Why this visual artist wants to focus on surviving over being productive

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Visual artist and illustrator Soleil Ignacio talks about working out to end one’s day and feeling lucky about the occasional distractions that come her way. Photo courtesy of SOLEIL IGNACIO

Rituals is an interview series which highlights the different ways of boosting productivity.

Rizal (CNN Philippines Life) — Being forced to stay at home has brought up many discussions about why we should or should not be productive. The assumption that we have more free time has proven itself to be untrue for those working from home — for some, it has become mentally taxing to allot more time for work, because there’s fewer reasons to wind down.

For visual artist and illustrator Soleil Ignacio, productivity is no longer top of mind for her. Being self-employed, her productivity is ultimately up to her. Ignacio has lent her feminine, warm toned illustrations to several local and international brands, including beauty brand Ellana Mineral Cosmetics and fashion retail giant Uniqlo. She also maintains an online store for merchandise featuring her work. “Thankfully I've been selling some merch even from before so that's another stream of income for me,” Ignacio says. “I guess I would just need to add more options and designs now.”

Soleil Ignacio's "Change the Norm" painting. Photo courtesy of SOLEIL IGNACIO

Being online-based means there hasn’t been much need to deviate from Ignacio’s usual work flow. But beyond fulfilling her existing work commitments, Ignacio has just been keeping it steady. “[There’s] nothing really,” she says, “just focusing on surviving first… My personal well-being and mental health will always be much more important than my work.”

In an interview with CNN Philippines Life, the visual artist and illustrator talks about working out to end one’s day and feeling lucky about the occasional distractions that come her way.

What’s the first thing you do each morning? How does that affect the rest of your day?

I'm not a morning person, so I usually wake up at around 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. I just eat a light breakfast then prepare to bike going to my studio. Once in my studio, I have my morning coffee while warming up for my work day.

What time of day do you feel most productive? Why do you think that works for you?

I feel most productive around 1 p.m. onwards! I don't know why, but I just can't really stay focused during the morning. I've tried, but nope (Laughs). Pre-COVID, I'd be staying in our studio until around 10 p.m. working. Unfortunately, I can't do that now because of the curfew.

What do you enjoy most about your job, and what do you find most challenging about it?

Drawing is something I really enjoy doing, ever since I was a kid. I get lost in it whenever I draw, I can do it for hours straight (when I'm in the mood). I guess that's also the most challenging thing about it; doing it for work can get exhausting and can take away the magic. Also, as a one-woman self-employed artist and designer, I constantly have to work for and against myself — if that even makes sense (Laughs).

How do you deal with distractions?

Now I honestly just let it be. Before I used to feel so guilty and beat myself up when not doing any work. But since times are now depressing as it is, I don't want to put any more burden on myself. I'm really lucky to be able to slow down and take a break.

With regard to day-to-day challenges, do you have a ritual that helps you through it?

I just really need to have coffee before my day starts; if not, i'll feel sluggish and get headaches. After coffee, I play my songs then get to work. And then after getting home from the studio, I do some workout. I need all the endorphins I could get; also, it helps me fall asleep!

When did you start this ritual?

With working out, at the beginning of this year I started attending yoga classes and doing wall climbing regularly. This was the time we got a separate studio so I was going out daily again; before this, I was just working from home so I didn't go out much. I was really enjoying being active and all — then corona happened! So now I try to make sure to still sustain that lifestyle.

Are you always able to accomplish this ritual? Does it have any bearing on your mood and your productivity?

No, I suck at doing routines. Yup, I do feel different when I don't get to work out, like I just want to lie down all day.

Are there any apps you use for productivity?

Not really. But I use Nike Training Club for my workouts.

How do you unwind after a busy day?

Watch apartment tours or plant videos on YouTube.