Make it Count: My Systematic Focus for Practicing Handlettering


Finding time when there seems to be none. This can be very difficult. I can honestly say the only way I've found more "time in a day", is to get up earlier and start my day earlier. When people ask me what time I get up, as they hear my response they pause and look at me as though I am crazy,  "4:45 am!? That's too early”, "I could never get up that early! What time do you go to bed?" My ideal bed time is 10 pm. If I am to awake at 4:45 am I have to end my day earlier. Its rewarding to myself to see that I am able to get up and get things done. I'll be honest though it doesn't always work out that way. I still live at home with my mother and siblings, and I don’t have my own room. Here’s a perfect example, last night I was in bed at 10 pm. However, My mom was still cooking in the kitchen (my sleep area is right in the dining room that is serving as my sleep area) and the aromas from the food and pots clanking every now and again prevented me from falling asleep. I also had my Facebook notifications on until I silenced it at about 10:30pm. As for awaking at 4:45 this morning - that didn’t happen. I still made it to the gym, and this was after work but sometimes you just have to adjust and cross things out slowly.

I've realized its all about making systems that work. You have to have one main focus and a system that will work with your focus. Here's an example. My primary focus at the moment is to build my blog while expanding my knowledge on hand lettering. I wake up early to get some writing done. I go to the gym to keep my health in order. I get to work before time to practice a few pieces and post to instagram for public accountability. I practice even more at night when other activities do not take precedence. I prep my food for a day or two in advance. I have an accountability partner for going to the gym, and we have a white board weigh in competition at work, where I am responsible for tracking everyone's weight progress and collecting money.

While I would love to be able to work on my own mini DIY projects all day, I've got a day job to help cover my bills. There is so much to learn while trying to build a platform and at times I feel that I've taken on too much. When I do begin to feel this way, I take a step back and review what is necessary versus what isn’t. I ask myself what I can eliminate and what I need to cut back on.

In order to keep my focus I have to deliberately shut my phone off, choose to not be on Facebook with the never ending scroll, and remove all other distractions. I must admit that it is difficult, but when my mindset is in the right place I am able to get a significant amount of things done within a four hour window. Let’s take today as an example: Though I was slightly tired upon arriving home and had to sit in traffic for more than an hour, I made use of my lunch time and went to the gym. I did an intense cardio workout and ate my actual lunch at my desk. No one can predict traffic - which I ended up in for about and hour. Luckily, I had a left over dish and decided to take that with me and ate that in the midst of traffic. By the time I got home I changed into some casual lounge clothes and opened up my moleskine dotted sketchbook to get straight to work with my lettering. At times It feels as though it is a robotic thing to do. I have alarms set to know what I should be doing at specific times. In all honesty its the only way I can get things done. I write out my to do list and cross them off as I complete them - sometimes I use an app, but physically writing them down, it does something for me.

It’s my way of being organized and seeing that I am getting things done. I’ve been writing things down in a to-do list fashion since high school. When they first gave the students planners. It made me feel like a business woman. I can’t believe I am saying this but at the time we didn’t have cell phones - this was in 2003.

I have to admit, I do slip off my regimented schedule sometimes. I also believe its important to allow buffer time between events and activities because you never know what can come up. When I fall off my schedule I no longer beat myself up, or overly criticize myself. Better for me to fall off and enjoy the moment than to end up feeling burnt out. Though my schedule changes from time to time I am sure to make the time in what I am actually doing count. If I am lettering, and I only have a few minutes, I will letter the best one or two letters of a quote. If I am working out and I am restricted on time, I am going to give that work out the best thirty minuets that I have.

Creating systems has allowed me to stay dedicated to my goals. it prevents me from finding reasons to have an excuse as to why I shouldn’t do something. besides,  "Excuses are tools of incompetence that build monuments of nothingness and those who specialize in them seldom do anything else". (Thomas J. Smith)

The Take Away + Actionable Task:  I write all this to say what ever you do, what ever time you have, Make it count.

Create systems where you take small actionable steps to reach your goals. Have an accountability partner to help you start implementing them.  Listen to seanwes podcast episode 119: How to Get an Extra Day a Week, and read, "How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big," by Scott Adams.