Give Yourself the Gift of a Creative Routine
Routines. Ugh. How boring? Author Vilayat Inayat Khan once said “The human spirit lives on creativity and dies in conformity and routine.”
He says your spirit dies. That’s horrific. That’s what we bring to the table.
But here’s the thing: we need routines. They can aid in your creativity and productivity (sorry, Vilayat). Sure, if we were all creating on our own, living without clients, deadlines, laundry, bills, social gatherings, errands, our minds would flourish…and we wouldn’t have jobs.
But we do have creative responsibilities in the form of clients, partners or internal obligations (thank goodness), deadlines, laundry, bills, friends and to do lists that span the gamuts of work, personal obligations and fun (What? You don’t have a fun to do list?).
With all of these to-dos, it’s all too easy for those other things to creep into creative time – so in an over scheduled, jam packed world, it’s time to create a creative routine.
Step 1: Know Thyself.
As a creative, you are your own instrument. Anyone can grab a pen and paper to scribble down some words, or grab some stock photography and download InDesign.
Set yourself up for success by knowing when you work the best.
For example, I know if I have a mounting list of things to do around the house, it’s worth waking up a smidge early to start laundry and order dog food to mentally check it off the list. If I let it linger, I start thinking “…what else am I missing?” and a few quick items turns into a laundry list of things, including many that don’t matter. Yes, I know my grandma’s birthday is in 3 weeks. No, I don’t need to get her a card right now.
I also know I’m not great at concepting first thing in the morning, so I save that time for things that take more “in the box” brain power like social posts or SEO work. By 11 am, my creative juices are flowing, the coffee has hit and I know I can transition to becoming more of an idea generator.
Step 2: Time Blocking.
Once you’ve honed your creative flow, start blocking time. New to time blocking? I literally mean putting meetings with yourself on your calendar to ensure no one else takes it. You can also mute Slack or your choice of messaging apps (just give your team a heads up first).
Maybe you have your best creative rush first thing in the morning and like to end your day with more administrative tasks – or maybe you’re at a bicoastal so you can use the time difference to your advantage. By knowing how you, and your team flow, you can make space for creative time to be sacred.
And by setting aside time to do the work, you can also set aside time to do all those other things. The incomparable Ron Swanson once said “you can’t half ass two things, whole ass one thing.” So create when you’re trying to create. Don’t try to make vet appointments, or catch up on the news.
Not only does time blocking allow you to plan better, which also allows the team to plan more effectively, but it allows you to be more efficient in what you’re doing.
Step 3: Say No.
Time blocking only works if you say no when your coworkers (and the rest of your life) try to interfere. The moment that dam is breached, even just that one time, you open yourself up to an onslaught of meetings. It’s staying true to your word. This is important work, and you need the time and the space to do it well.
Of course it’s not a perfect system. But it helps. In an industry where you are your own product, it is worth mastering yourself to master your craft, not only for your longevity, but for your clients and partners.
Step 4: Break the Habit.
Fast forward a few months: you’re killing it with the time blocking, you’re now your project manager’s favorite and your co-workers respect your creative boundaries. The moment you find yourself getting bored with this routine, switch it up. Work someplace new, look at different sites for source material, or take a stroll. Don’t let routine become a rut.