One of the biggest challenges many creative artists have is simply finding the time to be creative. We really do enjoy creating our art (most of the time) but there never seems to be quite enough hours in the day. We know that we just need to sit down and do it, but we always tend to get distracted and before we know it, another day is gone.
I still deal with this problem every day. If only I could find a way to stop being so distracted when I’m trying to write. If only I didn’t have to get up every five minutes to get something that I needed. If only the phone would stop ringing. If only there weren’t ten thousand other things I had to do that day. Maybe, just maybe, I could get some real work done.
Over the years I’ve tried schedules, to-do lists, and even elaborate time management systems that ended up taking me more time to fill out then I was saving. Sure, some of these systems worked better than others, but in the end, they were all just one more thing for me to do (or avoid doing).
While I certainly don’t have all the answers here, after many years of trial and error, I have discovered a few techniques that seem to work for me. If you’re having trouble finding the time to get creative, you may want to give them a try.
What time of day do you tend to do your best work?
Do you seem to work best in the morning, afternoon, or evening?
For example, I know from experience that I always seem to do my best writing in the morning from about 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Part of the reason is that by two o’clock I have thought of so many other things that I should be doing that I find it hard to continue focusing on what I am currently writing.
Whatever time it is that you do your best work, use that time to create your art, and save more routine tasks (like answering e-mail or connecting on Facebook) for later. One of my biggest issues was that first thing in the morning when I would sit down at my computer to write, I would immediately start pulling up my e-mail and checking my favorite websites just to see if anything exciting happened while I was sleeping. The problem was that before I knew it, an hour or two of my creative time had suddenly disappeared. This leads me to my second rule. . .
Maybe you are the exception to the rule, but I have found that multi-tasking is the enemy of inspired creative work. When you are actively creating your art/music, do yourself a favor and turn off your e-mail program, cell phone, television, Twitter or Facebook feed, and anything else that could potentially interrupt your creative flow. Yes, it’s possible that you might be missing out on that one e-mail message that could change your life, but chances are it’s just another YouTube video from Uncle Phil.
Make sure that you have all the tools (including coffee) you might need nearby. Those efficiency experts tell us that everytime we get up to go to the kichen to get some food or answer the phone, you not only lose the time that you spend staring blankly into the refrigerator, but you also lose the time that it takes to get back into the flow of things once you finally get back to work. This is why it’s important to not only remove any potential distractions, but to also make sure that you have everything you’ll need in your workspace before you start.
Some artists have told me that they have found it worthwhile to set a timer in order to force themselves to work for a certain period of time. Personally I find that having a timer ticking nearby (even silently) distracts me even more because I always find myself sneaking a glance to see how much time is left which of course interrupts my flow. I also feel like it somehow subconsciously limits me to a certain amount of time because once the timer goes off, I feel like I’m done (or at least should be done) with whatever I was working on.
Now having said that, I do like using a timer for routine tasks like checking e-mail, surfing the web, and connecting on Twitter because it does limit me to a certain amount of time. Once the timer goes off, I force myself to either log-off or move on to a different task. If you haven’t seen it already, I would really recommend checking out the Pomodoro Technique which is a completely free time management system that involves a fairly foolproof system and a snazzy plastic tomato.
Finally, once you are done with your creative process, make it a point to leave your workspace for a little while before you start doing other routine tasks like checking e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, surfing the web, etc… Go to the kitchen and get some food, or better yet go outside and get some exercise you pasty stereotypical artist you!
What other tips or techniques do you use to help get more stuff done?
Do you believe listening to music while you work is inspiring or distracting?
Please take a moment to share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.
Writer, teacher, and head custodian of the Skinny Artist community. His book "Getting Creative: Developing Creative Habits that Work" is all about finding the time (and energy) to live a more creative life.