Monthly Archives: January 2012

Lately I have found myself refreshed and ready for each day since New Years. You may ask, “How do you have time feel refreshed and ready for the past month, when you are juggling jobs, auditions, and life in general?”. More importantly how could you feel this way, while you juggle all of the things you have on your own plate? Well, hypothetical questioner, I have picked up an old book off of my shelves and put it to better use.

There is this great book I was referred to in college. It is a book meant to help artists live better, artistic, creative, and more fulfilled lives. The book is called The Artist’s Way. It proved to make very impassioned guidelines for anyone in the arts, professionally. There is something the book implores all of it’s readers to do called, “The Morning Pages”. These are essentially pages you write when you first wake up. It is sort of irrelevant as to when you wake up, but as long as it is the first thing you do when you do awaken. It is important to write them when you first wake up so that you get all of your first thoughts down on the pages. If you take time to get ready, shower, drink coffee or whatever then you are giving yourself time to process the thoughts inside you. You are also never supposed to reread the pages you’ve written and to let them go as soon as they are down on the page.

The purpose of these pages, I think, is to get yourself out of your own way. They are meant to keep you from censoring yourself. They can be a stream of conscious, a narrative, or anything really. The point is to write and not stop for three pages. The pages are meant to get all of your thoughts, baggage, nightmares, worries, or anything else onto a page and out of your mind. They are supposed to help you feel more present in everyday situations, because you would have emptied your mind of any other things in the morning.

Well, I have been doing these, “Morning Pages” as part of a New Year’s resolution. So far I have found it pretty interesting. I find that a lot of what I write is absolute crap, but that doesn’t really matter. Sometimes I even write down over and over, ‘I have no idea what to write about right now’. So all sorts of things come out on these pages in the morning, but most importantly it has emptied a load of things that usually sit in my brain and fester. These pages empty my brain of worries, impending deadlines, aspired goals, and everything in between. I have noticed that it has kept me open to whatever comes my way during the course of the day.

Now to be honest, there are times when these pages seem daunting. Once you start putting pen to paper the easier the pages come, though. The more you write the easier and more accessible it will be. That is to say, there will be days it is harder to write that not. There will be days when you will want to push it all aside; however, I think if you do push it aside, after doing it for a steady amount of time, then you will notice a strong difference.

Writing every morning can yield different outcomes. I am certainly not saying that you will end up with the same results I have come across, but I am saying that I think it is important enough to try. I think trying something never hurt anyone, and if you are finding yourself clouded with worries, or doubts, or even goals you want to attain; try writing it down! It could change the way you approach your day, altogether.

It is a simple suggestion, but a suggestion all the same. The end result is all meant to help you, and so far it has helped me immensely.

Post authored by Trevor Worden 

One of the most common frustrations I hear is “I’m so overwhelmed I don’t even know where to start – so I just don’t do anything!” I have certainly been there, and you probably have been too. The most difficult part of having too much to do, a back log of half completed tasks and a big old hot mess on your hands really is knowing where to start.

Here is how I figure it out. I hope you will be able to use this system or modify it to work for you. Please share your thoughts through comments!

I start with lists. Not one list, but many. Make a separate list for each part of your life: Work, Personal, Friends, Family, Upcoming Travel, Kids, etc. By compartmentalizing and breaking down one big list into multiple, smaller lists everything immediately becomes more manageable. Looking at one page of tasks will always be more heartening than flipping through 10 pages.

I use and love Tada Lists (from 37Signals), a free program that houses your lists online so you can access them from your phone or any computer. If you feel committed to paper and pen, I get it. Get one notebook and some adhesive tabs and you are all set. Place a labeled tab on the first page of each list for easy reference. The idea is to set this up so you will only look at one list at a time.

Put on your favorite jam (Beyonce), pour a glass of wine (Pinot Noir), light a candle (Target brand all the way) and close the door. Spend the time it takes to fill in each list completely with all of your to do’s in each category. Thoughtfully review your lists, making them as complete as possible. Once you have taken this inventory, you will have accounted for everything that needs doing and will have gained perspective about what your situation really looks like.

Next, look at your lists one by one. Grab a highlighter and highlight anything that is truly urgent. If you are using Tada Lists there is no highlight feature (dear 37Signals…), so use the reorder feature and drag all of the urgent things to the top of each list. Remember, very little is truly urgent, but some things that may get highlighted include:

  • flights that need to be booked because they get more expensive by the day
  • anything due in the coming week
  • anything you know will bring you immediate relief and add to your ability to tackle everything else, for example, a massage for your painfully tight shoulders (remember, even if it is for you and you alone, it can still be urgent and is important)

Now, starting with your first list, complete the highlighted, urgent items. Once you have finished all of the urgent items on the Work list, do not continue down this list to tackle un-highlighted items. Close the Work list for now and look at the Personal list. Do all of the highlighted, urgent items on the Personal list and move to the next list. Once you have completed the highlighted, urgent tasks on each list you will feel like you have lost 20 pounds, I swear it. The relief of having everything timely done on time will be palpable, and you will be encouraged by your success, which will spur you on to tackle the rest of it.

Now… time for the rest of it. Grab your highlighter again and highlight items on each list that will take 15 minutes or less to complete. Once you have finished highlighting each list, pick one list to start with and do all of the highlighted, quick items on that list. Continue cycling through your lists as before, completing the highlighted, quick items on each and moving to the next. Keep plugging away at the highlighted, quick items until all of them are crossed or checked off on each list. Feel encouraged? Like you deserve a cookie? You do! You are probably about 70% out of the woods here – don’t quit now.

The only items left on your lists now should be larger projects (book plan), items that take more than 15 minutes to complete (research), have many steps (figure out Europe trip) and involve coordinating moving pieces or many people (dinner at some point with 4 couples). Schedule time into your calendar to complete these more time consuming projects, or to outline how you will attack them in pieces. Stick to the plan and you will knock these items off the list soon enough.

Here we are then. Not only have you managed to figure out where to start – but you have started! And nearly finished! Ideally you will not find yourself in this overwhelmed spot very often, but realistically, it happens to the most organized and productive among us more than we might like to admit. More important than the constant struggle to stay on top of everything is to have patience and a plan for yourself when you become overwhelmed.

Don’t panic. Make a plan. Take a deep breath. Show your life who is boss.

Post authored by Brooke Stone.

Face it, life can get pretty serious. Our to-do lists haunt us as we try to fall asleep at night, the perfect outfit for tomorrow can always be found crumpled up at the bottom of the laundry pile and the grass on the other side of the fence is perpetually greener, thinner and much more effortlessly energetic!  It can be very easy to spin down the “feeling unmotivated” rabbit hole in the face of it all.

As sappy as it sounds, when I am feeling a bit bogged down by life, nothing cures me faster than spending some time with my niece and nephew. They are at the magical ages (3 and 7) when anything can be turned into a game and everything can be celebrated. Simply putting on socks is hilarious when accompanied by ravenous eating sounds (the socks are eating your feet – get it?) and followed with wild, thunderous applause for a job well done! Waiting for your bread to toast is the perfect opportunity to see how many times you can jump up and down on one leg and then take a victory lap around the living room when you beat your old record! I always find myself laughing at the simplest things when I’m with them.

I decided to add some of this fun into my own life to see if I could make the mundane everyday tasks of life seem a bit, well, less mundane. I have been trying to get to the gym more consistently, so I checked in with my inner 6–year-old and bought some stickers to put on my wall calendar for every day I successfully exercised. Seems silly, but sure enough, the thought of all those stickers lined up on my calendar has been just the motivation I needed.  I worked out at least 4 days every week in December and loved being able to say (with some admitted smugness), “I went to the gym every Thursday this month!” It would have been easy to make excuses and slack off if all I was thinking about was the one gym session in the moment – that’s what happened so often in the past. Somehow, seeing those stickers add up to something that I could easily track and tally when getting ready in the morning, made it much easier to pack my gym bag and make good on the appointment I already made with myself in the calendar to go to the gym (more on that in a later post). Not to mention how great my calendar looked with all that sticker glory!

As adults, we often live in the what’s next/how could I do this faster/just get it done mentality. We check items off our lists and instantly add three more. We hardly ever take a moment to congratulate ourselves for a job well done. We wait for special occasions or someone else to say something before we take stock of the efforts we’ve made. Sure, we wouldn’t get very far in life if we dilly-dallied through tasks like a 5-year-old, but every now and then, go ahead and give yourself the sticker or the ice cream or the round of applause for that small something that you chose to do when you really didn’t want to. You’ll feel a lot better about what you just accomplished and, most likely, a lot more motivated to do it again.  So the next time you take out the trash, especially when it’s cold and rainy and it really wasn’t your turn to do it anyway, just for fun, take a second to imagine a stadium full of people, cheering and applauding your remarkable efforts and take a bow, a deep extravagant MET Opera sized bow, you’ve earned it!

Post authored by Erin Jerozal 

By no means do you consider yourself an “event planner”. Yet, the day arrives when you receive a phone call from your best girlfriend, and she sweetly asks you to wear the title of “Maid of Honor” at her wedding in six months. You now have the unique opportunity to create precious memories for the bride, as you embody the task of “Bridal Shower Planner”. A very clear reality lurks in your head, however, reminding you that you have yet to organize an event such as this…what’s a girl (or guy) to do?

When planning small events, it is important to start with the basics, and ask questions to narrow down your objectives. Make a list and answer the following questions:

WHY? Why not a party?!

WHO? Who is the event for? Who will be attending? Whose help will you need to plan the event?

WHAT? What is the event? Is there a theme? What is it? What are the must-haves to make the event happen (for example, games, food, public speakers, music, sales)?

WHERE? Where will the event be held?

WHEN? When will the event take place? When will all tasks need be completed in preparation for the event?

HOW? Once the above questions are settled, you will be able to answer HOW by making yourself a timeline. Writing a timeline will keep you organized and on track. The timeline is a set of chronological to-do lists each with specific goals, tasks, and deadlines. For example, a One Month Before to-do list, a Two Weeks Before to-do list, and the Day Before to-do list. It is also wise to choose a person you trust to hold you accountable to your deadlines.

An event planning “must” involves taking careful notes while you plan; tuck them away for future reference.  Reach out to friends and colleagues, and delegate tasks along the way.  Prepare a day-of-the-event outline, stating the various tasks that will occur each hour during the respective event; everyone will then be on the same page.

Each event-planning scenario will consequently edge you that much closer to achieving the title “Event Planning Pro”.

Post authored by Kristen Evensen

Ok folks, this is why I love being a part of Praxis.  Just this afternoon, Josh Schulteis (my Praxis manager and all-around incredible co-worker) met me in my apartment to work through some design plans. Josh walked into my small work area (I mean really small) and his eyes went directly to a small shelf above my desk.  This small wooden shelf houses several mason and jam jars brimming with perfectly sharpened pencils of every shape, color and size.  He looked at me straight in the eyes and said: “Literally?”

Makes you want to get to work, no?

I didn’t anticipate that my workspace would be particularly striking to Josh, but I quickly realized that it’s this special kind of crazy that is exactly what Praxis is all about – I need my pencils sharpened and ready.  I need my pencils to be sharpened and ready, waiting for me, in preparation for that flash of inspiration.  As a graphic designer and illustrator, I need to be prepared for luck.  I don’t have time to sharpen my pencils or go searching for that particular shade.  The inspiration may have already passed by that point.  I simply don’t have the time for a warm-up – I need my pencils sharpened and ready for that lucky idea to be sketched out, written down, drafted and set on paper.

I need my workspace to greet me every time I sit down to work.  What do you do to stay prepared for luck?  Do you keep a pad and pen by your bedside to jot down those last thoughts of brilliance that always pop up before bed?  Is it a matter of keeping a toothbrush in your purse in case you might have that last minute offer to stay the night at his place? Or is it simply a matter of setting one small hour aside during your weekend to do nothing and decompress, because when your mind quiets down the ideas begin to flow?

Comment, post, let us know your great secrets to staying prepared for inspiration, for love, for greatness.

Post authored by Jacob Liberman

On a particularly chilly morning last week one of our LMPs arrived at Argo Tea (I am not categorically against decaf beverages) for our meeting particularly distressed. He had just discovered that, somehow, against all odds, his Gmail inbox was NINETY SEVEN percent full. Now, I know you don’t believe me, I didn’t believe him either. How in the world could he have even come close to filling the seemingly infinite free capacity of a bazillion-million-jillion-giga-mega-bytes-watts that Gmail so generously provides?!?!? I quickly learned he had managed this incredible feat through his graphic design habit, and after 10 years of emailing enormous files and archiving his tuchus off – here he was. 3. Measly. Percent. Left. What to do?! He went on to say he would have to find some solution, some new-email-address-with-auto-forwarding-linking-multi-level computer geek solution or face the alternative: a $5.99/ year fee for more storage. The horror right? No! No horror! Actually, MY horror when I realized this entire problem could go away for $5.99/year or .49 cents/ month or 0.01641096 cents/day.

This is a prime example of how we so often create more aggravation than expressly necessary when a few dollars could eliminate not only the problem, but an ulcer and a costly Rx for Valium. I’m by no means saying throwing money at problems is a good habit or a blanket solution. I am saying however, that spending $5.99 to make a $200 headache go away is the smartest, most efficient and best choice you can make for yourself. If our Gmail stricken LMP spent 2 hours creating his workaround solution instead of working with a client, that is 2 billable hours worth of money he lost. By NOT paying $5.99 he is in fact SPENDING money.

When you are deciding whether or not to do the upgrade, extra this or extra that in order to keep a good working system in place, put a dollar value on the time, stress and aggravation you will incur if you don’t pay the (usually under $20) fee. Then decide if it’s worth it. In the case of things you use monthly or daily – do the math. Factor in the time it took you to put this nicely working system together in the first place, that counts because if you don’t do the extra this or that you may be back at square uno.

The main point here is that dollars are not the only currency of value. Your time, energy and level of personal well being and fulfillment are valuable too. More so even than the value of the papers and metals in your wallet. When you are making choices about your spending and trying to get the most bang for your buck, take a minute and look at the trade off. Make sure it is a fair trade.

Post authored by Brooke Stone

I work as a freelance dancer, teacher and choreographer in New York City. Happily, I’m fairly busy these days, but the fact that I work in three different areas of my chosen field means marketing myself in three different ways, juggling three sets of schedules, and sharpening three skill sets that, though connected, are inherently different from one another. By doing so, I’ve learned the value of efficiency when it comes to time-management. As the saying goes, “time is money.” With today’s job market in the dumps, I suppose this rings true to a degree. Freelance workers, however, fall into a completely different category with a unique set of challenges all their own. Most, myself included, have taken a leap of faith into the unknown to follow an insatiable passion or lifelong dream. It is an extremely rewarding, yet often volatile place to be.  Consequently, the concept of time takes on an entirely different meaning. For us, time is not only connected to our livelihood, but also to our dreams and our schemes.  Here are a few pointers that have helped me tackle the exciting and crazy life of a freelance worker in New York City.

Prioritize your gigs. After spending a year taking on every single odd job that came along, I realized that attempting to be the Joan Rivers of the dance world would quickly lead to burnout. When considering taking on gigs, prioritize which will ultimately be the most beneficial, long-term. Factors such as the size of the project, who else is involved, and how the job can feed you artistically should all be considered. To an extent, money should also be considered; after all, we gotta pay the rent. However, those of us in the freelance world need to be stimulated artistically in order to grow, and I’ve found that the jobs that pay the most are not necessarily the ones that will lead to personal and artistic growth within your field. I always prioritize a chance to perform over any other gig. Performing years for dancers cover a very short span of our lives, and I want to make the most of those years while I can, even if it pays less or means that I have to turn down another gig. The jobs that stimulate you the most will ultimately have the best pay-off, no matter the size of the paycheck.

Watch the Food Network. OK, not really. But DO remember to take some time for yourself every now and again. Freelance workers are driven – perhaps too driven. It is easy to sequester yourself in the “bubble” of work and completely forget about the outside world. Though it feels like you are being more productive by spending more minutes of the day working on a project, in all actuality, productivity quickly comes to a halt when your brain turns to mush. The finished product won’t be what you or your client wants, and you will ultimately spend more of your precious time reworking the flubs you made. All-nighters are best left in your college years. If you find yourself reading the same line of a paragraph more than three times, it’s time to put away the work for a bit, turn on Barefoot Contessa, and pretend you are one of Ina Garten’s dinner guests in East Hampton. At least, that’s what I do.

Define Your Personal Worth. In high school, I won the yearbook superlative of “most gullible”… two years in a row. My personality is such that I naturally take things for face value, and then realize my folly in retrospect. Though, at the time, I was resentful of the fact I was the Rose Nylund of my graduating class, this trait of mine has, after some painful life-lessons, taught me the importance of assessing my personal worth when considering the jobs that I do. This form of worth has little to do with dollars and cents and all to do with confidence and sense. It is a direct reflection of your assurance in relation to both your chosen field and your life, in general. It is important to know (or have an idea of) who you are, where you came from, and what you want. Once this is defined, stick to your guns. This will ensure that you attract the gigs that are the most fulfilling and worth your time. Working in the freelance field provides unique opportunities that are stimulating and inspiring. However, there are times when a job comes along that can compromise your personal worth. When this happens, remember these two pointers: it is ok to negotiate, and it is ok to say politely, “no, thank-you.” This is a lesson I wish I had learned earlier in my career.

I’m a lucky fellow. My “work” doesn’t feel like work. Every morning when I leave the apartment, I know that my day will be anything but routine. I have the privilege to dance, teach, choreograph, or otherwise collaborate with some of the most inspiring artists in New York and the world. Managing my time wisely allows me to cover a larger scope of work within the field that I love so much. “Time is money?” Perhaps, but for passion-driven freelance artists, time is best viewed as opportunity.

Post authored by Matthew Powell

Matthew was almost the champion of his seventh grade spelling bee, but threw the competition in order to get home in time to watch the “Charlie Brown Christmas Special.” He now works as a freelance dancer, teacher, choreographer, and, on occasion, writer. Recent projects include assistant directing “The Magic Flute” for Michigan Opera Theatre, choreographing a new ad campaign for Bloch Dance Wear, and his ongoing classes at Broadway Dance Center and Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet.

Check out Matthew on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @MattysLeapin.

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