Let’s Get Irresponsible!

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my linktr.ee)

I belong to a writer’s group where people can become “accountability buddies.”  The  idea is you and your buddy check in with each other on progress and encourage/support each other.  It’s a great idea, but one I rarely do as my own planning/overplanning does the job and then some.  If anything I need someone to help me to slow down.

I joked to some friends that I needed an Irresponsibility Buddy.  Shortly after making that joke I realized it’s probably a great idea.  

Here’s how I see it working.

Pair up people in whatever creative group or groups you’re in as Irresponsibility Buddies.  Your goal is not to encourage productivity – far from it.  Instead your weekly checkins would ask such things as:

  • What did you do to relax?
  • Are you having fun?
  • How’s your stress level?
  • And so on as long as it has nothing to do with “hey, how much did you get done?”

Again, I am serious.  I certainly could have used this, except too many of my creative friends are as driven and anal-retentive as I am.  It would be nice to have someone check in on you without risking taking a friendly check-in as more pressure to perform.

Other creative groups – writers, cosplayers, etc. – could also build Irresponsibility into their meetups and checkins.  What did you do not related to your project?  What is a fun thing we can do together that is totally a waste of time?  Is everyone slacking off appropriately?

When I look at these ideas – which I would have laughed at ten years ago – I think they’re more needed now than ever.  This is because creative hobbies and efforts have changed in the age of the internet and late-stage capitalism.

We’re under more pressure to monetize things all the time – and have the tools to do it.  We’re in a social media microscope and feel accountable, pressured to perform, and in competition with everyone.  Everything is moving fast and we’re just trying to keep up (without asking if we should).

As many of you know around the middle of the year I slow down, doing less “scheduled” projects, taking time to experiment, etc.   In short I’m going to have fun and get in touch with my creative urges that are all-too-often yoked to a schedule.  Of course as I find Project Management fun, I cause my own problems a lot, but I recognize it.

Let me challenge you – how can you get irresponsible and unproductive?

Steven Savage

A Schedule Isn’t A Personality

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my linktr.ee)

.My next book, “Think Agile, Write Better,” is about changing how we writers think about work.  There are many writing systems out there (even Agile ones), but they don’t always change your mindset.  Ticking off check boxes and statuses doesn’t mean you grow.

While outlining the book, my mind turned to the subject of schedules.  Many writers have schedules – and folks like me make them professionally.  But as an Agilist, I know sometimes schedules don’t work, and we cling to them anyway.  Suddenly the words “A Schedule Isn’t a Personality” leapt into my mind, and then into this blog post.

Why do some of we writers get so obsessed with schedules?  Why does it become part of us even when it doesn’t work or drives us crazy, becoming some kind of graven image of times and events?  Why do we obsess about schedules to our detriment?

First, I think schedules give a sense of control.  We have an idea of what to do, when to do it, and what will happen.  This ignores the unpredictable nature of creativity, life, and the world (especially as of late).  The control is often an addictive illusion.

Secondly, I think schedules are things we expect.  Everyone else has a plan.  We have schedules at work and at home.  They’re supposed to be there, right?  So we create them even if they don’t need to exist (or be that tight).

Third, I think we want a schedule due to social pressure.  Some authors have tight release dates and schedules, so shouldn’t we?  Someone else expressed a plan, and we feel we should have one too.  We’re not authors if we don’t do this, right?  We ignore that every creator is different.

Fourth, we do it as we were taught to do so.  We’re following some writing system we adopted, or because our parents influenced us.  Scheduling can become a habit (trust me, I know) even if it serves nothing.

We make schedules for many reasons, but not out of some deep motivation, need or reason.  This is why so many self-created schedules can be frustrating because we think they’re important but don’t care about them.  I’m all for scheduling, but not a schedule as self-abuse.

So don’t let a schedule overtake you.  Make one because you really want to and for your own reasons.  Even me, the Project Manager, know there’s times not to make them.

Steven Savage

Priorities and Peace of Mind

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Regular readers have noticed I’ve slacked off on my blogging the last few weeks. It is with no small irony that I’m blogging about what this taught me.

The short form is between the novel, the Seventh Sanctum rewrite, work, and the current chaos in the world, I am busy and tired. The blog sometimes takes a back seat to other things. My regular two posts a week become one. Sometimes there’s just an update.

The reason for this is actually great fuel for a blog post (and it keeps up my momentum).

One thing I’ve emphasized over and over in my Agile practices is the importance of priorities. I’ve learned to force-rank my projects – nothing can be of the same significance – so I know where to direct limited time and energy.

In the last two months, which so much going on, the blog was – unfortunately – lower on that list. It won’t be that way forever, but it’s been lower on the list for a while. I accept this because I prioritized.

This is a great advantage of prioritization – peace of mind.

When you know what is essential to do, you can get to it. You focus on what delivers the most value and tackle it. The fear of not doing these essential things fades as you’re working on what matters first.

When you know what is less important, you have less stress about not getting it done. You’ve already accepted things may not get done and thus worry less when you don’t do them.

Finally, by having your efforts prioritized, you can worry less about what to do. Prioritization takes all the worrying you might do over “what’s next” and gets it out of the way before it causes anxiety. Think of it as “worry before it becomes worry.”

So I’m not happy I’ve blogged less, and I’d like to do more. But it’s not a source of stress with me as I made my decisions. Besides, as I always re-prioritize, I know things will change.

If you’re having a lot of stress over projects, consider more time on prioritizing. It might make things easier.

Steven Savage