What does Maximizing Your Creativity look like?
Here’s something most people don’t understand: The more flexible your job, the harder the work. Most people see someone like me at a coffee shop in the middle of the day and think, “Lucky… That person gets to be so lazy.” What they don’t understand, however, is the effort I have to spend on time management.
Yeah, I might be able to spend all day at a coffee shop, but if I don’t do any work all week, the checks will eventually dry up. If I allow myself to binge watch the latest Netflix hit all day, every day, I will eventually have to get an inflexible job like most other people have.
The last few years have been a crash-course in productivity. Here are five things that have helped me juggle creating content for seven websites, writing two books a year, maintaining multiple social media accounts, and saying yes to opportunities to participate in the SALT Community. So here are 5 key’s to maximizing your creativity:
1. Get inspired when you don’t need it.
If you start looking for inspiration after the project has already been assigned to you, you’ll probably end up copying more than creating. That’s because it takes time for inspiration to marinate, combine, and then morph into a new idea. And for those of us who are required to create great work multiple times a day, there isn’t enough time for that to happen if we only get inspired when we need it.
That’s why it’s important to consume creativity outside of a deadline. I have the benefit of running multiple websites where inspiration is part of what I do. I’m constantly consuming new inspiration. But even if you aren’t in a position like me, you can get all of that just like I can. You can subscribe to blogs and design websites that will deliver that stuff to your inbox. Make inspiration a priority so it’ll be there when you need it.
2. Break big projects into small steps.
I’ve never been able to sit down at my computer and write a whole book. I’ve tried. Instead, I have to write half a chapter. Or a thousand words. Or one-fourth of a chapter. That’s how you write a book. You break the project into small steps, otherwise you’ll feel buried, or simply overwhelmed by the project.
Take that huge project and break it into manageable steps. Then give a deadline to each project so you stay on task:
- Choose colors.
- Sketch some ideas.
- Revise those ideas.
- Decide on which idea to run with.
- Mock up in Illustrator.
The project will still take a week to do, but you’ll see yourself making actual progress on the project instead of just seeing “Design the thing” repeating itself on your to-do list each day.
3. Focus on concentrated bursts.
Maybe you’re a freak of nature. Maybe you can maintain motivation for eight hours solid. I can’t. My motivation comes in bursts.
I can either try to fight my focus, or I can embrace the truth and lean into it. That’s why I love separating my to-do list into small, short bursts of activity. If something’s going to take me longer than an hour, I break it up into 30-minute increments. I can focus and work hard for 30 minutes.
It’s amazing, if you break your to-do list into bursts, that you can get a ton of stuff done and maintain your motivation throughout the day.
4. Get low priority items out of your eyesight.
If your to-do list is overwhelming, remove low priority items from the list. Maybe make two lists – one high priority and one low. In the event you can’t get everything done on your list, you’ll at least finish the stuff that matters. Plus, you’ll see more progress on your to-do list when you check off one item out of 10, instead of one item out of 20.
I used Wunderlist (this app no longer available). When my daily list gets too long, I star a few items in the morning and work from that list first. Then when I get all that out of the way (or at least most of it), I go back to my daily list and finish the rest. Getting low priority items out of sight is a key for maximizing your creativity.
5. Eliminate distractions.
Whether you work on your own or with a team, you’ll deal with distractions. I deal with emails. You might deal with random meetings or requests from co-workers. I find these distractions are often the things that derail us the most. That’s why I try to get the stuff that requires the most focus done in the early morning. I even find my most productive days are when I wake up at 6 and start work at 7am. I get a ton of work done when there are no distractions. Then I can mop up the rest of the stuff on my to-do list in between the afternoon distractions.
Figure out the time of day you’ll be least distracted and focus on your difficult projects during that time.
Your job is flexible because you’re highly motivated. Keep up the motivation by tightening your productivity; you’ll be able to maximize your creativity and getting better work done. Your ministry needs it. You need it.