Organize and Declutter Your Workspace
Clearing Your Space
A working practice that I find most useful is clearing my workspace. Whatever I am doing be it cooking, painting or writing, then clearing my workspace helps me to get in the right mindset for the work. Before beginning a project taking the time to remove all the unnecessary bits of junk helps me to de-clutter my mind and focus on the job in hand.
Know the Difference Between Clearing Your Space and Procrastination
I have a circle of concern, for instance if I am going to do something at my desk, then I clear the space around my desk. If I am going to do something in the kitchen I clear my space in the kitchen. Worrying about anything outside the circle of concern is procrastination, for instance if you intend to do a painting why are you washing the pots? (Wash the pots when you intend to cook).
Give it the Right Level of Attention
Taking my desk as an example. Depending on how much time or energy I have, I might simply move items from my desk to another part of the room - outside of my circle of concern. Or I might clear the desk completely, put everything away, throw away rubbish and sweep the floor.
Put Away Other Projects
My art studio is the same room as I write in. If I have a painting I am working on I usually focus on that painting to the exclusion of other projects, but when it is done and I decide to write I take down my easel and put it away in order that my mind can be completely focussed on my work. I found this especially useful when I was at university, as each month would usually lead into a new project or essay. I found putting away previous work really helpful to keep focussed.
Gathering Your Utensils
Once you have a nice clean space gather your utensils: if you were cooking you might get spoons and bowls, pans and ingredients. If you were writing you might get pens, paper or your PC, or paints and canvasses if you were painting. Get everything you will need to complete the work in hand. Personally I hate being in the middle of a project and needing to run around the house searching for a pencil sharpener. If you have everything you need right in front of you, there will be no distractions.
Make a Cup of Tea or Coffee and a Snack
Before I start a project I like to make sure I have a cup of tea on my desk, which I sip as I work. I know other people who prefer to use tea breaks as an incentive. ‘I’ll just get this bit done then I’ll have a cup of tea.’ I don’t like this, I think it leads to rushed work and therefore poor quality work. However in some situations a tea break can help to reset the mind and restore focus. Having a snack before you begin will help regulate blood sugar and keep you going throughout the work. Being hungry can influence your mood negatively and can be a distraction.
Remove Other Distractions
I often work at night when most people are asleep so I do not usually get those annoying phone calls or unexpected visitors. Of course the Internet can be a distraction for some people, especially Facebook or Twitter. If I am cooking that is not too much of a problem but if I am writing or painting, I usually avoid these sites like the plague. I am lucky in that my wife will most likely leave me alone while I am working and go and read a book or do her own thing, but if you have children they might not understand that you need the space to work. I have no children but perhaps working when your children are in bed might be the best solution, and communicating with your partner, parents or housemates that you are working and do not wish to be disturbed could help.
Be Mindful of Your Time
Time management is important. Know how much time you have available. There is very little point in spending twenty minutes clearing your space if you only have thirty minutes to work, unless you are clearing your space in preparation for tomorrow’s session, which could still be a worthwhile use of your time so long as you are mindful of it.
Take Action and Do It
By this point there should be absolutely nothing stopping you from creating your masterpiece. Be it a culinary delight, an epic painting, your magnum opus, or whatever you want to do. So take action and plunge right into it. And hopefully these preparations will help you to create your best work.