Saturday, November 15, 2008

Minimizing Chaos

For all that the stereotype exists, it should not be an assumption that artists are disorganized or scatterbrained or out of touch. A lot of us seem to be more in touch in a lot of ways, and there is a huge range of people in the arts of all types. But too many of us (including those of us who are otherwise very organized and logical) can seem flaky because we take on too much all at once, running from one last-minute endeavor to another. And this doesn't affect just those in the arts; people of all walks of life take on more than they necessarily ought to. So here is some advice on how to minimize the chaos that can ensue from taking on too much at once.

- Don't procrastinate. I try to balance everything I am doing as much as possible by avoiding doing things at the last minute to every extent possible. This becomes more challenging the more people are involved, but it still really does help. The more you get done in advance in whatever time you have to work on something, the less you are trying to do all at once at the end.

- Keep a planner and maintain a schedule. If you keep a record of everything you are doing, you can do your best not to overextend yourself. I am involved in a lot of things with a lot of different groups, and so I encounter a lot of schedule conflicts. The only way I can really avoid this being a problem is by maintaining a thorough record of what I am doing. It relates back to not double-booking my artwork - I try to avoid double-booking myself as well.

- Don't let others pressure you. If you don't want to do something, don't let others pressure you into it, even if it might look good on your resume or if no one else is willing to do it. (A lot of women fall victim to this because they try to take care of everybody else before themselves.) You need to take care of yourself, first and foremost. If you are stressed out, overextended or otherwise overwhelmed, you cannot devote yourself fully to all of your endeavors and they will fall short, so it is a huge benefit to yourself and everything you are involved in to know how and when to say "No."

- Accept help. This is a real toughie for me because I tend to be a control freak. So I hate asking for help and don't make as strong of connections as I should in this regard. But if you can delegate work, by all means do so. We can all accomplish more and engage in loftier projects when we collaborate and work together. Also, don't be afraid to use available resources and to work with others and larger organizations to accomplish great things - some of them are there solely for the purpose of helping and working with others.

- Prioritize and let things go if you have to. I have a problem with this one too. I am very committed to what I start and hate to back out of things. We all hate to drop the ball on things, but sometimes it proves necessary. When it does, be selective about it. How important is it to blog something each and every day if you're running from one endeavor to another without pause? Probably not very. How important is it to fulfill your end of the grant that you received and to follow through with the project that you proposed? Very, but many organizations will gladly offer help if you need it so don't be afraid to ask.

I will admit that I don't always follow this advice myself, but I am learning. It is the only way I can manage so many things at once. I like to be as busy as possible, but I also like to maintain control over my own life and do not want to fall victim to over-scheduling, double booking and otherwise becoming overinvolved. It is the only way I can extend my reach and scope as much as I can.

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