Add Structure to Your Schedule to Be More Creative

by Liisa Kyle, Ph.D. on 12/02/2010

image via commons.wikimedia.org

For those living a creative life, the absence of an externally-imposed schedule is both a joy and a delight.  How marvelous to know we have the entire day (or much of it) to frolic among our creative pursuits!  Yet at the end of the week, should we survey our accomplishments, we may find them lacking. (“How could it be another month gone already?!  I haven’t even drafted that chapter.”) While creative minds balk against restrictions of any kind, the truth is that some kind of structure or routine gives us the framework within which to be much more creative.  For DaVincis — creative people with multiple talents, many projects and thousand ideas — it’s even more important.

Why Add Structure to Your Schedule?

* To reduce stress, guilt and frustration

Have you ever frittered away a morning (or a day or a week) trying to choose what, of the available million options, you should do?  The stress, guilt and frustration of this kind of indecision isn’t pleasant.  Structure gets rid of all that by pre-deciding how you’re going to spend a given time period.

* To waste less time

A structured approach means you’ll spend more time actually doing the things you want to be doing…and less time procrastinating or agonizing over options.

* To be more creative

Structure creates the time, space and opportunity to go ahead and use your talents.  The more you use your talents, the more creativity you will unleash.

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How to Add Structure to your Schedule

Below are some options for adding structure to your schedule.  Review this list and see what appeals the most.  Which of the following options is apt to work well, given your unique circumstances?  Commit to try it for at least seven days – and ideally thirty.   Thirty days is the recommended target to cement effective practices as long-term habits.

Option 1:  Daily Morning Decision

Upon waking, first thing each morning, set a timer for five minutes.  Use this time period to decide which talents or projects you’d like to pursue during the day.   Pick one thing to focus on during the morning.  Would you like to focus on that during the afternoon also or would you prefer to shift focus to something else?  What about during the evening?  Before the timer goes off, make your decisions and write it down.  That’s your structure for the day.

Note that  this technique requires that you must make your decision as soon as you get up.  It doesn’t help to putter around for six hours and then think, ‘Hey, let’s break out the paints’.  Well you can…but in doing so you experience six hours of unnecessary guilt and pre-creative angst.

The advantage of this approach is that it is infinitely flexible.  You can work on your novel this morning, your business plan this afternoon and practice your trombone after dinner.  Tomorrow you might get up and decide to spend the entire day felting fabric.

This technique is guaranteed to thwart needless procrastination — the kind of procrastination that looks like indecision or paralysis (and that feels like hell).

It’s also a way of sidestepping perfectionism.  There’s no benefit (and plenty of costs) to agonizing over what to do for longer than five minutes.  Whatever you decide to do before the timer goes off is ‘good enough‘.

Option 2:  Pre-plan your Week

Make a fifteen minute appointment with yourself for first thing Monday morning.  (You may wish to set a timer to keep your planning restricted to only 15 minutes).  Sketch out what you’d like to accomplish during the week.  Bearing in mind your existing responsibilities — work, domestic, relationship, health, etc. — find blocks of time for your most important projects and talents.

Caution:  avoid over-scheduling yourself.  Leave some breathing room.  The goal here is not to plan activities for every moment of your entire week.  The purpose here is to schedule time to do what’s important to you.

The trick is that you must actually keep the appointments you’ve made with yourself.  If someone wants to interfere with the time you’ve selected, you can defer and demure, politely and in full integrity by saying you have a previous appointment scheduled at that time.

To further ensure you keep you creative appointments, be sure to remove potential distractions —  turn off your phone, unplug your internet connection, close the door and focus on the task at hand.

One advantage of this technique is that it allows you to arrange a more balanced week for yourself:  you can accommodate your creative projects in the context of other life domains.

Option 3:  Quotas

If the notion of actually scheduling specific times to do specific things repels you, consider using quotas, instead.  Rather than assigning specific activities to specific times,  simply decide what tasks you want to complete during the week.  It doesn’t matter when you do them, as long as they get done. These might include  regularly recurring quotas (e.g. write X pages or Y articles, make Z  necklaces, spend at least X hours in the studio, etc) plus unique tasks for that particular week (e.g. purchase needed supplies, submit slides to that competition, etc.)

The advantage here is that your week is infinitely flexible.   It really doesn’t matter when you do the things on your list, so long as they get done.  If you so desired, you could do nothing all week, then pull an all-nighter on Thursday to complete everything.

If you’re the kind of person who likes to ‘keep ahead’, you may well find yourself exceeding your quotas, which can be quite satisfying.  The caution is that you don’t become a workaholic — addicted to that groove of getting more and more done.  It’s important to build in some regular playtime…or your creativity, well-being and relationships may suffer.

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Activity: Pick one of the three options and try it for the next month. Monitor your productivity and general level of satisfaction.

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donecoverWant more tips and techniques for getting things done? Check out my book  YOU CAN GET IT DONE:  Choose What to do, Plan, Start, Stay on Track, Overcome Obstacles, and Finish

Available here for only $3.99: http://bit.ly/YouCanGetItDone

 

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Are you struggling with too many talents, skills, ideas? You may have The DaVinci Dilemma™! Find tools, fun quizzes, coaching, inspiration and solutions for multi-talented people at http://www.davincidilemma.com/.

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