I recently found myself struggling with getting into my creative zone and this was wearing me out. I was anxious with deadlines looming when I realized that I am completely out of sync with my creative process, and I was driving too hard for productivity instead of allowing time for creativity.
Too many things! So little time!
Dealing with a bunch of tasks that are process-oriented and time-sensitive and trying to balance a creative output can be a challenge… especially when everything is required in the now. How did I overcome this? After much introspection, I realized that I am not allowing myself ample creative time, and I am getting too involved with process-driven tasks during the time I was supposed to be tuning into my creativity. Everything was jostling for Mindspace and creating cognitive congestion. I was not getting anything done.
A planning disaster!
I was trying to get a creative time block in an hour before a client onboarding call. As you can imagine, my mind refused to function creatively, and I found myself floundering between non-essential tasks. I was not being creative, and I was standing in my way in preparing for the client call which would have been the logical thing to do.
Enter time blocking...
When I was spending a lot of idle time and getting the bare minimum done, I knew things were taking a turn for the worse, and I was heading for burnout if I didn’t make a change fast. And to accomplish this, instead of time blocking based on tasks that must be completed, I time blocked based on what requires the most creativity, concentration, and least concentration. I then looked at my calendar, slotted tasks that required the least concentration but were essential - between calls, high concentration tasks for when I had long periods of uninterrupted time, and creative tasks for longer blocks when my mind was fresh or free from deadline pressures. IT WORKED!
Understand your process!
It also helped me understand my creative process a bit better! Any person who creates will tell you that you can’t just put pen to paper or brush to canvas. You need to be inspired or your outcome will be sub-standard! This process can be different depending on an individual, but this is what generally works for me:
Preparation: The discover, browse, listen, or research phase. This is when I look at color palettes, other social accounts, storyboards, articles, and, if it's an MBA assignment, research papers. I read, watch, and basically absorb concepts to ensure that I understand the assignment.
Incubation: I sit for a while with the gathered ideas, theories, or concepts. I don't start working right away because I need my ideas to percolate into my mind before they take hold and become my own. I need to mull something. This is known as the Archimedes or Newton phase. I'll even put my subconscious mind to work and go take a nap (This is mostly true when I'm writing academic papers).
Illumination: The AHA! moment that jolts me and all the pieces suddenly fall together in perfect alignment with the universe – or at least that is how it feels, and I proceed with creation… feeling utterly enlightened and satisfied with myself.
When I try to skip these steps, my entire process becomes more time consuming, and the result is not my best work. I've learned the hard way that a process is in place for a reason, and that skipping a process results in chaos.
Set your subconscious mind to the task!
“Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious.” – Thomas Edison
While you sleep, your subconscious mind is at work. This is something I've been experimenting with, and I've had some success! Not that I'm a stickler for how things are done. However, if you're curious about how it's done, here are the recommended steps.
Make a request... 10 minutes before you go to bed, meditate, and write down what you want to accomplish. Ask yourself a lot of questions!
Retrieve your request… The difficult part is that, unlike the 80 percent of us who reach for our phones within 15 minutes of waking up, you need to dial back a bit and take 10 minutes to do what I like to call a "Brain Dump," in which you jot down related thoughts to the task you set for your subconscious. This is the time when the creative brain is most in tune with the subconscious.
Supposedly, this is how you tap into the higher realms of clarity, creativity, and learning which Waitzkin calls “crystallized intelligence.” Try it out on the small things first and build proficiency and confidence. You can read more on this here… This 10-minute routine will increase your clarity and creativity. For me, it works like a dream or should I say… while I am dreaming?
Here are some cool brain facts I discovered while preparing this article that are too cool not to share:
Stress can change the size of your brain and make it smaller!
The enemy of productivity is multitasking – Research shows your error rate goes up by 50% and it takes twice as long to get a task done.
Naps improve your brain’s performance – Yay!
Want to rewire your brain? Meditate!
Want to reorganize your brain? Exercise!
Take notes by hand!
Soak up the sun!
Plan to procrastinate!
If you are curious about the science behind these facts, here are the articles:
I'm now off to maximize brain performance (a.k.a. take a nap) and put my subconscious mind to work! Yes, I intend to procrastinate! Happy Creating!
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Written by Tatum De Souza