Proactive vs Reactive Work


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  • How do you feel about the idea that some people, if they don’t get an email response or an answer when they call, they’ll move on to the next prospect for the job? I’ve had that happen before where because I didn’t answer my phone immediately because I was in with a client or was working on a project, the potential client moved on to the next person in order to fill the job.

    I try to schedule things during the day for emails, etc, but I find that some people just don’t want to wait.

    Have you had this experience?

    • How would your current clients feel if they knew how much time you were wasting waiting for your email? 🙂

      Sure, missed opportunities may happen. But the alternative is never making great work because you never give yourself time.

  • My method which I have started using the past couple weeks is treat twitter and e-mail like smoking. Yea, you know you shouldn’t do it but take a little break get a drink, eat a snack, check your social media and e-mail and dive back in. Headphones and music are key for me to staying on task.

    • I completely agree, though I sometimes feel that listening to music can make you want to rock out (which is even move distracting…)
      I find that listening to radio shows/ podcasts can be really helpful as they have a lime limit (1/ 1.5 hours) and you really are locked in until they finish. Then when they finish, listen to another one.

  • nice clip nick!
    always happy when you put something new online.

    so, i hope you will understand me (i’m from germany :P)

    but for me it’s hard to decide when i want to spend time with my friends, go drinking some beer and when i have to say “no, sorry guys bla bla..” because this cinema4d, website and animation stuff is much fun to me that it’s sometimes hard to say “okay, enoug for today with cinema, time for some party!” when i’m working on a big project what i want to finish.

    specialy in hollidays, when everyone has much freetime, and most friends get bored because they dont know what to do in there freetime it’s hard because almost everyday some friends are calling and want to do something.

    best greetings,

    • When I was learning After Effects, I took a whole summer off from hanging out with my friends. None of them understood it. But it was that summer when I learned the most. Follow your passion to an extreme amount. It’s the only way to master something.

  • Gosh, I come up with idéas for private projects as well as projects I believe I can earn a few Swedish kronor from, but I just see limitations and get nothing done.. 🙁

    Really sucks as I’m aware of it, but still do not se a solution for all the limitations..

  • Here here,

    Recognise what you saying. Past months in the process of getting more seriously in business and in getting work done, playtime is over. And yeah, I need structure for it.

    I found it’s sometimes hard to stay focused with all kind of information popping up during the day, email, twitter, facebook and also working in an creative hub where spontaneous conversations occur.

    I like to make a list in the morning so I know what has to be done during the day and decide the order of doing it along the day.
    Planning it too strict never works but I need at least a few flows a day getting things done. A headset works really well for me, also shutting down google desktop, msn and firefox.

    But I have to say, I often sit on the couch with a laptop answering emails and checking interesting blogs. But that’s also something that’s hard to avoid when running your own business, so much to do. I don’t really mind, as long it’s not every night 🙂


  • working with 2 computers works realy well for me. on the one i only do my work, and on the other i surf or chat or whatever.
    i’m using my realy old computer for surfing so there was no need for an investmend aaand the best thing: if your pc is slow as fuck and the surfing experience is rather bad you tend to spend less time on this computer which in my case means -> beeing more productive 😉

    and even if this is not the case i think you’re more aware of what you are doing when you have a clear working area and a clear freetime area and you are not mixing things

  • Yeah, we need structure, we need to separate things and put them into their time cells, and surely these time cells are limited.

    And it is not only about the things Nick mentioned, there are also tons of professional stuff that look nice and I want to check them out, to play with some new projects and tuts. But they are not very important for me right now.

    Here comes step 2 of the problem! After we cut all IM, facebook etc off, we have to cut some professional duplicate info and unnecessary-but-so-beautiful things))

    I started to use XMind to organize some pieces of my workflows in visual charts and it works for now.

    We used to make curriculum for students when I worked at the Teaching Training Institute,
    and now in CG, it works just the same way. I think guys like FXPHD do great thing to provide systematic courses for CG people.

    (and time cells are still limited:))

  • Yea that´s a big problem for me. Its hard to stay away from videogames, facebook and youtube when your woking on the computer all day. In fact I´m watching this video and writing this comment when I should be working.
    Well, back to work. *whip cracks

  • I think of keywords that help me get back on track. Something stimulating

    or I read the definition of Discipline.

    works well because it tends to stick.

  • Weird, I was just wrestling with this as I really suffer from being distracted and organizing other stuff that takes me away from AE and C4D work…

    One of those just in the ‘Nick’ of time posts 🙂

  • I have a solution (it works for me) :
    3 hours a day i switch off my Wifi connection on my laptop…
    And nothing can distract me !!

  • Very familiar with what you are saying.

    I usually answer immediately to emails because if I don’t, at the end of the day I look at my inbox and I find the quantity of things to read and answer overwhelming.

    But you’re totally right about the fact that it is very distracting and it cuts-limits the creative process in our heads + slows everything down.

    There is another issue that I am also facing right now, similar, but different : the time spent with clients, meetings, out/in the office, lunches, important events to attend, shows, art etc.

    Even if I am able to not let myself distract with emails, phone etc… I spend a lot of time out of the office. I feel that it’s important to keep the connection with outside world, people, artists, clients – it’s also a great source of inspiration. There is also the meetings with clients that sometimes last more than 2 hours which I find very counterproductive because it’s simply too long and it’s not easy to keep everyone focused on the main topic.

    I don’t know… maybe the solution is to have certain moments of the day dedicated to rdvs – maybe not more than 2 or 3 h a day…

    How do you deal with this?

  • I when I worked on large projects always dragged me something from him or a new e-mail, surfing, etc. But I eventually realized that I should concentrate on one thing at a small things around me that we detract from the project write them and then they have completed all at certain times.

  • I struggle with this every day. It’s sick. I can’t believe where the day goes sometimes. I find the best way to help me is to schedule what i’m supposed to do on my calendar. Over the last 6 months, i’ve basically been living my life through Google Calendar, and it’s helped me stay on track more or less.

    I’ve also finally trimmed my RSS feeds, facebook friends and twitter followers down to a sane amount. If something cool does pop up, I use Instapaper to read it later (like today) when I have a block of time that can be devoted to ‘catching up’ on news I’ve missed over the last week.

  • Yeah, this has been a huge issue since going freelance from full time. Now working from home I have projects I know will only take me a day or two, but I have a week to do them… Procrastination all over the place, then scramble for the last day to get it done. It sucks.

  • Time management is not my strong part, but here is how I manage with emails. In the morning I check my emails and then answer if I need to some of them and then I completely shut down my email client (outlook) and forget about it until noon. Then I check it again at the end of the day…
    If there are too many emails to reply to I may leave some of them for the next morning…

  • Just a thought, but does this site serve a purpose anymore?
    The last post was August 13, a Friday at that.
    Since then (cue the crickets…)
    Could it be that Make Cool Shit has taken its last shat?
    Time to hit flush, and move on.

    • Ouch. Sorry it’s not updated as much as you like, James. I still think the site is a good idea, i’m just wondering what to do with the site, exactly. What would you like to see more of on here?

    • Just because the last post was in August doesn’t mean that the content is any less relevant today. I’ve been struggling with being proactive the past few days pretty badly and I just happened upon this blog post. I was looking for some inspiration/motivation at and I saw the link that said “” and I was like hell yeah, that’s what I’m all about doing. Then I’m instantly given information that is relevant to me in this current moment. Content my friend, content. 🙂

  • I would really like to hear more stuff like this video post. I enjoy everything you post, and would really like to hear more about the business side of the industry and how to interact with clients and potential employers. It is hard to find time to do a bunch of great projects like you have done and still find time to maintain and update several sites. I think the thing that would help me the most though, is attracting clients, learning about plug-ins, and other interesting cool tidbits.

    If it would help, I am one of I am sure many people who pay for a membership to a site that offers advanced tutorials and business advice and that is updated regularly.

    I am looking forward to buying your studio kit after the Christmas holiday is over.

    kind regards,

  • Hey Nick! I wish to hear from you a council about the possibility to move abroad , for example in USA (I from Russia). What its necessary to do? I constantly study and I work in a motion design direction, I try to be beyond, my works start to notice, but I still don’t see a way to get over abroad for work in the cool company or as freelancer. Thanks for all, Alex

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