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Creative Life: Time Management

By January 29, 2013

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Have you noticed the trend away from 'having it all' in time management? We are spoilt for choice, with a million ways to spend our energy.

Sketchbook H South
We are beginning to realize that you can't do it all, you need to focus on the things that really matter. Creativity coach Mark McGuinness has a useful guest post on design blog BoDo, on Why You Need to be Organized to Be Creative. I particularly liked this quote from Mozart:
"People err who think my art comes easily to me. I assure you, dear friend, nobody has devoted so much time and thought to composition as I. There is not a famous master whose music I have not industriously studied through many times."

Creativity doesn't happen by magic. Whether you're on track for the '10 000 hours' required to become expert, or are happy to just conquer the basics of a chosen hobby, you're going to need some form of time management to stay on track.

McGuinness comments on the problem of interruptions to creative flow - but not only do we have unwanted ones - we sometimes create our own. Most of the organization systems I've seen are based around the 'highschool' timetable idea, a business model designed for a person juggling meetings and travel, or even a multi-tasking mom. Few are designed for long periods of intense focus.

It's important to remember that we are talking about creativity, not learning. Short and sharp works well as a learning strategy, when you are required to retain and process new information. But as an artist, you are applying your skills and knowledge, sometimes thinking, sometimes creating. If you are able to sustain concentration for long periods, why break your flow? Taking a break and returning to the same task can yield greater benefits than if you switch tasks altogether. You process problems subconsciously, rest your eyes and return to your task refreshed. If you do have a short attention span, there are steps you can take to improve your concentration span. Some people like to use white noise or background music to help prevent distraction; cutting back on choppy commercial television and soundbite social media can help, too. Train your brain.

This year, my schedule no longer looks like that of a highschool student. I've broken it into simple blocks, of work, writing, admin/errands. Depending on your workflow, a similar approach might work for you; for at least part of you schedule, try to find a chunk of time for sustained creativity, rather than squeezing an hour into an already busy day.

More on Creativity:
Mise en Place -Preparing for Creativity
Renewing Creative Energy
New Years Resolutions for Artists

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