Monday Blog of Accountability Part 3 – Encouraging Focus

  • On May 20, 2024 ·
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Letter Board on Light Blue Background says "Start Doing"

Today I want to discuss proper care and feeding of creative routine as well as little tricks I use to keep myself on track. My unique flavor of distraction might be different from yours but most of us struggle with it in some capacity. The goal here isn’t to take what I say as gospel but rather to start being more aware of your own habits so you can guide them intentionally.


Before you can start it’s a good idea to properly end what you were last doing. This might seem obvious but life expects us to juggle a lot. Phone alerts, website notifications, everything wants to ping your attention these days. If you have the luxury of enabling Do Not Disturb mode while working, go for it, the results can be life changing. It’s also a good idea to disable things that don’t need to instantly reach you, since honestly those can easily be abused and they eat away at time you could be using. Open your inbox and unsubscribe from emails you don’t read. A good newsletter can be a joy to go through. Bad ones simply want to sell something. If you’re worried about disappointing the people you subscribed to, I’m giving you permission to let them go. You don’t owe anybody your engagement. (Save a few entities like the government we all have to interact with) Somebody who guilts and shames users to keep them around is being manipulative and not worth your time. If there’s critical updates and they don’t push that information out to everybody then they won’t be in business very long.

Typical self-care rules apply. Get a proper night’s rest, wake up with the sun if you can, shower and get dressed in clothes that feel like you’re getting to work. Take breaks, get up and stretch, remember to hydrate and eat. This can be a good time to check email or any other messages that have some in. Give yourself a good stopping point to be done and decompress. Permitting yourself time to relax and focus on anything you want that isn’t your current project prevents burnout. It also allows for inspiration and new ideas to form.


There’s plenty of evidence that multitasking is bad. Doing more than one complex task at a time impacts our effectiveness, resulting in working slower and leading to making mistakes. It’s important to distinguish tasks by brainpower involved. If you find yourself having to make conscious decisions it’s probably complex. Carrying on a conversation is a complex task. Folding laundry largely isn’t. Most big projects will have a mix of both. I find it’s best to treat complex tasks like outlining or framing. Once the heavy decisions are made it’s easier to relax and appreciate the busywork. Having to concentrate for too long can be mentally or emotionally draining. It’s possible to get worn out by something even if you love it. Likewise, your mind wants to escape if you’re bored doing tasks with no thought behind them.

One of my biggest problems is switching tasks. If I’ve spent a considerable amount of time doing one thing, like writing or researching, it can be hard to pivot to something else like drawing. I usually take physical breaks to get up, do some quick chore around the house, and start fresh. It’s also good to batch similar tasks together. If I’ve been drawing character designs all morning it’ll be easier to move to layouts or any other type of drawing than going from writing to drawing. These are the different hats to wear during a production and some have very different fits from each other.

I recommend starting projects with a session to define goals. Setting expectations like what you’re making, in what kind of state it needs to be delivered in, and a rough idea of the timeline will help you narrow down your approach instead of trying to figure all that out off the cuff. As mentioned earlier, there’s a time to look for inspiration and a time to save things for later. Of course being a creative type with ADHD means there’s going to be days where I sit down to work and can’t make myself do the thing I’ve penciled in. When that happens I let myself switch to another task on the project I can get excited about. As long as the work serves the the bigger goal it doesn’t matter which part gets done when.


Richard Williams tells a story in his book “The Animator’s Survival Kit” about asking Milt Kahl if he ever listens to music while working. Eduardo Quintana animated the exchange of Kahl exclaiming he’s not smart enough to think of more than one thing at a time.

UNPLUG! via Eduardo Quintana

While an amusing anecdote, this bit of advice is often discussed and contested. Personally I go in and out of wearing headphones throughout the day. Sometimes I need music to relax. Sometimes I’m blocking out irritating noise or trying to be courteous to others in the house. I believe the broader point Williams and Kahl were making was to be deliberate in your actions. If what you’re doing deserves your undivided attention, give it your undivided attention. Not everything does entirely all the time. Occasionally you realize the beats pounding in your ears are making it harder to think. You might also find yourself sitting across from Nina of Corporate Accounts Payable in Office Space (1999).

Misc. Tips, Tricks, and Advice

  • Give yourself earlier deadlines to finish than the real ones
  • Design projects with sections so there’s a minimum viable product to deliver even if you can’t complete all the sections
  • How do you achieve 3 things in a day? Try to achieve 5