Building the ability to focus is one of the most key skills in life, especially in any professional setting. To be an effective and efficient worker you need to be able to focus on the task at hand and to be able to block out distractions that hamper your work and make the working day last longer and longer.
This takes training, and is something that has become harder and harder in recent times due to the amount of opportunity for instant entertainment and easy distractions. It’s always very tempting to put off that work and stick on the next episode on Netflix, Youtube or to scroll Twitter or Instagram for a little longer….then 3-4 hours have gone by.
Today I’m going to talk about 2 things related to building focus, the Pomodoro technique and my personal favourite app to track Pomodoro sessions.
The Pomodoro technique is a focus building exercise where you pre-commit to a length of time to perform a certain task. This was developed in the 1980’s by Francesco Cirillo where he grabbed a tomato kitchen timer and set it to 25 minutes for the set task and then 5 minutes for a break.
Here’s how to go about doing it. Shut off all distractions that may pull you away from the task in hand – phone, email, Internet, Youtube etc.
- Decide on the task to be done.
- Set the pomodoro timer (traditionally to 25 minutes).
- Work on the task.
- End work when the timer rings and put a checkmark on a piece of paper.
- If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (3–5 minutes), then go to step 2.
- After four pomodoros, take a longer break (15–30 minutes), reset your checkmark count to zero, then go to step 1.
Have a drink of water handy before you start you don’t want to disrupt workflow getting up and away from your work.
In the 5 minutes break don’t go on e-mails, twitter, Youtube etc as you will end up reading/watching something that will stick in your mind and distract you from your next session.
Keep a notepad next to you so that you can note down anything that does distract you, and over time see what is a recurring distraction.
Next I want to talk about my Pomodoro App of choice, of course you can use any old timer but I think this app works really well for me.
In Forest you have a patch of grass everyday on which to try and grow little trees. Once you set the length of a session and start it a little tree will grow, if you end your session early the tree will wither and die.
It changes focus building into a little challenge and adds a little psychological weight to it too, in that I don’t want my little trees do die and I want to try and fill that patch of grass everyday.
As I said this works for me but a simple timer will get you started on Pomodoro sessions.
I hope this helps you guys, try it out and see how more effective you can be in your work.
This one is going to highlight something that a lot of artists overlook – draftsmanship.
Most people gloss over their technical ability in illustration as they feel it is beneath them, but really this is the work that underpins all your creative work.
The core of this is confidence, a sense of purpose to the lines you create and being able to ‘see’ the world in as 3 dimensional forms when you draw, simplifying things down to either boxes, cylinders, cones or spheres and combinations of these.
This requires a seriously strong ability to draw these forms are any rotation in perspective.
I’m going to talk about Drawabox in this post but make no mistake if you want to level up your drawing ability and creative output, this needs to be a daily exercise you engage with.
Drawabox is a completely free online resource with lessons, video resources and challenges to go through. It’s based upon a unit structure of Pasadena College of Art and sets you up with a key approach to art.
It prioritises mileage and confidence in line, everything you draw must be done in ink. It stands as a definite mark that is either correct or not, highlighting areas of your skillset that can be worked on. Work on printer paper, this will get you over preciousness with your sketchbook.
Do not be proud and think the early exercises are beneath you, I guarantee you there is always something you will learn from it.
So go ahead and draw a box (or 250 of them in the challenge)
Post your progress to your blog if you like.
Hi All. This is the first of a series of summer posts to keep you all inspired and motivated over the holiday period.
This is aimed at students to help them progress their skillset and prepare them for the next year of studies. But of course these activities are just good advice for everyone and can be applied to all areas of life.
This post is aimed around 30 day challenges and habit building. If you want to develop any skill you need to engage with it on a daily basis. This doesn’t have to be for hours on end what is more important is that you are building the habit bit by bit and strengthening it over time.
At the end of the challenge the option then lies with you as to whether it is something you want to stick with and keep the streak going or switch on to learning something else.
30 days is a really nice period of time in that it isn’t too long that you feel you are focussing on only one aspect for too long, or that it is unachievable. For example think of how many people instigate change in their life through giving up habits for lent.
This is a really popular challenge and there are many throughout the year that many artists engage in: Inktober, Mer-May, Ani-May, Smaugust etc. these are great fun and really motivating to keep pushing your skills onwards.
Because we are talking art and animation this might be a good example: 30 day challenge to draw/animate everyday, however on a weekly basis you could shift the area of focus. So 30 days drawing but 1 week on hands, 1 week on heads, 1 week on anatomy, 1 week on environments, with some gesture studies thrown in for good measure.
Of course there are many 30 day drawing and animation challenges online with a different prompt for each day.
One of the key things is that is you miss a day that is fine, the challenge doesn’t end and everything is not lost. Just just keep going! Don’t build the reverse habit of not doing the work, as that becomes harder to break.
How to make the 30 day challenge easier for you.
Resistance – Reduce the resistance to engaging with the task that you are setting yourself and increase the resistance to activities that will distract you from your goal.
For instance at night set up your drawing area so that it is all clean and fresh and ready for you to draw the next day. Clean the space, open a new page on the sketchbook, get your references ready.
This means that when it comes to start your drawing all you have to do is to sit down and begin.
Similarly anything that might distract you try to increase the resistance to engaging with that activity. For instance using printed/book reference so that the internet can’t distract you, or putting your phone in another room whilst you work.
I’ll have a future post about strengthening focus to help with these things.
Although this is focussed on art remember that you could apply 30 day challenges to any area of your life, health, exercise, wellbeing, diet, learning an instrument or language. Literally anything that you want to build your skills around.
Post your work to your blog and do your best, I believe in your power to be the greatest version of you!
Here’s a possible animation challenge: