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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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    Last Updated on December 17, 2018

    Read this and stop feeling overwhelmed…for good!

    Read this and stop feeling overwhelmed…for good!

    We live in a time of productivity overload.

    Everywhere you turn are articles and books about how to be more productive, how to squeeze 27 hours of work out of every 24, how to double your work pace, how to do more and more all in the name of someday getting out of the rat race. Well this is about the side effects of those ideas. If we aren’t multitasking, we feel lazy. If we aren’t doing everything, we feel like we’re slacking. We compare ourselves to others who we think are doing more, having more, getting more and achieving more, and it’s driving us crazy. We feel overwhelmed when we think we have too much to do, too much is expected of us, or that a stressor is too much for us to handle. And we respond by lashing out with emotions of anger, irritability, anxiety, doubt and helplessness.

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    This season especially is the most stressful time of year. Between the holidays, final exams, family gatherings and general feelings of guilt that it’s the end of the year, it’s easy to get overwhelmed thinking of all the things you still need to get done. But if you use these tips, not only will you get the important stuff done, you’ll keep your sanity while doing it!

      Is this you?

      Change your thought pattern-stop thinking negatively

      When you feel overwhelmed, the first thing you do is start thinking negatively or begin to resent why it’s your responsibility in the first place! The first thing you have to do is to stop! Stop thinking negatively immediately. Instead, focus on the positive. If you’re stuck in traffic, think of how great it is to have some time to yourself. If you’re rushing trying to get things done by a deadline, think how lucky you are to have a purpose and to be working towards it. If you’re stressing about a final exam, think of how fortunate you are to be given the opportunity of higher education. After you’ve changed your thought patterns, you must then say to yourself “I can do this.” Keep saying it until you believe it and you’re more than halfway to ending feeling overwhelmed.

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      Take a deep breath/change your body posture

      When you’re stressed certain things happen to your body. You start to breath shallowly, you hunch over, you immediately tense up and all that tension drives your feelings of stress even more. Relax! Straighten your posture and take at least ten deep, cleansing, breaths. Force yourself to smile and do something to change your state. It could be as simple as giving yourself a hug or as silly as clapping your hands three times, throwing them up in the air and shouting “I GOT THIS!” Think to yourself, how would I sit/stand if I had perfect confidence and control of the situation?

      Focus on right now

      Now that you are in a better state of mind and are no longer thinking negatively, you need to focus on the here and now. Ask yourself this question: What is the most important thing I have control of and can act on right now? Keep asking yourself this until you have a concrete next step.

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      Take Action

      Now that you know what’s most important and what to do about it, do it! Start with the first step and focus on getting that done. Don’t worry about anything else right now, just on what your first step is and how to get it done. Once that’s done with, determine the next most important step and get that done.

      Let go of what you can’t control (the gambler’s theory)

      Seasoned gamblers understand the importance of due diligence and knowing when to let go. The Gambler’s Theory is that once your bet is placed there is nothing you can do, so you might as well relax and enjoy the process. The time to worry is when you’re figuring out the best odds and making the decision of what to bet when you can actually take action. I used this one a lot in college. After an exam, there is absolutely no point in stressing about it. There’s nothing you can do. And the same goes for feeling overwhelmed. If you can do something about your situation, do it, focus and take action. But if you’ve done what you could and now are just waiting, or if you’re worried about something you have no control over, realize that there’s no point. You might as well relax and enjoy the moment.

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        Relax and enjoy the moment

        Stop feeling guilty

        Finally, stop comparing yourself to others. If you are at your wits end trying to keep up with what you think you should be doing, you aren’t being fair to yourself. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t strive for improvement, just don’t go overboard because you feel like you have to. Only you know what’s really important to you, and your personal success journey so focus on what your top priorities are, not someone else’s.

        Everyone feels overwhelmed sometimes. The important thing is to realize it’s normal and that you can do something about it by taking focused and deliberate action. Happy Holidays!

        Featured photo credit: Stress Therapy via flickr.com

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