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2×4: An Interview with David Sparks

2×4: An Interview with David Sparks

    2×4: One series that examines two topics, creativity and productivity, by asking those who make things on the web the same four questions on both subjects.

    David Sparks does a lot. Like a lot, a lot. His Mac Power Users podcast (along with Kaity Floyd) can transform the way you use your computer, especially the two Merlin Mann workflow episodes. His blog, MacSparky is a wealth of geeky goodies, I’m especially partial to his magic trick with iThoughts HD and Scrivener that made writing large projects faster and easier. His books are ideal starting points for using both your Mac and your iPad at work. Oh yeah, and if that wasn’t enough, he has a family and a full-time career as an attorney. In other words, the man does more than inform, he inspires in the best way possible, with his work.

    I’ve been a fan of David’s for a while now. Anyone even vaguely familiar with his work should expect an informative addition to this series (and I think you’ll agree that it is). What I wasn’t expecting is just how bold of an approach he takes to his creative work. I could continue to geek out, but without further ado, here’s David Sparks:

    Creativity

    Have you always considered yourself a creative person?

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    As long as I can remember, I’ve been infatuated with the creative process. The act of transforming some nebulous concept from my mind to something feels like magic and still amazes me every time it happens. Whenever I get in a rut, creating something pulls me out.

    What mediums and inspirations do you gravitate toward to realize your creative goals?

    There really is no limit to the mediums I work in. I write. I play music. I design and build furniture. I do geeky things to Macs. I consider myself an artist in every aspect of my life (even my legal cases). My only limitation is my time. I just wish I had more time to explore more creative mediums.

    As for inspiration, it really depends on what I’m doing. My two biggest musical inspirations are the ’50s jazz scene (Monk, Bird, Dizzy, Miles) and Impressionist era classical music. With furniture, it is the craftsman movement and on my Mac, I’m inspired by my very many brilliant friends. I wouldn’t even know where to start on all my writing inspirations.

    If you had to point to one thing, what specific posts or creations are you most proud of and why?

    Whatever I’m doing next is going to be my greatest creation. I’m not good at looking backward when it comes to my work. I move on quickly. When I was in high school I did these recordings with a Jazz Quartet that were pretty good. Several years later I threw them out in a fit of anti-nostalgia. That probably wasn’t a very good idea (and part of me really regrets that) but at the same time that behavior is completely consistent with my personality.

    Any suggestions for those who feel they may not be creative enough to unlock their inner artist?

    Wreckless abandon. Honestly, I don’t get how people can get hung up on this stuff. Turn off the TV and create something. You could write a song on an iPad without a lick of musical training. It is so much more fulfilling than sitting like a slug in front of American Idol. Put yourself out there. Life is too short.

    Productivity

    Can you describe your current personal and professional responsibilities?

    I’m a husband, a dad, a lawyer, and a MacSparky something or other. Each of those jobs comes with their own special collection of joy, satisfaction, tedium, and tears.

    How do you go about balancing the personal, professional, and digital?

    Balance is the hard part. I find saying “No” helps. I am much more happy nailing a few things than screwing up a lot of things. The trouble is I have so many interests, picking those few things is really hard. To be perfectly honest, I suck at saying no. I am, however, trying to get better at this.

    What tools and techniques do you find yourself counting on to get through your workload?

    I find technology a big help in this regard. OmniFocus holds me together. I also use a rat’s nest of project planning, mind mapping, and outlining software to keep track of and on top of whatever I’m up to. The iPad and iPhone are, in my opinion, Grade A planning tools. They’ve really improved my game.

    What is the best starting point for the unproductive amongst us, who are looking to get more organized?

    Spend a little time figuring out why things are a mess. Sometimes it is not a question of getting organized but cutting crap out of your life you’re not passionate about. Next, make a plan. David Allen’s Getting Things Done struck a chord for me which is great, because there are some really fantastic GTD tools out there. Finally, don’t be so hard on yourself. Start small and be forgiving when you fall off the wagon. This stuff is hard and people are, in general, much too harsh on themselves.

    More by this author

    2×4: An Interview with David Sparks 2×4: An Interview with Myke Hurley 2×4: An Interview With CJ Chilvers 2X4 Interviews 2×4: An Interview With Gabe Weatherhead 2×4: An Interview With Brett Kelly

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

    5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

    In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

    Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut only to get back into another one.

    How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

    • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
    • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
    • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
    • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
    • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
    • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

    When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnancy in life, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help.

    Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

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    1. Realize You’re Not Alone

    Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths.

    Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

    2. Find What Inspires You

    Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation.

    What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

    On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem.

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    If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

    3. Give Yourself a Break

    When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

    Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave.

    Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future.

    These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

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    4. Shake up Your Routines

    Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

    Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’re 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

    When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

    5. Start with a Small Step

    Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

    Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward.

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    Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years.

    On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

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    Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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