Managing Time Creatively
When it comes to raising barns and building bridges can be a major drain. We have to fit our dream inside, beside, and often outside of the work we do to pay our bills. Just when we find the time to put forward on our sweetest idea, we also find that our minds and our creativity have been overspent.
In Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi outlined The 10 Dimensions of Creative Complexity, which I call the Ten Paradoxes of Creativity. Each paradox describes the ability to use a repertoire of thought and actions between two extremes — where most people show a distinct preference highly creative people prefer “both and.”
The first paradox that Dr. C reported is that:
Creative individuals have a great deal of physical energy, but they also are often quiet and at rest. p.58
What he offered three facts and observations about energy that seem most worth exploring.
- Their high energy due more to their focused minds than their genes.
- They often take rests and sleep a lot.
- Their energy is under their personal control.
Creative individuals learn to manage their energy by trial and error. This highly productive, focus / rest process is something they develop as a strategy to reach their goals.
How to Focus Your Creative Energy to Build that Dream
Managing focus and rest is a high performance skill. Our genes don’t have to align in a certain for us to master it. We start by raising our awareness, seeing the times when our creative energy naturally runs high and when we’re drawn to “a little down time.” Imagine how much more productive we’d be if we got in sync with our personal creative energy?
Here’s some things we might do . . .
- Pay attention to the ebb and the flow.
Granted we don’t have perfect control over our schedules. Still, we often fit ourselves to the work rather than find our most productive times for the kind of work we’re doing.
Are you more creative at night or in the early hours? It’s worth it to get up early to take advantage of what you’ll accomplish if you do.
Watch what you do every day and especially on the weekends. When do you naturally rest and when do you naturally play?
Are you checking email when your best ideas could be coming? Save the boring stuff for when your creative energy is lower.
Do you do better if you put your meetings and phone calls in the morning or the afternoon?
Play with the order of what you do until you find you’re breezing through the tasks that wear you out the most.
- When energy gets low, stop for fuel.
When you feel your energy draining, take a break, power nap, or walk around. Plodding on only moves forward more slowly with less efficiency.
How often do you stop for refueling? A few minutes refueling makes the time that follows more productive.
What sorts of activities recharge your brain? A well chosen activity can supercharge our brains, our creativity, and our resolve. We recover the time away in higher performance when we return.
If you’ve working on the computer with words or spreadsheets, you might do something colorful that requires not words or numbers.
If you’ve been doing design work, you might stop to do a crossword or read a magazine article. Using the other side of our brain can be the best way to refuel.
- Leave your work at an inviting unfinished place. At the end of a work session, we often hurry or push through to finish up something. Try this instead. Choose a point in the work where a part of the project will be “almost finished, but not quite.” When you return, you’ll finish it quickly and move forward with the extra charge of that accomplishment.
- Plan to be creative.
When a project inspires you, plan large blocks of uninterrupted time to devote as much energy as you want. Keep your creativity climbing faster by making sure you don’t have to stop just when the going is good.
Eat well and sleep well before you start.
Set up the atmosphere with minimal distractions.
Make creative work an occasion worth planning.
- Hang with high energy folks..
Spend time with people who energize you. Schedule your “catch up” phone conversations with upbeat friends during hours when you’re mind is lagging.
Ask them about their creative projects. Creativity is contagious. Take advantage of that.
Highly productive creative people focus like a laser beam when they’re working and they take energy from being fully engaged. (See Flow, also by Dr. C.) As soon as they’re not, they rest. That’s how they harness their creativity to produce their dreams.
We can do it too.
When does your energy rise and fall? What strategies can you offer to help us channel our creative energy?
–ME “Liz” Strauss