I do this thing sometimes, between projects, where I’ll start so many little personal efforts that eventually they stack to a point where it seems like I’m working harder than I do on actual paid assignments. I’ll tell myself I should be resting and recharging, but one thing leads to another and before I know it, I’m juggling so much that it feels like I’m not meaningfully progressing on anything.
A lot of this comes from feeling like I should be taking full advantage of any free time to scratch those creative itches and maybe pick up some new tricks, but time and time again I end up biting off more than I can chew, and end up all stressed out, like I’m getting nowhere just picking at a bunch of different things.
The past few days, I come out here and work a bit on some portraits I’ve been making as gifts, then do some 3d rendering tests (learning v-ray at the moment)… Picked up an oculus rift recently and have been playing around with a few of those 3d painting/modeling programs (OMG SO COOL BTW)! I have these little comics i’ve been working on a little bit too. Between that, the daily MB-related maintenance and email things, the kids, the dogs, and the yard, pool, turtles, chickens, or whatever else may need my attention the days go by insanely fast and it seems like I have nothing to show for it except for a bunch of half finished in-progress stuff. And some well fed kids and animals too ha.
This many years in, it still amazes me at how easy it is to start too many things and lose focus. In times like these its best to keep my head down and grind on stuff, in the hope that at some point there will be some light at the end of the tunnel. The silver lining is that this is now a familiar scenario and over the years I’ve found a few things that help me to prioritize.
I categorize based off of importance. Gifts and commitments, work related learning efforts, ongoing personal projects, and then there’s just the fun stuff.
I’ll usually bump gifts and commitments toward the front of the cue, and will generally aim to get these efforts finished up first. …I’ll be honest, a lot of the time it’s not what I’d most like to be working on, but these are the efforts that make you feel good at the end. Maybe it’s a portrait for your mom or a dinosaur for your kid. Its often not something you’d do if left to your own devices but thats the best practice, and on top of that you’re using your craft to make someone happy, which is the best.
Work-related learning tends to come second, as thats how I feed the kiddos so its important to stay competitive and up on current trends and techniques…
My own personal projects factor in somewhere after that, followed by aimless experimentation. These last two may be selfish indulgences but are also key to furthering development.
A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING:
This sounds kind of dumb, but I like to have different projects set up in different areas of my studio. It helps me compartmentalize and keep my thoughts separate. It assigns a sort of individual importance to each of these projects and it seems easier to sit down and sink into them. This isn’t always possible but I try.
BLOCKING OUT TIME:
If I’m coming out to work for the night, I take mental note of how long I have and will block things out based on priority. For instance, if I’m aiming to get these portraits finished first, I’ll spend roughly 2/3 of my evening on them, then maybe spend that last third either in 3ds max, on the comic, or playing with some of that new VR stuff (SO MUCH FUN!!!). I’m not slavish about touching every project each day, but if I can move the needle even a little bit on a couple things I’m a happy camper.
The best possible scenario is eventually you get everything to respective stages of completion, and then have a few days where all you do is finish stuff. That’s such a satisfying feeling, and can be the pay off for all that time when nothing seems to be moving forward. More often there will be things that get left by the side of the road to die, but if I’m lucky I can get most of what I had on my plate wrapped enough to move on.
How do you balance or prioritize your side projects?
Don’t have much to show this month so I figured I’d pepper this post with some random invented sketches made in procreate on the iPad.