James T. Green is a conceptual artist, radio producer, writer, and educator from Chicago, Illinois, and now in Brooklyn, New York.

thoughts + feelings

48: Being a Time Pirate

It’s a few months ago on a Monday morning. I rolled out of bed to check my week’s agenda. Bleary-eyes. Finger glides on my phone. Tap around to Fantastical.

Monday: Studio Visit

Tuesday: AIGA Meetup

Wednesday: Freelance Client Meeting

Thursday: Friend’s Artist Talk

Friday: Friend’s Art Opening

Saturday: Breakfast Client Meeting. Evening Drinks With Friends

Sunday: Brunch With Friends. Evening Client Meeting

Time for myself: 0

Somehow all my poor planning desicions landed on one week to torment me. Surprise, I’ve become a walking parody of all my career stereotypes.

So let’s talk about time management.

I’ve been in a self-started hiatus. During this period, I’ve been investigating how to better use my time, limit distractions, and bettering relationships with fewer people rather than skimming relationships with plenty. The moment a proposed plan comes my way, I’ve decided that it needs to belong in one of three buckets:

  1. Something that leads to career development

    (Studio visit with curator/artist, coffee with a student/apprentice, industry meetup, press interview)
  2. Open studio time

    (Writing, designing, art-making, etc.)
  3. Purely social

    (Date night, brunch with friends, artist talks, exhibition openings, parties)

Career development plans are high-return with high-stress. They require physical and mental preparation, draining on many levels but lead to great opportunites. Because of those reasonings, I limit these plans to once a week, that way I have enough time creating with what I’ve learned, and allowing for my social elasticity to bounce back.

Open studio time is the most important part of my calendar because it’s easy to be overlooked. It’s the least glamorous but the bread and butter, the time that is dedicated towards making sense of ideas, where boredom strikes and connections are made, the space where headspace equals output. It’s the most valuable of my time, so I treat it with the care it deserves.

Purely social plans remind me that I’m human and not a machine dedicated solely to outputting things into the world. Too much and nothing gets done—too little and you’re in solitary discomfort. We are social beings and I like to talk shit with friends, eat, and drink. I limit these to twice a week.

I had brunch with Lena Masek on Saturday. Our coffee got cold but our conversations never chilled. Three hours were spent discussing everything from the whiteness of Chicago design and tech companies to the joys of growing up in the Chicagoland suburbs and hanging out at Denny’s. There’s something special about intentional, one-on-one listening with a new friend. The slow builds and wanes in coversation vastly parallels the sporatic, hot takes of the internet stream’s leaky faucet.

Afterwards, I had a purposely free afternoon which I spent walking up and down the blocks in my neighborhood, walking into different shops, daydreaming until sunset. Unstructured mind-wandering led me to this week’s letter. While a pirate is one that attacks and robs ships at sea, I look at myself as a time pirate, taking back my schedule from other people’s expectations and structuring it on my terms.

How do you go about making plans? Do you have a system to what you say yes and no to? Hit reply and let me know.

Thanks for reading,

-James

What did I find interesting this week?

  1. Let’s Ignore Each Other Together: What wearable computing devices are getting wrong with giving attention back to their wearers.

  2. Kanye and Paul McCartney’s New Music Video, “Only One”: Kanye is out here making me catch feelings. His daughter, North, is just the cutest.

  3. The Bored and Brilliant ProjectNew Tech City, a WNYC podcast, started a project where you can track your phone usage and work towards lowering it for the sake of being more bored and creative. I’ve been a participant for a few weeks and it’s intense, but needed. 

  4. Interviews: Artist David Leggett: My studiomate at the Washington Park Arts Incubator was interviewed on Dry Magazine. A great insight into his painting and mixed media practice.

  5. Normcore vs. Health Goth vs. Cutester: I Tried All Three to See Which Sucks Least: A delightful little read that makes you realize just how goofy media driven subcultures can be.

James T. Green