Geek Speak – What’s in My Creative Utility Belt
Because I have all kinds of creative projects (writing, podcasts, comics, dumb jokes), I use a ‘utility belt.’ It is not a physical belt, as I can only find them in white, and Kat told white belts are a no-no.
I know better than to debate with a fashion blogger.
My symbolic utility belt is an assortment of gadgets, tools, and concepts. Each helps me with my creative projects and some, most importantly, help keep me on task.
My Smartphone – As you will read, most of this list contains phone apps, so without my phone, I am in trouble. In addition to apps, I use my phone for quick research if I am away from a computer. For example, I needed to know what a deer skull looked like for a comic strip—hello Google Image search.
Wunderlist – I use this free Android app daily. You can make lists for tasks (ex: Writing, Website Updates, Airwolf Episodes to Watch), and flag certain tasks as important. It is versatile and easy to use. The widget feature displays my daily list on my phone’s home screen, and acts as a constant reminder. Plus, there is nothing more satisfying than tapping the Done box. (I first learned about this app via an article about time management on Lifehacker.)
Evernote – Another free Android app, Evernote lets you keep notes on your phone. You can have multiple notes too—mine are Comic Ideas, Sketch Ideas, Blog Ideas, and so on. Evernote, like Wunderlist, can sync to its website too, making it easy to read your notes on any computer.
Timer – This is just the ‘came with frame’ timer/clock app on my phone, but I use it religiously. Here is how I use it: I look at my Wunderlist to-do list, pick one of the starred items, and set my timer for 25 minutes. If I get the project done in 25 or less, great. If not, I take a short break (breaks are important), and get back at it for another 25. This is how I chip away at large projects. I also set a timer when I am making my social media rounds, or reading blogs and comics. It is easy to get sucked in and lose an hour (“…How did I end up reading about Punky Brewster on Wikipedia?!”).
Keep a schedule – This is a fairly new addition, and is an idea I picked up at Penguicon: schedule certain tasks for certain days. A schedule helps me juggle a variety of different projects. For example, let’s say on Monday I write blog posts, Tuesday I work on podcasts, Friday I update my websites, and so on. This keeps me from getting overwhelmed, since I know “OK, I am only worrying about writing today. Website changes can wait.”
Wake up early – While this may not be for everyone, waking up early helps me tackle my list. Yes, I even get up early on the weekends. I like having extra time in the morning, and it also gives me time to draw (hello non-digital creativity). I’d rather work from 7am to 8am on something, than 11pm to 12am, because I am sharper in the morning. And, nothing is better than killing half (or more) of your to-do list before lunch on a Saturday.
A pocket notebook and a pen – I don’t care if you use a fancy Moleskine or a 50 cent notepad–write stuff down. I will repeat this: write stuff down. Inspiration is a fickle mistress, and you never know when she will swing by for a visit. Evernote helps when I don’t have my notebook with me, but I prefer writing things down, or drawing. Stories, blogs, jokes—whatever, they can all grow from one single concept or idea, no matter how off the wall. I get an idea, I write it down. I may not use said idea for awhile, but it is there. When I am stuck, I go back and skim my notebook. Don’t trust your memory—write it down.