Tutorials & Tips

How to Stay Organized and Motivated: Index Cards of Doom

They don’t teach business or workflow in art school, so unfortunately a lot of creative people find themselves wanting to hide in their studio. I’m here to give you the power back to take control of your creative business and your motivation.
The human mind reacts very well to writing. I learned Japanese by writing, so after having yet another useless try and using technology to organize my life, I figured why not swallow my pride and go back to basics? What I found was that not only was it a better method for me, but it helped me stay motivated. I use index cards. A quick glance at an index card told me exactly what to do and prevented any time wasting. Now I will share my method with you.
The Method:
All of my To Dos are kept on a deck of index cards fastened together by a binder clip.

Card 1:
The top index card has 3 columns: Now, Waiting, and Goals.
Now has things that I need to do the next time I sit in front of my desktop computer. This could be a new piece of art for a promo campaign, the next Stupid and Insane Defenders Against Chaos comic, writing a tutorial, or something as simple as answering an email.

Things that can be done in a few seconds or minutes get done first and immediately. Deadline items (like the next comic) get done before freeform art because the comic must happen above all.
Waiting is for things I can’t work on now because I need something from someone else. I check this column daily and and ping the people I am collaborating with periodically. Often this is handled in weekly review sessions or by just asking the person how things are going.
Goals are big things. This could be attending a convention, a website or book launch, or something like “increase website traffic by 10,000”.
Card 2:
The second card is my shopping list. We are talking about things like milk, Count Chocula cereal,  or a new pair of shoes. I also keep errands like going to the tailor or returning something.
Card 3:
The third card has notes about the Stupid and Insane universe. I forget things I’ve written…like the fact that William eats brain trees and that I need to bring back the evil unnamed girl from the “Descent into the Deathside” story arc.
My sketchbook contains My Annoying Life ideas, since those come to me randomly. Sometimes I sketch them on post-its and stick them inside the book.
All other cards are used for spontaneous notes. As I check tasks off of the first 3 cards, the tasks are rewritten on new cards. Similarly, the spontaneous notes are integrated in this way. When I rewrite stuff out my mind is re-engaging with the priorities, so I almost never forget about a task. My index cards are my life. I feel I control my life in this way, so motivation comes naturally. The second I started doing this, I forgot about any depressive feelings and was able to focus on goals and the steps that make up those goals.
If you find yourself lost, unfocused, and depressed this might be a good thing to try. I think you will find that when difficult things are broken down into smaller steps that you can physically see – everything starts falling into place. The best part is that by utilizing your goals column, you can actually see your progress. Seeing your progress is so very important because you will be able to see what you have done when you are having a bad day. This is your motivation to keep going!

3 Comments on “How to Stay Organized and Motivated: Index Cards of Doom

  1. I do this exact thing, but I do it in Excel. I was in a mountain of debt back in 2007 and the only way I could pull myself up out of a ditch was to lay it all out before me, and I decided to use Excel. So I have things broken down into columns (card payment plan, each pay week, expenses, craft shows, things to buy) and I update it every other day as items need checked off or highlighted.

    It was extremely refreshing, and now, when I need to see my budget in black & white, or when I need some motivation on how far I’ve come, I open it up and take back control.

    Great post! :)

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