The next few weeks will become Nikki and Monica’s Great Adventure, two friends committed to weekly coffee and figuring out how to fill our days with work that is meaningful and deeply gratifying.
For some time, Nikki, an artist and designer, and I have been meeting regularly to support each other in life changes we are wanting to make. For Nikki, this involves spending more time doing the one thing she really enjoys and consequently went to school for – making art. Fortunately and somewhat unfortunately, Nikki happens to be really good at a lot of things people really need. She was a creative director at IBM as a result of her strong communication and organizational skills. She is also an amazing and incredibly talented web designer. These things make her money but they are not a “hell yes” in her life. Nikki has been plotting to do her “art thing” since grad school and we shall not speak of how many years have gone by since, but we will say maybe a few if not twenty. Where does the time go?
When I first met Nikki she was working for IBM but had relocated herself to Paducah, Kentucky to be part of a small but growing artist community. She knew the constant reminder of the community would push her to her art, and she was also placing herself in a more affordable community to eventually leave the corporate job in a more financially secure state. She took that big leap out of IBM a couple of years after we met. After that, she got into a small business partnership with a very good friend and they had a lovely working relationship. But still, she wasn’t making the art like she wanted. It always came second. She might plan time at the end of the work day for art, but being the perfectionist, client pleaser she is, would find herself going into overtime with graphic design work and never getting to the art. When she does do art, it has to be because she carved out the whole day. It becomes all or nothing. This has brought her to the change she wants to make. Putting the thing she loves to do first and seeing if she can have a go at it by creating balance.
From our meetings we have plotted and schemed for some time. This past week we decided on a small experiment. We are going to see if Nikki can re-shift her priorities and consequently restructure her day. Nikki would use the first four hours of her day for Nikki which means making art. The next half of the day would be dedicated to web design because a girl’s gotta make a living while waiting for her art career to explode. There is also a nice carrot dangling at the end of the experiment as well. Nikki has to make enough work to fill a section of a booth for the annual LowerTown Art and Music Festival. We have two and a half weeks to see if Nikki can stick to her guns, put her artwork first and feel the exhilaration of establishing a new behavior that brings her deep satisfaction and in the near future, garner art sales that equal to fifty percent of her needed income.
I, Monica, am going to do the thing I want to do but also chronically put second each day in my life – design systems and strategies and blog about the cool things that happen as a result of those designs. I would help Nikki design her new life and she would hold me to managing the design and chronicling our efforts.
For Nikki, we started with her long term goal. Getting there requires some milestones like consistent behavior change so that art is a priority and not an afterthought. Short term her goals get her to the long term. We went over the pain points and pitfalls that keep her from achieving the art time. Always, it was putting others first which on the surface sounds like a really nice plan – for everyone but Nikki. As a way to manage both Nikki’s need to please and her clients’ expectations that she would be at their beck and call, Nikki would employ some fixes.
- She would set up an auto-response in her email letting clients know when she’d be able to respond while she was doing her art work.
- She also had to come to clean with the fact that the computer is not her friend when she’s making art. It’s a major distraction. All things with notifications have to be put away.
We started with some simple project management tools to keep us on track. Google calendar is reminding her every morning to start with art. I also text some time in the day. We started with a Trello board to keep up with assignments and they have a calendar feature that I’m going to try out.
Next up, Nikki will share the reality of the plan.