10 Tips on Finding Time For Creativity

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Let's face it...we're all busy.

If you're a college student, you're either rushing off to class, grabbing quick meals, doing homework or staying up long hours wasting time — I mean, studying. ;)

If you have a job or kids, your life is also defined by outside schedules and endless lists of things to do.  This can be frustrating because the work never ends.  You don't hit a point and think, "Gee, I have absolutely nothing I could be doing with this free time."  For most of us, there are emails to send, papers to read, work to do, blog posts to write.  What does this mean for the artistic few who still want to have time to generate creativity, whether that's writing, art, music or any other field?

Ciera's Time Management Strategy 

1. Use Mornings Well 

I know I'm having a good day when my mornings are off to a productive start.  Though it may be tempting to often sleep in (especially on a cold winter day), studies have shown that those who rise early tend to be more proactive.  This can be a great time to read, write, plan or organize.

Harvard scientist Christoph Randler found in 2008 that early risers were more apt to agree with statements like, "I spend time identifying long-range goals for myself" and "I feel in charge of making things happen" (source).  

So, carpe diem, seize the day!

2. Make Realistic Goals 

Few things are more frustrating than making goals that are impossible to keep.  So set a realistic pace for yourself.  

Stephen King famously advised writers to churn out 2500 words a day.  As a full time student with a boatload of other responsibilities, I know I don't have time in my day to write 2500 words!  But I can still write some.  Set goals you can keep but know that you are never defined by your work or how well you achieve them.

3. Have "Unreachable" Times

Do you ever have times when absolutely no one can get a hold of you?  Or are you always glued to your smart phone?

Trust me, it's possible to get away from your phone.

It's important to have set times for unplugging from your mobile devices.  84% of cell phone users say they can't go a single day without their phones (source). We become dependent on them.  But if we unplug from the mobile world, we can have better productivity and less interruption for our creative work.

4. Make "Creative Time" A Non-Negotiable

I try to write every single day.  Some days, this means a short flash fiction piece or quick poem edits because I'm busy.  Other days, it means spending at least an hour on a fiction project or blogging.  But art, like any other skill, is something that must be practiced.

Let me introduce you to the 10,000 Hour Rule.  Psychologists have shown that in order to become a true expert in something, you need to have spent at least 10,000 hours doing this thing.  To put that in perspective, that would take ten years of practicing a certain skill 4 hours a day every day.

I certainly don't write 4 hours a day. (Wouldn't that be nice?)  But it does remind me that writing is work and work takes time and effort to become proficient.

5. Know When To Call It A Day & Relax

“The really efficient laborer will be found not to crowd his day with work, but will saunter to his task surrounded by a wide halo of ease and leisure.” – Henry David Thoreau

6. Minimize the Pesky Time-Wasters

It may be nice just to veg out with Netflix or to scroll through your phone when you're bored.  But these moments of "dead time" easily stretch out into long hours.  How many times do you scroll through your Facebook a day or check your emails?  Find what distracts you.  And when you need to be productive or creative, make sure you minimize those.

Common distractions include:
  • Social Media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter)
  • Cell Phone Calls & Texting
  • Extended breaks
  • Netflix

7. Don't Over-Commit — Learn To Say No

I've been guilty of this one time and time again!  Over-commitment is so tempting, especially when we're career focused and thinking about what comes next.  But overcommitting means that you'll be stretched thin, usually to the point where you can do each job only 50%, instead of anything 100%. Value the work you do and work well, instead of taking on too much and lowering your results.

8. Get Enough Sleep

Yes, college students. This means you.  Sleep not only is healthy for you physically, but also cognitively and emotionally.  When you're well rested, you're better able to focus on your work and have time for creative engagement.

9. Resist the Urge To Multitask 

It may sound like multitasking helps you get more things done.  In reality, your brain is switching back and forth between two tasks and adopting different roles to perform well.  This can easily cause stress and take more time because you're less focused on one thing at a time.  

When you want to be creative, focus on your artistic pursuits instead of trying to get multiple things accomplished. It will ultimately save more time and energy.

10. Have An Organizational Structure 

Maybe this means making checklists.  Maybe this means having an updated calendar or planner.  Whatever works for you!  Having an organizational structure will help your productivity and give you more flexibility for your creativity. 

How do you find time to be creative?

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  1. This is great! Life got so busy lately and I'm struggling to find time to write or blog or anything, even read, which has led to me to realize that I'm really not great at managing time...sigh. I have started getting up earlier, and forcing myself to put my phone and such aside...I like to turn the internet off on my laptop and not let myself turn it back on until I've written a certain amount of words, too.

    1. I can empathize. I'm tutoring English, freelance writing, planning for grad school...all while making sure I'm up to date on my actual homework. It's really overwhelming somedays. It's such a good idea, though, to turn off the wifi! I should do that more often. I get distracted every time I get an email notification. :)

  2. Such a great post, Ciera! I've REALLY been struggling to keep up with writing and blogging these days. It's funny how life as an English Education major has sapped all my writing time... You'd think it would be good for my writing. Not so much.
    I definitely agree that the day is so much more productive when you start the morning right and unplug for a bit. I need to do that more often.
    Keep up the good work! Love the new blog format! :)

    1. Thanks Ashley! I so agree. One thing I've found is that when I'm writing for a grade, I'm less interested in writing for myself. I need to work on that. :)

  3. Great post! I've really had trouble keeping up with my writing lately, so this is all great and timely advice.

    One thing that works for me is simply making it a point to have writing time, setting aside a certain amount of non-negotiable time everyday for me to be creative. I don't always stick to it, lol, but having the schedule there definitely helps. :)

    Also, I tagged you for an award! Don't feel obligated to do it, but this is just to let you know that your blog is lovely. :)


    1. You're so sweet, Alexa! Thanks friend! I agree about the need for writing time. At the beginning of the school year, I felt so good at it! I was writing almost every day - and not for school! But then the busyness sets in... ;)

  4. I love this post! I love the drawings. Were those yours?

    Such wise advice.

    Another thing that I like to do in order to get creative is to make other things into creative times. For instance I use note-taking during class as a chance to practice illustrating and quick sketching. If the teacher makes a visual image to describe a point I will often make a sketch of that in my book. Then when the class lags a little to do things like take attendance I will go back to the sketch and refine it.

    1. Hey girl! Yes, there are my sketches. I love to draw and I may be adding more of my own art to jazz things up ;)

      That's such a good idea, Lucy Rose! What happens to me is that I start writing poetry or something in class and then really can't stop!

  5. Great post! I would hate it if I didn't make the time to do creative things x

    Josie | Sick Chick Chic

    1. Thanks Josie! Me, too. It would be so boring and exhausting to only do work.

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