So close! We are almost done with this book. This last chapter is structured very much like chapter 13. Lots of feelings and psychological factors being taken into consideration. This time,we’re taking a lighter note. The topic titles aren’t ‘Depression’ and ‘Anxiety,’ but instead ‘Perceptions’ and ‘Communication.’ Looking to the future, and ending with some good life advice. Don’t let people walk over you just because you’re an Arbie. Don’t change who you are because of some criticism. There is a concluding undertone to the whole thing, revisiting points the authors brought up in the opening chapters like how Arbies aren’t bad, they’re just different. I guess I would be able to relate to these pieces of advice if I wasn’t so dead center. I’m a really strong Arbie in some situations, but an undeniable Elbie in others. So I learn to balance these two out, and access the part of the brian that I need to complete the task at hand with as much ease as possible.
Gee, do I have any parting words for this book? I guess part of it were useful. A ton of it was repetative and/or irrelevant, but overall there were some really interesting things to reflect on. Sometimes it’s hard to read a book that knows so much about your own habits and tries to explain them to you, because of the fact that it is so right. It doesn’t demand that you change anything, but it does suggest certain ways you can go about certain aspects of your daily life in a way that feels natural to you and still lets you be your right-brained little self. Well that’s it for me. And maybe I’ll flip through when I come to a point in my life when I’m feeling very unorganized, and looking for some helpful pointers.
Over and Out.
Ok, so chapter 13 decides to dive off the deep end and for some reason explore the ‘inner struggle’ of an Arbie. I mean, look at the paragraph titles scattered throughout. Rebelling, Guilt, Choice, Realistic Expectations, Accepting Limitations, Assessing Expectations, Comparison with Others, Discouragement, Fears, Anxiety, Depression, Imperfectionism.
Wow, I thought we were talking about organizing papers just a few minutes ago. Where did all this come from? How am I supposed to boil this all down into a short blog post? Well, for one, I see where it’s going with it all. Basically, stay realistic, stay grounded, take everything one step at a time, and don’t overwhelm yourself with unrealistic expectations and goals. Reach for the stars, but if you end up at the moon, that’s fine too. Figure out where you are at, what your situation is, and make common sense decisions about what your next step is. Don’t be afraid to let the wind curve you off your original set direction. As long as you’re moving forward, there’s no wrong answer. Have I summed it up enough? Are there enough cliche’s to capture just about everything this chapter is gladly helping me with. Boy, my life is changed for the better now. (I guess if you aren’t grounded, this is an eye-opening chapter for you, but honestly, I think most of us have our heads on straight and understand what world we live in, and our place inside of it.)
This chapter makes it’s useful point at about the halfway point, when it starts talking about why we save certain emails or articles. We think we are going to get around to reading them later, so we keep them unread in our inbox as a reminder. I’m a big victim of this kind of thinking. Luckily, I will have days where I really want to clean all of it up, so I go through and read whatever I thought I should read, and then delete it. Usually by that time, it has lost it’s meaning or relevance and that makes it pretty easy to click delete.
Actual emails on the other hand (not just junk, spam, articles, links etc) I handle very differently. It’s more along the lines of the “In Today, Out Today” mentality they were mentioning in chapter 11. I see an email come in, open it, and reply right away, regardless if I have the answer for it or not. That way the sender knows I’ve read it, understood what they are asking of me, and they will ping me again for an answer if they still need something later, and hopefully I have a better answer for them then. This method works way better than just marking it as unread and thinking you’ll get to it later. Because most of the time, you won’t. We’re human, we forget. And as much as we think computers save us from this, they don’t. Everyone needs to develop their own system if they want to keep up in todays world. Mine is the quick In Today Out Today idea, and people seem to appreciate it on the other end.
Before I get into the main point of this chapter, I want to make a side comment on the book as a whole. I’m pretty sure it isn’t actually meant to be read front to back. I mean, the amount of information that is repeated over and over and over again is ridiculous. I GET IT, THINGS ARE DISTRACTING AND YOU SHOULD PUT THEM OUT OF VIEW. CAN WE MOVE ON?? Even if you read just one chapter in the book, you would find certain elements are repetative. But reading the book as a whole is like being stuck in a maze. You reach a dead end, backtrack over where you already were, and then poke your head down the next corner to see if you were already down the path already. Ridiculous.
Ok, anyways, back to the chapter. It talks about organizing papers, and suggests a ton of ways to do it. Great. I already organize papers in a filing system, and I’m pretty good at throwing out old papers that I don’t need anymore. I mean, thanks book, you’re telling me to throw out junk mail, but I think I’ve got a grip on that part of my life. Next?
Organized spaces. This is one area I’ve been thinking about all too much this semester.
I had a hellish couple of weeks at the beginning the semester. Long story short, our condo flooded in the summer, and we were living in a hotel for a month. We couldn’t move into a new place until halfway through september, and by then, school was already in full swing. I’ve been struggling to keep ahead of organization because I never had time to properly set up organized spaces for everything in the new place. I’ve been improvising, and it usually ends up messier than I intend because there isn’t a place for everything yet. I haven’t had time to set up these ‘Natural Places’ as the book calls them.
I am actually going to take this advice from the book in the next month or so, and actually properly set up these spaces for everything. I think next semester is going to be a lot easier to stay on top of being organized. We’ll see.
Ah, the old divide-and-conquer technique. I knew it was going to come up eventually in this book. It really is the only way to get things done. Especially with dealing with the amount of projects we have had this term. I found myself overwhelmed many times when I got thinking about it all at once. But I caught myself every time, and reminded myself that this was getting me nowhere. I then would break down everything on my mind into bite size tasks and it became a million times simpler.
From there, as the book puts it, you ABC the task. Anticipate your needs (get everything you need to do it), Bar the door (get it done), and Concentrate only on the task at hand. For this last one, I actually had some help from a Chrome Plug-in called StayFocusd. It counts the minutes you are on certain sites like facebook and twitter, and after an allotted amount of time, blocks them for the rest of the day (or work day, howver you program it). This way, whenever I did take a 5 minute break to go check my twitterfeed, it actually was 5 minutes because I saw the clock ticking down in the corner, and didn’t want to waste all my break minutes in one go. This saved many a saturday, and I actually was much more productive because of it.
Clutter is something everybody deals with, left brain or right brained. It’s a fact of life. But I think this chapter speaks to filmmakers especially. Whenever it was talking about keeping piles and piles of things for sentimental value or because you think you’ll use them later, it is precisely the thinking of a filmmaker. I know I used to have drawers filled with random crap because I thought it would be a really cool prop in a movie or something. Ask anybody in our program, I bet at least 80% would say they could relate.
I’ve been making a conscious effort for the last couple years to not keep so many random things. A lot of it has to do with the fact that I’ve moved quite a few times, but also, I think it’s a mentality thing. I tell myself that if, for whatever reason, I need a ____ as a prop, I could probably buy a new one. It really depends on what I’m convincing myself to keep, but usually after I think about it this way, it’s way easier to throw out.
This was a summary chapter. It broke down all the different reasons we have to procrastinate. For this blog, since there isn’t anything new to talk about, I’m just going to go over each of the procrastination excuses and explore how I deal with them.
Priority – small tasks that go unnoticed and are “too low-priority” can build up into a much bigger problem if ignored.
There’s no real trick to this one, other than just identifying these small tasks and making an effort to stay on top of them. The easiest way to handle these is to have an organized routine, so that when they come up, you know exactly how to deal with them and can put them behind you as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Unknowns – not having enough confidence and end up avoiding them instead
When I feel the urge to put off a hard decision because I’m not 100% confident in the answer, I find that I just go with my gut instinct. And even if I’m wrong, I know I am closer to the right decision than if I were to not make the decision in the first place.
Time – setting a time to do something, or it never gets done
I demonstrated my method of overcoming this problem with my TO-DO list example a couple of blogs ago, where I have a clock below the list and a deadline for each item on that list.
Overload – too much to attack all at once
This is probably one of my bigger obstacles in procrastination, but I know that once I am able to make the first step, I’ve already accomplished the hardest part. You have to keep that in mind, and it makes approaching the project much less intimidating.
Feelings – avoiding a certain task because it is emotionally uncomfortable
I guess for this one, both Elbies and Arbies need to look at the big picture and see that regardless of how uncomfortable the task is, it pays off to get it out of the way. Otherwise it only gets worse (more uncomfortable) if you put it off.
Chapter 6 was probably the most useful and original chapter in the book thus far. I really liked the discussion of ‘irritants’ and could relate it to my own workspace. I have piles of paper that I’ve been meaning to sort through, books I’ve been meaning to read, and projects I’ve been meaning to start/finish piled all throughout my workspace, both physical and digitally. The book was right when it says we put them out to remind ourselves to deal with them because we’re worried we forget otherwise.
Unfortunately after all the talk about what irritants are and how they effect our train of thought, they didn’t say much in the way of how to fix it other than to clean them up. What if we do forget about the projects they represent? I have different levels of irritants, and some I try to put in less obvious places, but I forget about them for months before stumbling upon them again and suddenly they are top priority again, out in the open with all other irritants. The chapter actually mentioned a few more of these procrastination-related bad habits, but no real solution to fix them other than ‘take it one step at a time’, ’10 minutes a day’ etc. For me, the most useful part is being aware of them, and I think the recovery process will be a natural follow through from that knowledge. Fixing it depends on the individual, but I can see myself actually conquering these ‘irritants’ in the next few months now that I know about them.
In the latter half of the chapter, it talked about left brain/right brain burn-outs. It was right, these are familiar states of mind for all of us. I was surprised though, that they didn’t mention ‘writers block’ in the list of right brain burn-outs. It was the first thing I thought of when they started talking about burn-outs.
Every weekend I find myself sketching out a huge TO-DO list on in dry-erase marker beside my desk, and this chapter broke down this habit of mine into pieces and helped me analyze what works about it. Here’s mine from last week:
Arbie’s are ‘scatterbrained’ and that exactly how my dry-erase board looks at the beginning – completely scattered. But I’m only part Arbie. Once I have my thoughts written down, I need to put some order to them, and that is where an Elbie’s conventional thinking comes into play. I take all the items on the list and number them based on priority. In this particular week, I drew a clock below it all and scheduled out how long I would spend on each item on the list.
I guess I just instinctively asked myself the ‘Lakein’ questions what is the best use of my time? am I wasting my time? and Is there a way to simplify this? throughout the whole process. It’s more common sense than anything.
Chapter 5 then rambles on (about nothing) about how you shouldn’t waste peoples time by rambling on about nothing. I stopped reading after that, but I guess we all need a good dose of irony every once in a while.
So this chapter didn’t jive with me as much as some of the others. It did make a couple good suggestions in how to really break down a project – first into major steps, and then further by making a list of specific activities to accomplish each step. But this is fairly common sense for me, and I’ve been doing it for years.
Another thing it talks about is getting a day planner and set up useful reminders for these plans, like sticky notes. I agree that a calendar is good to have, but I’m not so set on it’s suggestion of a physical book. My calendar is on Google calendars, and it syncs with my phone for taking it with me. Reminders can be set up as alarms on my phone, and I don’t lose myself under a pile of sticky-notes. Learning from my mom, I know that sticky notes can get out of hand if you use them too much.
Finally it suggests organizing your thoughts and activities using ‘mind maps.’ Basically a circle with ‘branches’ sticking out all around with words on these branches. We were forced to use this method in grade 7 science for taking notes on our textbook readings, and I was not a fan. All of mine turned out extremely messy. Even if it wasn’t in my chicken-scratch writing, I think the whole mind-mapping concept is extremely disorganized. Find me one nice, organized looking mind-map and I will take it bak, but until then I stand by that statement.
Overall, my opinion on this chapter is a “thanks but no-thanks” to Organizing for the Creative Mind. Better luck with chapter 5 maybe.
===============================================================Chapters 1 -3
Organizing for the Creative Person is a book full of useful nuggets of information about how the artistic mind functions. There are a ton of suggestions how “Arbies” can fit into a society structured by (and for) “Elbies.” The problem is that the book reads with a very ‘self-help‘ heavy voice, and feel-good “you can do it!” messages water down the real pieces of knowledge is brings to the table. Throughout this blog, I will distill each chapter down to the basics and point out these nuggets I think are great suggestions. Where applicable, I will reflect on such pieces of information, and how I see it being useful in organizing my own life.
This opening chapter takes you through a bunch of cliche inspirational suggestions like reach for the stars, set your goals, and be optimistic. Cheese, cheese and cheese. Where is the useful nugget? And how does it relate to me and my experiences? I’ll tell you.
There is analogy about raindrops being opportunities, and you are trying to catch them all in buckets surrounding your umbrella. This is both extremely visual and actually really clever. It says we need to figure out our goals (call them buckets) and as opportunities (rain drops) fly at us, we have to tilt our ‘umbrella’ towards these buckets, and let the others pass. I realize that I have learnt this the hard way this summer by taking on too many projects at once. In the end, I had to drop a couple and focus on the ones that are important; the ones that move me closest to my goals (fill the right buckets). There is no way any one of us can all fill all the buckets surrounding our umbrella, so we must lean towards the ones we want the most. The others will fill in due time as life progresses.
This chapter is actually really interesting, clumping the world into two types, “Elbies” and “Arbies.” Left Brained and Right Brained. Nobody is 100% one way or another, but I found it pretty cool how I am split between them. For example, I squeeze my toothpaste tube in a roll like an Elbie, but my passion level for music marks me as an off-the-charts Arbie. In grade 11 I placed extremely high nationally in the Fermat competition -a giant math test, which is based purely on logical thinking (Elbie), and yet as a filmmaker I am extremely visual and related to 99% of the Arbie qualities outlined in the book. My score in the ‘test’ at the end of the chapter concluded and Elbie-Arbie ratio of 4-8.
These are interesting things to ponder, and I’ve been pondering them all week. I’m pretty sure I am a strong mix of the two. This book is extremely bias towards extremely strong right brained individuals, so I’m going to have to take it with a grain of salt – seek out the Arbie-based suggestions towards organization that I like, while still using the strength in my left brain to do the rest.
In an echo of Chapter 1, this final chapter I’ll be talking about in this blog post focuses on priorities. Surrounding this main point is mostly fluff about how we need to spend more time doing ‘quality things’ and things we would regret not doing on our deathbed. Anyways…
One of the challenges it suggests is marking down all your activities for a week and see what hours you spend doing what. I already know the answer, that I spend way too much time in the ‘Not Urgent and Not Important’ quadrant, with facebook and youtube and twitter etc, and who doesn’t?? But the underlying message has a good point. The ‘Important and not Urgent’ category does get swept under the rug a lot when it shouldn’t. Shifting my focus to this new quadrant is going to help reduce stress levels and get things done on time. I just need to find a way to tell when I’m focusing on things ‘Urgent and Not Important’ category. A real life example of this theory shines through in Gmail’s new Priority Mailbox system. Check it out if you haven’t, it’s pretty cool.
Course blog for Production Management.