My name is Carrie, and I am a workaholic. I truly love what I do, so not all of it always feels like work. Some tasks, however, definitely feel like work. Scheduling and proofreading blog posts is one of them. Yet I’ve come to realize there is always a time and place for each work related task.

I find it  is easiest to arrange my blog posts when I’m not in a creative space or mood. It’s a task that needs doing and can be a good use of that non-creative energy. I often feel a lack of creativity early, early morning or just after lunch. By acknowledging my creative ebb and flow, I can balance my creative time with other work obligations. And I manage to save the appropriate space and time for my creativity (when I’m actually feeling creative!).

Photo by Earl McGehee Someday I’ll be this good at yoga!

Another thing I do with that less creative time is exercise. I don’t know why, but an afternoon run feels so much better to me than an early morning one. I know early morning guarantees I fit it in, but I feel more satisfied with my day when I have a slow, comforting awakening in the morning. I can wade into my writing or painting and then all of a sudden, I feel alert and I’ve finished something. Feeling accomplished is a great way to start the day!

Once I accomplish some work, exercise is the perfect way to break up my time. I am one of the few that usually enjoy my workouts when I do have them. I like the feeling of pumping out music I like, sweating to Metallica (yes please) or Lady Gaga (yes, you can like both). It’s a space for me to process new ideas or develop new ideas if I feel stuck. The endorphins help my mood be optimistic and hopeful. It also helps me justify the copious amount of cookies in my diet. (I should really work on that).

An article I read said that Knowledge workers, cough cough Creatives, can only really contribute 6 hours every day. Knowledge workers can only give 6 hours of quality ideas, thinking, and process. In fact, late morning and late afternoon tend to be the most focused times of day. So, for all you creatives out there, how can we maximize these 6 hours? If that is all we have to give, how do we make them the best 6 hours possible?!

Today I plan to bullet some new strategies I’ve been trialling to help me face my needs for creative productivity. Some of these I’m sure you’ve heard before from many self-help gurus out there. I’m sharing what works for me.

Image by Sean MacEntee

Make lists.

I don’t care what kind of list you make, but they are key for my creative success. I’ve started offering my days more flexibility with the kind of list I make. On Saturday night I make my list of tasks for the week, keeping in mind deadlines and larger goals (shout out to the Artists Guide for help with this!). And here is where I deviate from the book I  just referenced: I only make a list for the week. Each day I wake up and I can choose anything on that list. But, the list must be finished by the end of my week on Thursday (I have a Sunday-Thursday workweek)!

Image by Braden Kowitz
How do you balance your time?

I make note of activities that may take a lot longer than others to achieve and keep that in mind for my weekly tasks. Yet, it gives me flexibility to work with my mood, to take that yoga class, or even make room for something simple like having coffee with a friend (as I’m just about to do!). And for me, when I write that list with my own handwriting as evidence, I feel more beholden to it. There is something special about putting pen to paper. And I just LOVE that feeling of satisfaction when I get to cross it off. I’ve tried all kinds of online task lists but nothing satisfies the way writing in my sketchbook does.

Be reasonable with your task expectations.

Tasks help you reach your larger goals. And when you dream up your larger goals, dream BIG! It’s important, however, that the tasks you give yourself are manageable and don’t bog you down. If you drown yourself in tasks you will never feel accomplished. This takes away from the joy of reaching any larger goal. In all honesty, if you overburden yourself, you’ll probably never reach that goal because you will burn out.

Do the scariest thing first.

I have some loved ones who have a gift for procrastination. And while I would tease them about their choices, I never saw it in me until recently. Here I am, wanting to develop my blog and artist site further and what do I do? Avoid making art! Talk about irony. It was a fear based choice, because I am scared, just like everyone else, that perhaps all my work will feel for naught; that I can’t reach my personal goals. So, the thing that scares me the most? That comes first on my to-do lists now. Tasks that help me achieve the things I want to avoid are the ones I get out of the way. I feel great reward knowing I’ve accomplished those more difficult tasks and it builds my confidence for the other easier tasks that follow.

Image by Linus Bohman Do you honor the time you feel creative with your creative projects? Can you dedicate some time alone to realize them?

Say no.

This one can be a toughy. Especially for you extroverts out there! But let’s be real, if you attend every function and always sign up for lots of activities, how will you ever carve out time for your art? If you have a creative goal in mind, many if not most require some level of solitude to accomplish them. I’m not asking you to be a hermit. I am asking you to honor your creative spirit, so you have time to write, to dance, to build, whatever it is you feel called to in creativity. It’s the artists who do the work who are more satisfied with their creativity, who feel soul fed because of their creative practice. Decide how much time you really need to honor your creative self. And make room for it.

BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Choose one of these strategies and try it on. Does it help you move closer to your creative dreams?