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An Artist, a Game Developer and a Restauranteur On the Secret to Productivity

Downing Pottery at Nordstrom

With sunny skies, crowded commutes, and that phantom force we call Vacation Brain, staying productive in the summer can prove difficult. But sometimes, embracing small distractions can help achieve more lofty goals. These tips from a local ceramic artist, a game developer, and a restaurateur will get that lazy brain back on track—and get the creative juices flowing.

Set small, achievable goals.

No stranger to success, Jon Gill is a game developer at Ruddy Games and self-published his first board game, Skulldug! In January 2016. It was a KickStarter staff pick and currently leads the bestseller table at Cafe Mox in Ballard. But Jon knows smash hits don’t happen overnight, and welcomes the minute tasks along the way.

“Busywork, like answering e-mails or doing something in Photoshop can be really good, because they’re not ‘blank page’ problems,” he explains. “There’s a guaranteed result; I can do it, and cross it off my list, and by then I’m excited enough to tackle the blank page.”

These tasks build confidence, Jon says, but they occasionally give him ideas as well. Turns out with a little momentum, the finish line won’t look so distant.

Create a weekly cycle
Walrus and the Carpenter 2 With all the information we consume in a day, face-to-face meetings are becoming more and more important. When they interrupt a task, though, these appointments can throw off focus and halt that productivity. That’s why lauded Seattle restaurateur Renee Erickson sets a weekly schedule for all six of her eateries. “We have our manager meetings on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and that leaves the rest of the weekdays free to be in the restaurants or taking on other events.” For a creative who depends heavily on Google Calendar to organize events, schedules, and delegation, meetings can be a blessing and a curse. The cycle keeps her from overbooking herself and allows each manager to compile questions or concerns ahead of time. And whatever’s in-between, she laughs, gets written on her hand!

Prepare your brain
Often, striking a groove is all about creating a conducive workplace. For Downing Pottery artist Sarah Woodson, this means all prep work is done before she leaves her studio at night. With a schedule based around art shows and special orders, “I have to run a pretty tight ship. But clay doesn’t always work at the pace you want it to.” For example, “when it’s raining and there’s a lot of moisture in the air, the process takes longer.” Sarah tackles issues she can’t control by responding to the ones she can.

Likewise, Jon treats his lengthy commute not as a necessary evil, but as prime brainstorming time. “Because it’s such a constrained space, there are no distractions and I can focus,” the dev points out. “When I just get home without priming the pump in that way, it can be much easier to say, ‘oh I’ll just watch TV, or play a game.’” Armed with a quiver of fresh ideas, he can tackle a challenge as soon as he gets home.

Schedule quality time off
Even before A Boat, a Whale, and a Walrus was published, Renee found it difficult to take the kind of time off she wanted. In lavish photos and delectable stories, the book profiles her favorite vendors, friends, and fishing spots, not to mention menus for all kinds of occasions—all without a smartphone in sight. So how does she step away from the cloud? The secret, she admits, is to schedule events six months in advance, rather than a year. “There’s just so much that we could say yes to, the days off would become impossible,” Renee confides, “you never know what happens in your life, whether it’s a wedding or something exciting.” Her restaurants may be on the hot list each season, but one surf and turf weekend that’s utterly off-limits? Her birthday in August.

Keep your brain engaged
Jon’s home plays barracks to an army of figurines. A regular host of movie nights and outings, he mines pop culture for ideas while he spends time with good friends. “Things that work, work for a reason,” he insists, recommending that any creative study products outside his field. “Especially with games, there is a tendency to look towards other games.” The mentality of “‘I’m going to make a shooter game, I’m going to play other shooter games and see what the best shooters are,’ means you’re going to put out a product that’s exactly like everything else.” That’s a huge mistake in the gaming sphere.

Consuming culture can also increase productivity. “I listen to a lot of podcasts,” Sarah tells us, “and have found that certain types of programs help the flow of my work on any given day. It’s the best thing at the wheel to get sucked into a story and not realize that an hour has gone by.” Whether it’s RadioLab or her favorite stand-up comedian, Sarah can craft ideas and let muscle memory take care of the rest.

Ready to take the plunge? Connect2Classes offers a wide array of opportunities, from coding to crafting to cooking. Sign up today for your chance to rock the studio and bring a creative new routine to your daily life.

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