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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 March 31, 2020

    Why Do I Procrastinate? 5 Root Causes & How To Tackle Them

    Why Do I Procrastinate? 5 Root Causes & How To Tackle Them

    Procrastination is something many people can relate to and I, myself, have been there and done that. Yes, I write all about productivity now, but when I first started out on my career path, I would often put off work I didn’t want to do. And most of the time I didn’t even realize I was doing it.

    So what changed?

    I thought to myself, “why do I procrastinate?” And I started to read a lot of books on productivity, learning a great deal and shifting my mind to the reasons why people procrastinate.

    My understanding brought me a new perspective on how to put an end to the action of procrastination.

    Procrastination slows your goals and dreams way down. It can create stress and feelings of frustration. It rears its ugly head on a regular basis for a lot of people. This is particularly apparent at work with day-to-day projects and tasks.

    But, why do people self-sabotage in this way? Essentially, there are 5 reasons behind procrastination. See if you can identify with any of these in your own work life.

    1. The Perfectionist’s Fear

    Procrastination is sometimes a subconscious fear of failure.

    If you put off a task enough, then you can’t face up to the potential (and usually imagined) negative results. If you’re a stickler for minor details, the stress of getting things ‘just right’ may be too much and cause you to delay continuing the task.

    Either way, fear is at the root cause and can sabotage your desire to move forward.

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    How to Tackle It?

    Try visualizing the completion of your task in a positive way.

    For example, you have a presentation that your boss wants you to conduct for a potential client. Visualize yourself standing in the meeting room confident, meeting the eyes of the client and seeing them light up as you explain the concept simply and concisely.

    Imagine your boss telling you how great you did and you were the best person for the job. Think about how it would feel to you and focus on this as you move forward with the task.

    2. A Dreamer’s Lack of Action

    This is a person who is highly creative and has many brilliant ideas but can’t quite seem to bring them to fruition.

    The main reason for this is because there’s usually no structure or goal setting involved once the idea has been created. This aimless approach ends up manifesting as a lack of decision-making and significant delays on a project.

    How to Tackle It?

    Write down a timeline of what you want to achieve and by when. Ideally, do this daily to keep yourself on track and accountable for progression. Creative minds tend to jump from one idea to the next, so cultivating focus is essential.

    If you’re designing and creating a new product at work, set out a task list for the week ahead with the steps you want to focus on each day. Doing this ahead of time will stop your mind from wandering across to different ideas.

    Learn about how to plan your time and take actions from some of the successful people: 8 Ways Highly Successful People Plan Their Time

    3. An Overwhelmed Avoider

    This is one of the most common reasons for procrastination; the sheer overwhelm of a daunting task.

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    The complexity of a task can cause the brain to lose motivation and avoid doing it altogether choosing instead to stay in its comfort zone.

    The search then starts for a more enjoyable task and the harder tasks are put off. This can cause stress and dread when the task inevitably comes up to be completed.

    How to Tackle It?

    Break the challenge down into smaller tasks and tackle each one individually.

    For example, if you have a project that has technical elements to it that you know you’ll find challenging, list each step you need to take in order to complete these difficult elements. Think of ways you can resolve potential hurdles. Perhaps you have a coworker that may have time to help or even consider that the solution may be easier than you initially think. Put each task in order of most daunting to least daunting. Ideally, try to deal with the more challenging parts of each task in the morning so that momentum is created as the tasks get easier through the day.

    A reward system will also help you stay motivated so, once completed, you can enjoy your treat of choice.

    If you want to know how to better handle your feelings and stay motivated, take a look at my other article: Procrastination Is a Matter of Emotion, Here’s How to Stop It

    4. The Busy Bee Who Lacks Prioritization

    Either you have too many tasks or don’t truly acknowledge the differing importance of each task. The result? Getting nothing done.

    Time is spent switching constantly from one task to another or spending too much time deciding what to do.

    How to Tackle It?

    It’s all about priorities and choosing important tasks over urgent ones.

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    Make sure to question the value and purpose of each task and make a list in order of importance.

    For example, throughout your work day, you can waste a lot of time dealing with ‘urgent’ emails from colleagues but, you need to ask yourself if these are more important than working on a task that will affect, say, several office projects at once.

    Help yourself to prioritize and set a goal of working through your list over the next few hours reassessing the situation once the time is up.

    In my other article, I talk about an effective way to prioritze and achieve more in less time: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    5. The One with Shiny Object Syndrome (Distraction-Prone)

    This is another common cause for procrastination; just simple distraction.

    Our brains aren’t wired to focus for long periods of time and it looks for something else. So throw in a bunch of colleagues equally looking for distractions or checking your phone mindlessly, and you’ve got a recipe for ultimate procrastination.

    However, this type of procrastination may not always be an unconscious decision to sabotage and put off work. It’s simply a result of your work setup or types of coworkers you have. Only you know the answer to that.

    How to Tackle It?

    Be mindful of your workspace and potential distractions. Schedule a specific time to converse with your coworkers, put headphones on to minimize listening to what’s going on around you, and switch your phone off.

    Aim to do this for 20-30 minutes at a time and then take a break. This will be a much more efficient way of working and getting what you need done. This is also why scheduling down time is so important for productivity.

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    Whether this type of procrastination is self-sabotage or being a victim of a distracting environment, either way you can take control.

    If you need a little more guidance on how to stay focus, this guide can help you: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

    Bottom Line

    I’m going to be bold and assume you identified with at least one of these procrastination pitfalls.

    You could be trapped in the endless cycle of procrastination like I was, that is, until I decided to find out my why behind putting off tasks and projects. It was only then that I could implement strategies and move forward in a positive and productive way.

    I killed the procrastination monster and so can you. I now complete my tasks more efficiently and completely killed that feeling of stress and falling behind with work that procrastination brings.

    I know it’s not easy to stop procrastinating right away, so I also have this complete guide to help you stop it once and for all: What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

    Featured photo credit: Luke Chesser via unsplash.com

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