Saturday, May 11, 2013

Ask a Creativity Coach: Do ONE THING

Plan to attend the May 18, 2013 Artist Survival Kit workshop "Artistic Practice: Motivation, Discipline and Busting Creative Blocks," at the Multi Arts Center in Stillwater, OK. Romney Nesbitt will be one of the presenters. More information and registration available at

Dear Romney,

My to-do list is not working. Even when all of my tasks are related to creating or promoting my art, I’m still not making measureable progress on my paintings.  What am I doing wrong?


Dear List-maker,

A to-do list works IF you complete the most important task on the list. A typical to-do list includes one or two “must-do” activities and a few worthwhile “should-do” tasks.  The top priority for an artist must be to create new art—this is the must-do.  Should-do tasks may be art-related such as straightening the studio, organizing contacts, research etc., but they are rarely urgent.

Artists prone to procrastination will choose to do an art-related task instead of tackling the most challenging task—creating. Why? Because creating is hard work. Surfing the net or reorganizing your work space doesn’t require risk, courage or persistence. Self-doubt can also lead you to postpone your most important work.  Doing an art-related task is seductive. It feels like you’re being productive while you’re doing it, but at the end of the day you may feel disappointed because you didn’t paint.  Busy-ness is not effectiveness.  Doing the wrong things won’t move you closer to your goal.

A different to-do list strategy might work. I found this tip in Timothy Ferriss’ book The Four Hour Work Week. He recommends two to-do lists for every day. One list has the most important task for the day such as “PAINT.” This list has only ONE THING on it.  The second to-do list could list other tasks you could do, if you have time. Do the ONE THING first, and then choose a task from your second list.

Two key questions can help you make to-do lists more effective.

Ask yourself, “What is the one thing I must accomplish today in order to feel satisfied with my day? (This is the one item on your ONE THING to-do list.)

What are three other activities I could do today that would contribute to my goal? (These items go on your second list.)

Use your work time wisely.  Create art first. Accomplish this ONE THING and it will make a difference in the way you feel at the end of the day.

Romney Nesbitt is a Creativity Coach and author of Secrets From a Creativity Coach.  She welcomes your comments and questions at Book her to speak to your group through OVAC’s ARTiculate Speakers Bureau.

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2012 issue of Art Focus Oklahoma.

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