For many of us, a large chunk of the creative process can involve just staring into space, waiting for our muse to send us a bolt from the blue. Trouble is, the better you get at your chosen art form, the less time you have to wait around for that pesky muse. As you begin to make a name for yourself in your chosen artistic field, you start to have more projects with deadlines, forcing your muse to meet your project’s expiration date.

Whether you are a writer burning the midnight oil to meet the deadline for a fiction contest, or a visual artist who’s been hired to create a mural for a public building, you become more accountable for your artistic output as you increase in skill. And with that added success comes added pressure, a need to still create great work without the luxury of navel gazing.

No matter what artistic field you specialize in, the following tips will help you to stay at your most productive when working on your creative pursuits.

1. Set Daily, Weekly, or Monthly Goals

Having deadlines isn’t always a bad thing. While it is impossible to force yourself to be creative, having a date in mind by which you need to complete your project will help your brain to focus on creative problem solving to bring your project to a close.

Pull out your calendar. Mark your due date. Work backwards from that due date to today’s date, and develop a progress checklist for each day. Also include end of the week goals and monthly progress goals as well, if you are planning that far in advance.

If you have a plan, a structured plan, it’s far easier to be productive every day when you are working on creative projects.

2. Keep a Journal/Sketchbook Handy

Never go anywhere without some method of recording flashes of inspiration, whether it is a journal, a sketchbook, or a note-taking app on your smartphone. This is helpful for recording ideas as they come to you, so that you don’t have to wrack your brains later and waste time “being creative” to come up with a new idea. You’ll be surprised just how much time you can save yourself by keeping an idea notebook for future projects.

3. Outline EVERYTHING

This sort of goes hand in hand with setting progress goals. And it probably seems a little weird to intentionally set up restrictions for creative projects. But actually, creating a detailed outline for your project keeps you focused on the task at hand, and minimizes the chance that you will distract yourself during a brainstorm. Open-ended creative projects have unlimited possibilities…and that level of freedom can sometimes prevent you from making progress in a single, unified direction.

4. Don’t Skip Meals

Between 20 and 30 percent of your daily caloric intake is used to regulate your brain functions. Skip a meal, and you’ll have to struggle to meet your creative goals. It can be hard, of course, to walk away from your studio when you’re in the zone, comfortably cruising through your creative project. So keep snacks on your studio or at your desk, whether its fresh fruit, trail mix, protein bars, or whatever.

5. Structure Your Brainstorming Sessions

In order to manage your time more effectively, setting clear goals is paramount during brainstorming sessions. It’s easy to start wool-gathering when thinking creatively, so setting goals like “I want to come up with 5 article ideas to pitch to my client in the next 20 minutes.”

In situtations like this, you might want to try time structuring tools like the Pomodoro Technique.

6. Master Your Tools

As our own Leon Ho covered previously, mastering your art form’s basic tools means that you can maximize your creative output.

“When I’m not competent enough with my tools, I can’t enter the flow state,” the post stated, with Leon quoting Steve Pavlina. “Despite using Adobe Photoshop for many years, I never invested the time to master its complex interface because I only used it intermittently. Consequently, I seldom achieve the flow state when using Photoshop because I spend too much time consciously thinking about the low-level action steps. This stunts my creativity because I remain stuck in my left brain instead of shifting into my right brain.”

How do you maximize your productivity when working on creative projects? Tell us in the comments below!

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