A few years ago, still in college and in the midst of a long-distance relationship, I began to study about organization and time management. What I didn’t know at that time is that I was going to enjoy getting organized this much. And five years afterward I'm still studying a lot about it - so why not share all these years of study with you?
The most important thing is to have a goal. But not an “I want to be happy” type goal, have a very specific one instead. What do you want to achieve in a year? Or 5 years? Even in 10 years? What kind of life that you want? You really need to have this in mind, and it must be something that you really want, or you won’t be putting all your efforts towards it.
Break your goal into small tasks
If your goal is to be a successful illustrator, try to break that goal into small tasks. For example: What are you studying to become an illustrator? How many hours do you study each day? Try to add specific subjects that you need to study and do them in order to achieve that larger goal.
To be a successful illustrator (be more specific: work at Pixar as a character designer in 3 years)
Make anatomy studies
Share your work every day
When you see only the big picture, sometimes it can look like a twelve-legged monster, but break it into small tasks and I promise the monster will be at least fluffier and it may even give you a smile. The monster can be nice, and it can also not look like a monster at all. It all depends on your point of view.
Be as specific as you can
If you only make the first and second steps, there’s a big chance nothing is going to happen for you. You need to choose a deadline for your small tasks - how many times a day will I study this? What kind of anatomy will I study on that day - heads, arms, expressions, bones, muscles or gestures? What’s the minimum number of heads I will draw within an hour?
In order to make this easier for you do complete that, you need to be super specific so your brain will only see the task and you can start doing it. Procrastinating is SUPER easy, but completing a very specific task can be easier. It can be hard at the beginning but put your brain to work harder the first time, so on the second and third ones, it will be easier for you.
Use action verbs
Try to write your goals using as many action verbs as you can - like to draw, to write, to do, to send. "To search" is not an action verb, because it can make you look anywhere, but "to save” something you’re looking for can be easier to complete.
Know the best time to work
I have more energy in the morning, organize yourself to wake up early and use that in your favor. Always put your work that requires more thinking when you have more energy, and your mechanical work when your energy is not that high, so you can be more productive.
Create a to-do list
There are a lot of to-do lists and calendar apps, but if you don’t break your goal into small tasks, there will be no app that can help you.
Save at least one day a week to organize all the tasks you need, and if you prefer, put some time for those. It’s ok if you don’t complete them in that exact time, but try to complete some of them in a period of time, for example, tasks A through F until lunchtime, and from G through J until 6 pm.
Always be realistic to yourself, and don’t try to do all tasks in the world and push yourself - it will only cause you stress and frustration for not being a superhero(ine). And guess what? You’re not.
Can’t focus? Write it down
It’s completely normal if sometimes while we're doing something with our heads on the other side of the world, but when you must your mind back to that task, one thing that can help you is to write your worries into a notepad. Be informal, write it only for you, so after finishing your stuff, you can direct your attention to those notes, whenever you solve them or not.
In the most extreme cases, disconnect yourself
Even if writing your worries separately doesn’t help, turn off every single app you’re not using at the moment, put your phone on airplane mode, turn on some music and go. Just do your work and only allow yourself to stop when it’s finished.
To be more organized and have discipline doesn’t happen overnight, it requires persistence, change of habits and patience. It took me years to learn that, but after all those years, making a lot of wrong decisions on how to organize myself helped me think about all of this in a much quicker way.
Be kind to yourself, but also be persistent, and everything will be alright. :)
Text Revision: Mari Pinheiro