It’s All About Staying Focussed

Okay, the title is pretty heavy on the photography pun but really this blog post is all about how to stay focussed on what you love and how I (try) to stay organized and in touch with what I want to achieve in photography and in the rest of the areas in my life.

Now, if you know me in ‘real life’ you’re probably laughing at the fact that I, Joel Robison, the one with the messy desk drawers and the one who is perpetually losing his keys, remote, phone, etc….is writing a blog post on being organized. I would say that for me, it’s one of the goals that I’ve been working on the longest. I am not, by any definition of the word, organized. I operate most efficiently in some sort of chaos, which I think is true for most creative people. I like to have my tools accessible, I like to see what I have to work with, not keep it all neatly arranged inside a box. For me, that image of the two sides of the human brain is pretty much an accurate visualization of who I am, a total right brain…..a bit messy, colourful and usually not staying in one place for very long.

I used to think it was kind of silly that some people needed to write lists or keep a day planner to stay organized. I felt that I was able to just log it into my brain and there it would be forever, which is true….it stays there along with the hundred million other things I think about during the day. Around July of last year I found myself coming up with concept ideas and then forgetting about them when the time came to work on photos, thus began my Mind Map Journal.



If you’re not familiar with mind mapping , it’s pretty much the artistic version of a brainstorm. There are no rules, there are no guidelines…it’s just get those ideas out on paper any way you want. I decided to make a recycled journal from a cereal box and cover it with a drawing of some cameras to make it easy to spot. Essentially on each page I start with a word, phrase, idea or theme and then shoot out different concepts out from the centre.

For me, this way of staying organized is the easiest to do, it’s all contained in one book and I don’t have to keep it in lines or point form, I can doodle, scratch things out, colour it in…whatever!  My mind map quickly became my daily companion, I would bring it everywhere, just in case i had an idea, I could write it down and let it go for a while. When I did come back and revisit one of the ideas I had written down, I coloured it in yellow. It’s a relief of sorts to have this book, it’s like an answer key to concepts…when I’m stuck for ideas I can flip through this book and read through the pages and say “oh right! I was going to do “_________” photo!”

Another way I’ve been trying to stay more organized and in the present moment is to sketch out my ideas before I try to photograph them. I feel that this helps create a clearer image in my mind of what exactly I’m going for. To me, drawing and photography really help build each other up, if I sketch out composition, I feel like I’m more aware of it during a photo shoot and it really makes me happy to see the same idea in two different mediums.



How do you try to organized and focussed on what you love?


13 thoughts on “It’s All About Staying Focussed

  1. Thank you Joel!! You were my inspiration for keeping an idea journal…although mine is not half as cool looking as yours 🙂

  2. I actually use my wacom tablet to draw and sketch some ideas I have. I should do more sketching tho because it helps save time and keep ideas fresh in your mind with something visual rather than written down. I hand make books, I should get one to you sometime to write and draw down all your creative ideas. Maybe an artist trade?

  3. I use a pink moleskine (pink to find it in my bag our on my desk under tone of books : ) and write photo ideas but mostly for specific projects asthe teleidoscoe. I add accessories ,locations our specific lights if needed and draw anything which could help me to remember and understa the idea later.Before I wrote on my diaries, notes our sheet of paper but never remembered where idea was! I like to relate photos after the shoot too, specially for all the strobist things. I draw the diagrams on a strobit notebook.
    Love the way you draw your shoots before!
    tx for your awesome articles joey! it helps us a lot!

  4. I do the same thing. I sketch my photo ideas and blog posts in a notebook or even in my ipod notes. I think it is very helpful to write down every idea that we have and not only trust our brain.

    Very cool blog post Joel! 🙂
    P.S: I loved the last picture ❤

  5. I would love to draw like you do!! I use a medium whiteboard to write the most important things of the week, but that is not creative at all LOL. I would have to do something like that. Great post

  6. Love the idea however my drawing capabilities are practically nil. But I do write down ideas from time to time on a word document for photo shoots. I always wondered where you got such creative and out-of-the-ordinary ideas and brought them to fruition.

  7. Think it’s great to write ideas down. I started using an iPhone app a while back, but I find that I don’t use it that often. There’s something about holding onto a book & flipping through pages fast and being able to jot/doodle/or create. Thanks for the inspiration…wish I could sketch as good as you =). For me it will be stick figures and the like….lol

  8. this post of yours has been an inspiration for me too ! =) ….though iv been good in arts/sketching etc, but never thought of using it for planning purposes !… thanks for a great idea btw ! xD…

  9. Pingback: FOCUS!

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