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

Creativity vs. Productivity: How to Make Progress When Making Art
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    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 July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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