THE STARTUP ARTIST – 007 – Brain Juice Dynamite – Productivity for Artists

Published by Nick Welch on

Welcome to The staRTup Artist.

Making stuff is hard. Making lots of stuff is even harder.

Last week I talked about WHY you need to increase the quantity of work you’re creating. But this week I’m going to talk about HOW you can get more done.

How are we going to do that? Productivity. [Insert groans here.] Sorry, kids. We gotta talk about the tough subjects if we want to get to the point where we wake up every day smothered in our own Chocolate Awesome Sauce. Productivity, like anything, can be an amazing tool to add to your tool box. So let’s figure out how to earn a nice shiny Productivity Merit Badge, shall we?

Let’s start with this guy:

Improved productivity means less human sweat, not more. — Henry Ford

Boom goes the dynamite. We need to work smarter…not harder. I KNOW you’re listening now. And I’m listening, too. To myself. All the time. Sometimes it gets irritating.

Phase One: Environment

One of the fastest an easiest ways to amp up your productivity is to make adjustments to your environment. Working in a positive and inspiring environment can boost your creative juices. Lighting and posture play huge roles in how we feel and how well we work. Get a comfortable chair–slightly reclined if possible– and keep your computer monitor 24-36 inches from your eyes and at or slightly below you eye level. Sitting in an uncomfortable position, hunched over for hours is a really good way to turn into that weird lady on the bus but it doesn’t do much for your bottom line. Also, poor lighting is a poison. It can cause eye strain, headaches and dissatisfaction with the human race. People who spend the majority of their time in poor lighting are 87% more likely to be cereal killers. That is, consuming copious boxes of sugar latent marshmallow bits and slogging around with tummy aches, biting people’s heads off. This is all true. I’m sure of it.

A clean and organized work space can boost productivity simply by cutting out the confusion. Spend 10 or 15 minutes every day cleaning up your space and putting things away. It’s hard to jump right into inking when you don’t know where your pens and brushes are. Organization is a huge key here. Putting time into functional storage and filing practices up front will save your boatloads of time in the future. Keep necessary tools within arms reach. Keeping your tools nearby and organized will ramp up your productivity.

Having a potted plant in your office has been shown to increase productivity and overall happiness. Don’t forget to add watering it to your list of tasks because when it dies, so will a piece of your soul.  Make sure that your walls are decorated with a splash of color and inspiring art work or quotes instead of cobwebs. If your work space looks like a dungeon there’s a good chance that you’re work will be the physical embodiment of the guttural cries that can be found in such places.

Keep your technology updated if and when possible. Having the latest and great equipment isn’t always an option for The Startup Artist. But if you’re using a Windows based computer like I am it’s best not to put off updates for weeks until you’re forced to do them. Because then 2.5 hours of your 3 hour work window will be spent waiting for the damn computer to start back up. Similarly, keep the the rest of your software updated, that way you’re not encountering issues when you’re trying to work.

Lastly, committing yourself to mastering your tools can decrease the time it takes to complete the work itself. Yeah, I know, it all comes with time. But you can’t race in the Le mans if you don’t know which pedal is the gas and which is the brake.

Phase Two: Process

One of the best ways to make sure your process boosts productivity over-all is to actually have one. What’s you process? Don’t know? Yeah, me neither. We need to DO THIS STUFF, people! Having a routine is a key to success. Adding structure to your day ensures you complete the things you need to do. Start by establishing the tasks that are necessary each day. Confine email checking and activities that swallow you up to twice a day and use a timer. Don’t become a professional email returner-er. Then, block out the rest of the day with your creative stuff. You should also attempt to set realistic daily and hourly goals for yourself.

Studies have shown that people who take necessary breaks are more productive than people that work straight though.  But when you take a longer break, get up and get out of the space. Getting up and moving helps blood flow and good blood flow helps your brain do that thinky thing. Absorbing some Vitamin D, breathing in some fresh air and going for a quick walk has been doing wonders for me. Sometimes you just have to hit the F5 and refresh, baby!  (I’ll have more on this in the next section.)

Break your project into chunks and track your progress. Nothing keeps you motivated and working like checking a box. (Except maybe pizza. And beer.) Seeing everything that you’ve accomplished written down can propel you forward. Not to mention, if you’re creating your own comic, there’s a lot of moving pieces there to loose track of. If you’re working on your project part-time and there’s a day or more in between work sessions it can be daunting to keep track of where you’re at. So KEEP TRACK! That way, when you return to the grind stone you can get back to work quickly instead of standing around picking your nose and saying, “What the hell am I doing, again?”

Phase Three: Brain Juice Dynamite

It’s time. You’ve been waiting for this haven’t you? Or maybe by this point, you even forgot? What the heck is Brain Juice Dynamite? Well, are you ready for some totally contorted Nick science?

KABLAMO…here we go…

So here’s the thing, our cognitive brain juice is limited. So we need to maximize it. The brain consumes 20% of the calories burnt by the body. Cause, it’s, like, doing important stuff, man! This means you need to baby that thing more than your cell phone battery. It needs to be fueled and recharged and loved. So for the love of god, don’t skip meals! Your brain needs to calories to think! There is, literally, limitations to the number of good decisions our brains can make everyday. Your poor little brain — running on just coffee and Chiclets — having spent 30 minutes picking out shoes and clothes. That guy is a misused organ, indeed. There’s some folks that are familiar with this concept. One of them was Steve Jobs. You ever notice he wore the same outfit everyday? Yeah, that’s because he understood what it meant to reserve your cognitive power for stuff that matters! This is why I’m wearing maroon corduroys and a gold polyester shirt. I mean, who cares?!! I got art stuff to think about, man!

There’s also a technique called The Pomodoro Technique. When employed, it can drastically increase your productivity by keeping your mind sharp. Studies have shown that is best to take breaks BEFORE you need them. By doing this you avoid giving your brain fatigue. You get more done by being energized and by having a clear mind.

Here’s the steps:
– Choose a task to work on exclusively for 25 minutes.
– Set a timer.
– Work on the task until the timer rings.
– Take a five-minute break.

– Repeat this cycle four times and then take a 15-minute break.

So’s you know: A break between 30 seconds and 5 minutes is called a “Microbreak”

Beyond implementing this technique, it’s worth noting that taking a “15 second break every ten minutes has been shown to decrease brain fatigue by 50%”. So start taking both your work and breaks seriously folks.

I’m telling you, guys, if you leverage this data into a routine and a process that you’re comfortable with, you’re going to blow this thing up! It’s your Brain Juice Dynamite!

The Final Countdown

I want to know if you have a process and routine for your work. How much of your brain was melted by all of this structured break talk?  Tell me about it! In that commenty Mcbox down there. It’s fer talkin’ to me. And I’m always inspired by the things you have to say!

So, until next time, light the fuse on your productivity and run with the stick of dynamite between your teeth like a dog with a bone. If you do, Havoc will be guaranteed!

P.S. I’m not that smart. So here’s some of my sources for this article:

For a more in depth look on creating an awesome environment to work in, check out this article: HERE
And here’s further reading on Microbreaks and a slew of other tidbits in a handy info-graphic: HERE

Nick Welch

Nick is loudmouthed storm of havoc working on a number of projects that will see the light of day sooner or later. In the meantime, he's writing motivational and inspirational articles for sequential artists and writers.


JamesGSR · October 12, 2016 at 2:33 am

Awesome article, I found myself wanting to stand up and say ‘Eureka!’ at least 5 times! (Or at least the version of eureka that means ‘YOU have found it!’) My father drilled the phrase ‘work smarter, not harder’ into me from a young age, and I’ve seen it’s power firsthand. Its great to see it here. And it’s too true what you say about taking breaks. It sounds so counterproductive, but is so necessary to being productive. All in all, love this article and will be sharing it to whomever will listen! Keep writing this digital gold!

HollyDae · October 12, 2016 at 7:06 pm

Love this whole article Nick. I will need to come back and reread this later because there’s a lot here and I don’t think I got it all the first read through (especially since a certain live stream is playing in the background, hehe…). Thanks man!

Nick Welch · October 12, 2016 at 3:10 pm

Awesome! Thanks, Holly!

Nick Welch · October 12, 2016 at 3:10 pm

Thanks for the comment, James! Structuring your day, including breaks, is definitely valuable information and honestly, I didn’t about it at all until I started researching this article!

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