There are a lot of misconceptions about the creative process that people have. Those who appear to be more creative are seen as just being more creative than others. I believe that someone is more creative because have the ability to separate creativity from getting things done. Most people know that constraints such as time and business stifle creativity. How can you be creative if you are worried about deadlines? I decided to put a video together discussing how I try to make time for the creative process but also assure that I am still getting things done. My process is not perfect. Let me talk a bit here about what seems to work for me.
1. Schedule Your Tasks
If you are able to, schedule the tasks, meetings, and other items you need to get done so there is a clearly defined time that these things will be dealt with. If you do not schedule a time to do them, all you will think about is the deadline. Deadlines stifle creativity unless you take away their power by scheduling the tasks to be completed before that deadline. Take the power away from the deadline so you don’t have so much anxiety over it.
2. Schedule Time to be Creative
Remember those scenes in the tv show Mad Men where Don Draper seems to be up against a wall with a deadline and no idea so he just decides to take a nap? This happens in the first episode of the first season. Don seems overwhelmed with what is going on around him, so he just takes a nap instead. He wakes up, has an idea, and knocks it out of the park.
Now I don’t think that naps will solve all of your problems with being creative, but I am sure that taking some time to recharge and clear your mind will. It’s hard to be creative when all you can think about is the deadlines and work tasks that need to be done.
I try to schedule some uninterrupted time that I can spend thinking and writing with the sole purpose of exploring ideas. This has to be a time where no deadlines or tasks can be done and no promises are made to anybody. You also need to disconnect to prevent distractions from coming up. I recommend not checking email for at least a few hours before you start this creative time because you do not need fresh reminders of upcoming things that are required of you. You need to have a fresh mind that is as clear as possible.
For me, being creative seems to come easier in the morning. I typically have more energy and nothing has happened yet that day to fill my mind with the needs of others. I have more mental bandwidth in the mornings.
3. Journal and Take Notes
How many times have you had an idea right before bed, not write it down, and it’s gone in the morning? This used to happen to me all the time until I started journaling and taking notes throughout the day. I use a combination of things such as Evernote, Trello, and a physical journal to keep track of my thoughts, ideas, tasks, and goals.
Evernote is great because you can use it like a notebook to take down ideas, make lists, and track goals. Since it’s an app you can put on all of your devices, you can load photos, audio, and sketch into it as well. I often take a picture of something I read that I want to remember later. You can use the search feature in Evernote to search text in images as well so the next time you see something cool in a magazine, instead of tearing out the page, take a picture of it in Evernote and store your thoughts along with it. I do this when I read as well. The image above I took with my smartphone and in Evernote, I highlighted the text I wanted to remember.
I use Trello to put my ideas into action. In Trello, I set up boards for different ideas. Those ideas are put on cards and those cards can be moved throughout the board. For videos I want to entertain making, I have a Videos board. On the videos board are different lists. Video ideas start off on the left-hand side in an Ideas list. This is where I dump any and all video ideas I come up with. Some of these ideas will never see the light of day. Other ideas will move down the board through other lists as they make their way to the last list on the right which is for Live Videos.
There are many tools out there to help with your creative process. For me, it’s getting the ideas out of my head so I can clear up mental bandwidth for other things. This is how we are able to push out multiple videos each week while still getting a ton of work done for our clients.
4. Get Active
This is the area I need the most help in. I used to have no problem getting to the gym, being active throughout the day, and maintaining some sort of activity at home. I recognize that when I am more active, I am more creative. I have read the research on how being active affects the brain, it’s just tough to actually make it happen. This is the area in my life I am most challenged. When I wake up, I just want to get to work. When I get home, I just want to chill and hang out with my family. I need to work more activity into my life because when I do, I am more alert and my mind is more pliable.
5. Give Yourself Some Downtime
One thing we don’t do much of these days in the United States is allow for some downtime. We are always in production mode and never go into R&D mode. R&D typically stands for Research and Development, but I like to look at it as Relax and Dream time. When I give my body and mind time to not worry about the needs of my clients or the mountain of tasks I wanted to complete, I come back from that recharged. Not only am I able to be more creative but I am able to get tasks done quicker and more effectively as well.
Being Creative and Getting Things Done
If you don’t plan to succeed you plan to fail. ~Benjamin Franklin
Flying by the seat of our pants doesn’t work. Not in today’s world. If you want to be more creative while at the same time expanding your ability to be more productive, you need to plan for it. I can’t say I have found that perfect plan or combination of things that result in the highest level of productivity, but I am working towards it. This process will never be complete. It’s something you constantly refine and work at. Eventually, something becomes too routine and is no longer effective so you have to change it up.
Work towards finding something that works for you. Try a few of the things I am doing to see if they help you be more creative while still having plenty of time to get things done.
If you have an idea or something that works for you that I did not mention, let me know in the comments section below.