Mode switching : Best of both worlds

(Creative / Perfectionist) 

Great way to accomplish anything is either be too precise and mechanistic or be too fuzzy and artistic. People who do meaningful work, create value and change things drastically forever, are either artists or perfectionists.

Both are extremely contrasting approaches of getting something done. 

An artist by default runs on his intuition & gut feeling. He goes with the flow and doesn’t have much of a plan in mind about the endeavour he has taken up, on a micro or macro level. Best of the artists let their creativity run a mock and do what they enjoy doing. Most of all, they do things one at a time, in an engrossed way. Perfectionism in an artist is only about fine details, not about organisation or workflows or time lines.

A perfectionist is a micro manager, he likes to have plans, about life, work, projects, outcomes. He likes to have a plan for life and a plan to make the plan for life succeed, and a plan to run the daily grind, a plan to conquer the world. Also a plan B if everything fails.

I found most people to be heavily inclined towards any one approach, by choice or by environment they grew up in.

Reading Literature and savouring works of art, while dabbling into productivity workflows, planning systems and softwares, efficiency and scheduling … that crashes the mind. Because both are elegant ways to do things, both provide you the aha! and the pleasure of creating or improving things.  But I just realised a mental block I had. That “I have to choose between the two”.

I now see that I can use both approaches, simultaneously.  I can allocate one or other approach to a project. But that didn’t look like it will work. Would I achieve flow like an artist, in a project which is scheduled to be done between 2pm and 3.30 pm on a specific day? No.

So another approach is to be an artist (unscheduled, unplanned, doing whatever I like) for a small portion of the the month.  And be the perfectionist for the rest of the month. 

I am trying to setup the schedule in a way so I can have 6 days (around 20% of my time) in a month, which are artist mode days. Rest are perfectionist mode days.

Here is how the experiment for the next year will work: I mark my calendar for 6 consecutive days in a month as artist-mode, this means those 6 days I won’t be working with my productivity systems, scheduling , task reminders, appointments, nothing on plan. 

Of course I can have personal appointments like doctor’s, or dinner or some social events (artists can use calendars!). But the gist is, that I only get to choose to work on creative projects, without schedule, whatever I feel like doing , preferably I can pickup any one thing and get flow and enjoy it, if I feel like, or I can read, have fun. If I am not in the flow, If I’m bored or not getting into the groove of doing anything and feel like watching Netflix or getting extra sleep, I can only pickup work projects, which require creative inputs, nothing that is scheduled, operational or has a plan, or is a personal or professional errand. 

For above experiment to not fail, I have to mark the days in mid month. Plenty of work revolves around start & end of the month weeks. 

In my daily go-to system for planning (which is OmniFocus), I am creating a folder – called artist-mode, which houses all projects that look like creative or artistic expression work. No scheduling, there is only the name of the project, with no actions, due or defer dates.  

Thinking through the mode-switch – trying to get best of both worlds,  I realised that personal routines need not and should not be disturbed with the mode. Specifically getting enough sleep is important, and getting ready to work at 9 in morning is important, and not going hungry all the day (at least for me) is important. So I am sticking to the calendar/alerts of sleep, morning ritual and meals.

Finally there are going to be requests, meetings, calls & people dropping in, for work that is not part of the artist-mode. For all of them, idea is to put them on a scribble/inbox/page whole day, and work on them when the next mode starts. For things that can be deferred or scheduled, straight away give sometime in the next week with a pending confirmation.

Hoping that the artist doesn’t win/loose over the perfectionist and I don’t end up convincing myself to take up any one mode permanently.

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