The Art of Getting Things Done for the Non Conforming Creative

Creative, artistic, left-handed and ADHD often share similar attributes: they are creative, non conforming and hopelessly disorganized. But when the inspiration comes, they can be the most focused, productive and disciplined person that you know.

Well in life, we don’t only get to do the fun stuff. There are lots of boring stuff in between. Mind numbing tasks that can drain the life out of you but it has to be done. Because these tasks are so draining, often the creative person dread and delay to do it. This resulted in the person being tagged as a procrastinator, a dreamer or simply a lazy bump.

And sadly, sometimes the person believes that and becomes demotivated.

Today, I am not going to write about left-brained techniques that many ‘normal’ person is able to understand and follow. Neither am I going to write about how the world’s most well known artistic people and successful corporate figures (who have ADD and ADHD) are successful because they are organized.

What I am going to write is practical tips that I practice myself in order survive in the logical, left brained world.

A little bit about my background.

I have worked in corporate jobs for years. As the years go by, due to high staff turnover in both the companies I have worked in, my workload and responsibilities increases. I have to attend meetings, give training to my staff, run an intranet and manage communication. If I forget to update something, send out a timely communication, attend a meeting or get some important tasks done, not only there could be potential impact (financial and reputation) but I felt I would let many people down.

Therefore, I have no choice, I have to find a way to keep tabs of important stuff.

In mid 2017, I made the decision to resign from my job (of 6.5 years) to be a full time caregiver for my mom and an unpaid maid for the house. There are tasks that I never like to do like cooking, cleaning, washing yucky stuff (like dirty floor rags) and going to the wet market. Or when festival is around the corner and I have the huge spring cleaning to manage on my own.

Know your why

In order for you to be motivated to do tasks that you do not like, there must be a compelling reason to motivate you to do so. It is something very individual and personal.

For example, for me money is never a strong motivator for me to push through my comfort zone and make myself do tasks that I do not like or make myself work during my downtime. It is the fact that I wanted to help my staff because I started off in their shoes. I knew how helpless and overwhelmed they would feel if they do not get the support they need.

I also felt grateful because I was able to do the job that I am good at, get a reasonable salary and is able to use my skills to help hundreds of people each day.

These factors got me to sail through during in easy time and push me through on hard times and doing aspects of my job that I do not like.

Therefore, you need a compelling reason why you do what you are doing. Something that appeals to your heart and creative soul.

Fixed tasks and flexible tasks

You may not have a say in the tasks that you need to complete but you may be able to control the sequencing. For example, if you are a stay-at-home mom, you may need to cook for the kids, sweep and mop your floor daily, do the laundry, scrub the toilet, get the groceries, send and pick kids from school, and a million other things.

Certain tasks like sending and picking the kids to school and cooking- you have to stick to a fixed timing. If possible, these fixed timing tasks should be something that you find joy in doing. If not, try to cultivate the joy to do this. For example, I do not like to cook but when I was a caregiver it was necessary I made myself develop interest in cooking.

But others in between- there may be more flexibility and you do not need to make a rigid timetable. Examples are when to wash the bathrooms/ bedsheets/ curtains, vacuum the house, ironing clothes, bathe the dogs and buying groceries (by planning well you can minimize the number of times you need to visit the grocery store or market).

How I plan my day

I only use a to-do list when I need to plan for some important events or when I was still holding a corporate job. Else, I don’t really use a rigid to do list because I find myself having problems sticking to the list. I am just very non conforming even to my ownself.

Below is how I plan my day and I hope this give you some ideas.

As a caregiver, blogger and an unpaid maid, I do tasks when the ‘flow’ and inspiration arise to do it. But there are certain tasks I do at a fixed time such as my prayers (morning and evening) and taking my mom out for her evening walks. Others, I allow some flexibility but still get it done.

Examples:

1. Doing household chores
I know that I need to do the laundry about 3 times a week, wash my floor rags about once a week, iron clothes about 1.5weeks- 2 weeks, bathe my dogs weekly, replenish my dogs’ food when it is finishing, etc. Each day when I get up, I will sit and mentally plan for a while what I need to get done in the day.

If I plan to do marketing, I would also get meat to cook for my dogs in advance and do the groceries at the same time. This way I save time do not need to make multiple trips. And then if that day I feel I am up to it to do the laundry, I will do it later in the afternoon. If not, I will do it on another day.

Usually I do not procrastinate (like allow my laundry to pile up) because I do not like to accumulate too much of laundry. I don’t really need to schedule these tasks because after a while of repeating these tasks,  I get into the rhythm and do this tasks when I have the flow or mood to do it. You may wonder what if the mood never come? Well for some tasks like pulling grass…. the mood almost never come hence I have learnt to pay someone else to do it.

Otherwise, because of my strong whys (of the conscious choice I made to become an unpaid maid for my family), I always get these tasks done.

2. As a blogger
Usually if I have no inspiration, I am not able to write. And as you may know, these inspiration are unpredictable. At times I can write 4 or 5 posts at one go. Sometimes, I can stare at my laptop and nothing comes out. If I force myself, it felt like a huge tremendous chore.

Sometimes I may plan my day to get some household chores done in the morning and then work on my blog in the afternoon. But come afternoon I do not have the inspiration… what I do instead is that I would take out the ironing board and place in front of my TV. Then I would select some educational YouTube videos and then beam it over my TV from my Smartphone and listen/watch it while doing my ironing.

Conclusion

It is the flexibility that I allow myself that enabled me to transition happily from a corporate person to a caregiver/blogger/unpaid maid. Conventional and logical planning methods of checklists, to-do-lists, etc do not work with me unless it is for an event that requires a lot of details or at my corporate job (where I cannot afford to overlook important tasks).

It may be the same for you. If you are a creative, you still need to understand that there would be tasks that you dislike that comes with every choice that you make. You need to find a way to motivate yourself to do them and I strongly believe that you would be able to put your creativity to good use and understand why you still need to do certain things that you do not like. Find ways to slowly accept and build a rhythm into doing those tasks. After a while, it becomes a habit and would no longer be so annoying.

For example, I used to dislike sweeping and mopping the floor each evening. But I made myself do it because it was necessary and I also use that time as a time to put myself in meditative mood (because I am also trying to develop my mindfulness and keep myself more centered). After a while, it become a habit and I got used to picking up the broom at about 5pm almost each day.

But a final note is that- there would be some tasks that you know you absolutely will never like to do… in that case, do consider outsourcing it. For me it is clearing the weeds in my garden- if I manually pull the weeds out, I can work at it for days and see no results. But all I need was to get someone to do it and he gets it done in just 30 minutes using a weed trimmer.  So I decided to stop torturing myself and just pay up for someone to come in once a month to get it done for me.

 

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