I do like the kinds of images the X100s seems to encourage me to make and it feels like a nice, responsive instrument in my hands.

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Taking Photos Or Sharing Them

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On my recent trip to Rajasthan, Matt Brandon and Piet Van den Eynde carried the new Fuji Instax SP1 portable printers. This allowed them to print and share photos they made along the way, with the people who were kind enough to give up their time and pose for them. The image you see above is Matt sharing a portrait he had made with a gentleman in Alwar, Rajasthan.

Time and again I saw these great moments, where people smiled in recognition as a small photo, a simple gift, was given to them. It helped turn a sometimes awkward moment “can I take your photograph” into a more meaningful human exchange “here is something we made together.”

Matt has posted a thoughtful review article on his recent experience with the Instax SP1. It’s a good read if you want to understand the device and the process of transferring images to it for printing and sharing.

I almost bought one of these before the trip and I really regret not having done so. When we photograph people, especially in poorer countries, it is often such an asymmetrical situation. We are there with thousands of dollars worth of gear hanging off our necks, asking people who might not even have a photo of themselves, let alone a camera, to give up their time so we can photograph them.

The situation has made me ask myself, over and over again, who am I doing this for? How is my “craft” helping them? Vague ideals, like being a “humanitarian,” feel so far removed from the reality of being somewhere distant and strange, asking someone to pose for a picture which will help you advance your career, or photographic goals, but will give them nothing more than an odd, incomplete story to tell.

I now have a Fuji Instax SP1 in my camera bag and it will travel with me for the rest of the year. It sits well with my social concerns about photographing people in public (Stealth Photography And Other Urban Problems) and will probably lead me to add something to my Photographic Manifesto as well.

This simple little device, which might look like a toy to some, will surely help a lot of us make photography more social and kind. Allowing both the photographer and subject to leave their meeting with a photo to share and a story to tell can only be a good thing.

Work Blocks – How To Organise Your Working Day

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How do you organise your working day? For a lot of smart, creative people, organising their working day can be a struggle. Musicians, designers, entrepreneurs, writers, stay at home moms running small businesses, work from home “telecommuters,” photographers and so on all face challenges to organise their working days in a productive way. I know for myself, I’ve tried many approaches and most haven’t been successful.

It’s tempting just to mimic the 9-5 ideal, to block out whole days (or nights) in big chunks. But, 9-5, Monday to Friday emerged as a way to (fairly) organise workers in large organisations in the industrial age. And, while it’s tempting to pick a number of working hours out of the air, 40, 50, 60 or whatever, the reasons why these numbers work and what the week they represent means might not apply to those someone who works alone, from home, running a creative business.

If you work alone, then your day is unlikely to have as many meetings, or moments around the “water cooler,” as a typical office worker might experience. And, while working from home saves you time on commuting, you will face the challenge of having your work literally on you doorstep, 24/7. The lack of stimulus from others and potential burnout from never being able to walk away from the work are a real challenge for many of us.

One Possible Solution

A year ago Chase Jarvis posted Do Less = Do More. The Art of Being Creative + Productive, which outlined some thoughts on these issues. The idea of “work blocks” immediately jumped out at me as something I could implement. As Chase’s writer friend Ben put it,

“The coolest take away from the article concerns what I now call “work blocks.” In short, after that 90 minutes of work, our bodies and minds need a break. But our 9-5 (or 7-7) work culture demands focus for much, much longer blocks of time, so many of us fight that urge to break by filling up the mug with more coffee, rubbing our eyes and refocusing on the screen.

No more.

Inspired by Schwarz and the studies he cited, I created a Daily Schedule that broke up my day into 90-minute Work Blocks, separated by 30 minute Breaks and, in the middle of my day, a 2-hour lunch. I know some of you just spit your coffee out. But you read that right. I take a 2 hour lunch to get a long run or workout in, eat and read from a book or write a few lines in my journal.

During the 30 minute breaks I read, clean, walk to the post office and complete those little, once distracting tasks that now actually kill two birds with one stone. Sometimes, if I didn’t get enough sleep the night before, I’ll even knock off for a cat nap.”

I read the article a few times, made some notes, talked it through with a few friends and put it into practice myself. After some tweaking, I came up with a plan that suited my work, personal and family commitments, with the same principles of four work blocks a day, two hours for lunch and half hour breaks all in place. It worked for me and looks like this,

07.00am to 08.00am – Wake, breakfast, get dressed
08.00am to 08.30am – Coffee, plan day, get set up
08.30am to 10.00am – WORK BLOCK ONE
10.00am to 10.30am – Break, coffee, email, reading
10.30am to 12.00am – WORK BLOCK TWO
12.00am to 14.00pm – Lunch, exercise, exploring, reading, watching
14.00pm to 15.30pm – WORK BLOCK THREE
15.30pm to 16.00pm – Break, afternoon tea, email, reading
16.00pm to 17.30pm – WORK BLOCK FOUR
17.30pm to 18.00pm – Break, relax, prepare for dinner
18.00pm to 21.00pm – Dinner and family time
21.00pm to 21.30pm – Relax, assess day, prepare for tomorrow
21.30pm till late – Chill out, sleep

Being Realistic

The younger version of me used to find working crazy long hours and late into the night kind of attractive. It spoke to some misplaced bohemian ideal of what it meant to be an “artist.” But, it’s not sustainable. Partly because, if you have family and relationship commitments, you need to carve out time to be there for other people. But also, you won’t always have the energy to put in those long hours and if you are not careful, after a while you’ll only work when you feel “inspired.”

The work block approach is realistic and sustainable and I think that’s why it’s worked for me. If my day gets interrupted I can manage my time in a clear way. Say a block working on photos becomes a wresting match with a printer. Rather than feeling I’ve lost my day I can contain the damage to my schedule and just pick up at the next work block.

Or, if I need to dedicate an afternoon to helping my kid with their homework, I can reschedule that work block to later in the evening or on the weekend, and know I’m committing to just a focussed 1.5 hours of work in my off time, rather than committing to open ended amounts of work at night or on the weekend.

Two Hours For Lunch – Really?

One thing I refuse to be apologetic about in this programme is the two hour lunch break. I know it probably sounds like a total indulgence. But, this has given me a routine where I can regularly exercise or do Pilates two to three times a week. And, exercising in the day gives me a huge mental and creative boost – it makes me more productive.

The long lunch break gives me time to shop to for fresh food, which means I eat healthier and gives me time once a week, to lunch in a new and different part of Tokyo, helping me feel more connected to my new home town.

Also, depending on my schedule, two hours is enough to watch a (shorter) film, visit a gallery or do a big chunk of reading – all of which fuel my creative engine and help me feel less confined while working from home.

And, the planned half hour breaks in the day, which for me happen at 8am, 10am, 3.30pm and 5.30pm not only give me a nice buffer between each block (and family time), they allow me to catch up with email and social media, check my calendar, change guitar strings, buy bread and milk, tidy up, sharpen pencils, have coffee and get ready for the next task without eating into my actual working time.

How Much Is Enough

Four work blocks of one and a half hours yields thirty hours a week. Is that enough? Well, remember this is really focussed work; distraction free work. And, for me, having the defined blocks of time gives my work a sense of urgency and focus.

Being able to get through the tasks you need to complete in a sustainable and healthy way is what matters, not the hours you spend doing them.