Why I don’t make New Year resolutions (the productivity pitfall)
As the year draws to an end, it’s time to reflect on the progress made this year and set up goals for the new year coming up. I can’t believe this is already the last blog article of the year!
December is always a time of self-reflection for me, I look at what I accomplished during the year and what I want moving forward. And while most of this reflection is about my business, I also take the time to look at my personal life and if it aligns with what I want out of it.
I’m a strong believer in small actionable steps. I don’t believe in New Year resolutions, because they are often unachievable long term. A lot of people reflect on the year and set goals that are incredibly hard to keep up with, especially if their lifestyle is drastically different to begin with. Think about how many people sign up to the gym in January yet never keep up with it!
You may ask, what does this have to do with art? And the answer to this is everything!
New year resolutions are often seen through the lens of productivity and quantifiable achievements. The more, the better! But the reason why I don’t subscribe to this mindset is, like I said above, the difficulty in keeping up with those goals in the long term.
When it comes to art, we may wish to do 5 collections in a year, pitch our work everywhere, licence X artworks, create a course, etc. But to me, it’s not about that. I may wish to create new collections, but I don’t set a goal on how many collections I want to create during the year. Instead, I’ll set an hour or two a week where I only focus on a new collection. Sometimes it may be more, but I set a rough schedule where I only focus on that goal, without any quantifiable achievement to it. My collection may take 2 months to complete, just as it may take 2 weeks or 5 months depending on my current workload and schedule. And I adjust these expectations based off my current schedule, and I stay flexible about it.
Oliver Burkeman, writer of the popular book Four Thousand Weeks, has great insight on productivity. I’ve had the chance to attend two of his online productivity workshops, and it’s not only insightful, but his approach to productivity is refreshing.
In a world where the ‘grind’ is constantly promoted as THE way to have an accomplished career and life, Burkeman instead suggests that we lower our expectations on productivity. By being more flexible on how you act on your goals, you end up being more productive because the strict rules can actually hinder your productivity.
Burkeman suggests to set yourself at minimum 15 minutes on something you really want to work on. 15 minutes is a very achievable period of time to set for yourself, and if you have a family with young kids to take care of, those mindset gurus saying to wake up at 4am and work for 2h on your project before the day starts might not work for you. But 15 minutes is doable. You can do it whenever you want during the day, whichever day you want in the week, but you must do it. Only 15 minutes! And if your 15 minutes extends to 2h, then that’s great. But if not, then you did your 15 minutes and you can be proud of yourself for doing it. And that time can be spent on anything that you wish to work on at the time. If you want to create a new pattern collection, then spend 15 minutes gathering ideas. If you want to improve your drawing skills, spend 15 minutes doing a class or drawing from life. If you expect to have to spend 3h on your project, the time barrier might discourage you and you will end up not starting it at all. But if you have 15 minutes to do, it’s not a big enough time period to prevent you from starting. And 15 minutes is better than none.
And this is why I don’t set myself New Year resolutions! Instead, I suggest that you set yourself loose goals, with no time limit. Where do you want to take your career next? What do you want to improve? Do you want to have a better work/life balance? Once these ideas are loosely figured out (write them down if you can), break each of those goals into small achievable steps. If you wish for a better work/life balance, how can you achieve this? Maybe working on setting up passive income helps you taking more time for yourself and your family. How can you set up passive income? Write down those ideas. Now you have a list of small actionable steps that you can slowly work on!
The next time that you want to start a project and feel discouraged, set yourself a timer for 15 minutes. Who knows where that will lead you next!
And as a final note, a big thank you to everyone reading me here, and everyone that kept encouraging me to keep going. This year has been a year of firsts. I revamped my website, created this blog and newsletter in hopes to share a bit more of myself on here. I pitched to several companies and licensed two fabric collections that I can’t wait to be able to share with you. I’ve had a busy year with my illustration work, I illustrated 3 picture books and 4 middle grade book covers. I created a few pattern collections, with more to come soon.
So thank you for your support and I can’t wait to share more exciting news with you in 2024.
See you then and Happy Holidays!