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Creativity vs. Productivity: How to Make Progress When Making Art

Creativity vs. Productivity: How to Make Progress When Making Art

    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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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    Tucker Cummings

    Writer and social media professional sharing productivity tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on May 22, 2020

    10 Practical Ways to Improve Time Management Skills

    10 Practical Ways to Improve Time Management Skills

    Do you often feel stressed out with too much work or too many responsibilities? As time passes, do you feel like you have more tasks on hand than you have time to do them?

    The trick is to organize your tasks and use your time effectively to get more things done each day. This can help you to lower stress levels and improve your productivity both at work and at home.

    Time management skills take time to develop and will look different for each person. Finding what works best for you and your busy schedule is key here.

    To get you started, here are 10 ways to improve your time management skills and increase productivity.

    1. Delegate Tasks

    It is common for all of us to take on more tasks than we are capable of completing. This can often result in stress and burnout.

    Delegation does not mean you are running away from your responsibilities but are instead learning proper management of your tasks. Learn the art of delegating work to your subordinates as per their skills and abilities and get more done. This will not only free up time for you but will help your team members feel like an integral piece of the work puzzle.

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    2. Prioritize Work

    Before the start of the day, make a list of tasks that need your immediate attention. Unimportant tasks can consume much of your precious time, and we tend to offer these too much of our energy because they are easier or less stressful.

    However, identifying urgent tasks that need to be completed on that day is critical to your productivity. Once you know where to put your energy, you will start to get things done in an order that works for you and your schedule.

    In short, prioritize your important tasks to keep yourself focused.

    3. Create a Schedule

    Carry a planner or notebook with you and list all the tasks that come to your mind. Being able to check off items as you complete them will give you a sense of accomplishment and keep you motivated.

    Make a simple ‘To Do’ list before the start of the day, prioritize the tasks, and focus on the essentials. Make sure that these tasks are attainable, too. If there is a big task you need to complete, make that the only thing on your list. You can push the others to the next day. 

    To better manage your time management skills, you may think of making 3 lists: work, home and personal.

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    4. Set up Deadlines

    When you have a task at hand, set a realistic deadline and stick to it. Once you set a deadline, it may be helpful to write it on a sticky note and put it near your workspace. This will give you a visual cue to keep you on task.

    Try to set a deadline a few days before the task is due so that you can complete all those tasks that may get in the way. Challenge yourself and meet the deadline; reward yourself for meeting a difficult challenge.

    5. Overcome Procrastination

    Procrastination is one of the things that has a negative effect on productivity. It can result in wasting essential time and energy. It could be a major problem in both your career and your personal life[1].

    Avoiding procrastination can be difficult for many. We tend to procrastinate when we feel bored or overwhelmed. Try to schedule in smaller, fun activities throughout the day to break up the more difficult tasks. This may help you stay on track.

    6. Deal With Stress Wisely

    Stress often occurs when we accept more work than we are capable of accomplishing. The result is that our body starts feeling tired, which can affect our productivity.

    Stress comes in various forms for different people, but some productive ways to deal with stress can include:

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    1. Getting outside
    2. Exercising
    3. Practicing meditation
    4. Calling up a friend
    5. Participating in your favorite hobby
    6. Listening to music or a podcast

    The key is to find what works for you when it comes to lowering your stress response. If you don’t have time for anything else, try a couple of breathing techniques. These can be done in minutes and have been proven to lower stress-inducing hormones.

    7. Avoid Multitasking

    Most of us feel that multitasking is an efficient way of getting things done, but the truth is that we do better when we focus and concentrate on one thing. Multitasking hampers productivity and should be avoided to improve time management skills.

    Make use of to-do lists and deadlines to help you stay focused! This way you can do better at what you’re doing. Wait until you finish one before starting another. You’ll be surprised by how much more you’re able to get done.

    8. Start Early

    Most successful people have one thing in common — they start their day early as it gives them time to sit, think, and plan their day.

    When you get up early, you are more calm, creative, and clear-headed. As the day progresses, your energy levels start going down, which affects your productivity, motivation, and focus[2].

    If you’re not a morning person, you can just try waking up thirty minutes earlier than your normal time. You’ll be amazed by how much you can get done in that bit of time. If you don’t want to use it to work, use it to do a bit of exercise or eat a healthy breakfast. This kind of routine will also contribute to your productivity during the day.

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    9. Take Regular Breaks

    Whenever you find yourself feeling tired and stressed, take a break for 10 to 15 minutes. Too much stress can take a toll on your body and affect your productivity.

    And even better, schedule your break times. It helps you to relax and gets back to work with energy again later. If you know a break is coming, you’ll likely be able to overcome boredom or a lack of motivation to push through the task at hand.

    Take a walk, listen to some music, or do some quick stretches. The best idea is to take a break from work completely and spend time with your friends and family.

    10. Learn to Say No

    Politely refuse to accept additional tasks if you think that you’re already overloaded with work. Take a look at your to do list before agreeing to take on extra work.

    Many people worry that saying no will make them look selfish, but the truth is that saying no is one of the best ways to take care of yourself and your time. When you take care of this, you’ll find you have more energy to devote to the important things, which the people around you will ultimately appreciate.

    Final Thoughts

    When you get clear about what’s on your plate, you’ll be more focused and get more done in less time.

    Good time management requires a daily practice of prioritizing tasks and organizing them in a way that can save time while achieving more. Use the above strategies for few weeks and see if they help you. You may be surprised just how much more time you seem to have.

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    Featured photo credit: Brad Neathery via unsplash.com

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