Important & Urgent vs. Important & Not Urgent

I'm sure most of you are familiar with Eisenhower's quadrant of Important vs Urgent that Steven Covey popularized back in the '70s. The concept is that we waste time on unimportant tasks (regardless of urgency) vs. addressing the important tasks whether urgent or not. 


All my life I have battled with this. In high tech and marketing, sorting this out was much easier for me than what I face today. Today, the most important and not urgent task is my painting. I say "not urgent" because although I feel compelled to paint, there's no deadline of any kind (unless it's a commission). While it's my deepest passion and what I'd rather be doing more than anything else — I'm also a creature of many passions and interests, all of which have a tendency to sidetrack me because I can see how whatever-it-is I'm learning about will help my painting and creativity. (And no, I don't have ADD, ADHD or OCD.)


For most people, it's easy to "Do it - delegate it - schedule it - ditch it."  Delegate and ditch are easy for me to sort out. But "Do" vs "Schedule" is my kryptonite.


Covey's model says "do it" are tasks with clear deadlines and consequences for not acting immediately. I find this bizarre in my new world of creating art. As an artist, creativity has its own time schedule. Yet as a business owner, there are certain times of year or events that I need to pay attention to if I want to make a living as a professional artist.


Original art is the basis of all "inventory." The originals are inventory, the fine art print reproductions on various surfaces, merchandise, and now NFTs, are all more inventory. Exhibitions, art shows, art competitions are all time-bound events. So on the one hand, creating art is my joy and my passion. But all the derivative works take "work" and suck up time I'd rather spend on painting. Those derivative works' tasks can be easily assigned into the quadrants. But the creation of the original art is the keystone. It's where it all starts. And creating art fits easily into the Not Urgent / Not Important — but does it really?


For without creating new original art, nothing else happens. Literally.


Thus the answer according to Covey is schedule time to do it. Yep. I do. And yet, and yet, and yet — creating art is part discipline, part imagination, part passion, part expertise, part knowledge, part emotional fulfillment, part magic (yes, magic). Kinda hard to schedule "magic." And not everything I paint is worthy of seeing the light of day, You should see the number of paintings I've rejected because they're not good enough. Truly. I've got far more failures than I do successes.


I've learned from experience (not just research studies) that creativity is also enriched and flourishes where there are at least a few constraints. Because ultimately, creativity is about solving puzzles (or problems if you prefer). This is why I enjoy the annual 31 in 31 How to Pastel Challenge led by a wonderful Canadian pastelist, Gail Sibley. We all have one constraint: create one painting a day for 31 days. I also set additional constraints on myself. This year: no more than 31 minutes to paint. Paper / surface size no larger than 9 x 12 and preferably smaller. No brushing off "mistakes."  (Working small is very hard. Working FAST is even harder.)


What most of you rarely ever see is how often I paint, sketch, draw and the mistakes. How often I fail. I. FAIL. EVERY. DAY. Salespeople know this — they face rejection almost every hour. I face rejection — from myself. I'm my own worst critic (aren't we all?). But it's those hours and hours, days, weeks, months, and years of failing that give me the hope, courage, skills, and energy to produce a few good pieces of work each year.


Until now, I've only shared those failures amidst my fellow artists. I'm usually reluctant to share such images because people can be harsh critics. And while I'm personally pretty impervious to harsh comments, the business woman in me says "don't mess up the brand." But something has shifted for me this year. In a very big way. This year I'm committed to exposing the entire process and sharing my struggles and my wins with you.


If you're on my email list, what you will see on my 31 in 31 Challenge Page are rough photos of these small works in their raw format — no corrections, "as is." I will be posting them daily on my site and you'll only see them if you have the URL. I'm also doing time-lapse captures as I paint so I can see the progression and where I go right or wrong (when I analyze it later). I'm posting the time-lapses as reels daily on Instagram. So follow me:  if you want to see them.


Those of you who are on my email list will be able to buy those paintings before the general public gets access. Be on the lookout for the email  I'll send out later this week with the link. Check back daily to see what's new. And stay alert for exclusive special offers about those paintings (and others).  If you're not a current subscriber, you can do that here.