There are several self-help books with titles that are variations on the title of this blog post, but it’s an apt phrase for that feeling I get sometimes that tells me I need to do some existential spring cleaning by giving up bad habits, embracing new ways to be productive and creative, and setting healthy boundaries. I’m currently in the middle of some serious life upheaval, and as a result, I spent four months producing almost no creative work. This is unusual for me, since I LOVE my work and always have way too many projects on the go at any given time. But toward the end of last year, I got overwhelmed by emotional baggage and needed a kick in the butt to get back on track.
That kick came in the form of a close friend of mine who works as a project manager. She introduced me to the concept of kanban, a Japanese scheduling/production method that was developed at Toyota to improve manufacturing efficiency. It gets way more complex than the stripped-down version I’m using, but the basic idea is that all tasks that must be completed are sorted into three categories: To Do, In Progress, and Done. My friend helped me create a spreadsheet listing everything I needed or wanted to accomplish over the next several months and set realistic guidelines. But the most fun part was making the system physical with a wall of sticky notes so I can see exactly where I stand.
Admittedly, I have slacked off some in the midst of the confusion and stress surrounding the first few weeks of social distancing, but my sticky note wall is helping me stay on track. One of the most valuable things I have learned in the past month is that it’s ok to adjust deadlines and be kind to myself. Other ideas that have helped me enormously are ones I have borrowed from Marie Kondo – going forward, I am only taking on creative work that sparks joy in some way. I have also decluttered and organized my home and work space so that there is minimal clutter and I am surrounded by things I love.