by Jared Humphers
It’s 3 a.m. and you get an idea.
You wake up, rush to your desk, and sift through receipts, other notes, and homework to finally find the last piece of paper, where you search through your desk for a pencil or pen that’s seen better days.
Does this ring a bell? If so, welcome to the club of creatives!
In order to be an effective creative person, it’s very important that the freedom to experiment and try out new things exists.
It’s also to point out that structure doesn’t necessarily mean giving up creativity. A lot of times, it can actually help it.
Limitations breed creativity, as musician Adam Neely puts it ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0c4UBWFW-w ).
Structure isn’t necessarily a barrier to creativity, but provides boundaries to give you direction instead of just being told to “create.” Not having structure can open the door to feeling overwhelmed, which can lead to stress and eventually, no motivation to create– I’ve felt that before.
So, how can we have structure to our creativity without it negatively impacting it? Here are some things that I’ve learned, and hope they help you in your creative process!
Have a plan
Planning is definitely the most important part of being organized. Without a plan, projects a real most certainly heading towards failure.
How you make and keep up a plan is up to you and what works best for you! However, I’d highly suggest getting a physical planner instead of using electronic means to stay on track,because it’s easy to get distracted from planning your work and binge-watching Try Not to Laugh videos for a couple hours.
I’ve used this planner for a couple years now, and I really like it! It’s simple to follow with a monthly and weekly calendar, as well as “to-do” lists next to each day.
If you’re more the digital-type, I’d recommend Trello, Things, or Evernote among other great digital note-taking options. No matter how you get your thoughts and ideas out there, try to have a place you can go to to find your tasks, ideas, etc.
A machine can work 24 hours straight, but a human can’t… As hard as it is, it’s super important to prioritize what you need to do now, what needs to be done soon, and what can wait until later.
I’d recommend only focusing on doing 2-3 tasks per day.
Do they change sometimes? Yes, because things do come up! But having a good idea of what you want to accomplish (even if it’s “take a day off and relax”) is a great way to help yourself be more productive.
Keep things simple
Now, I personally have a couple notebooks I rotate carrying with me, as well as scraps of paper and napkins from all over!
However, I always make time to centralize those notes and ideas into one or two main locations so I don’t have to go around looking for that one idea. This is why I recommend keeping just one notebook (you can add dividers if you have different projects) and definitely only having one planner.
…But take time to keep a backup, because losing hard work because an app was deleted, or because your dog literally did eat your work is no fun!
Set (reasonable) goals
One of the biggest killers of productivity is setting goals too high . This creates too much of a “deadline” feeling and will leave you feeling discouraged trying to climb too high of a mountain.
If you’re just starting to do pushups, I wouldn’t recommend trying to do 100 the first week. It takes patience and discipline– something we’ll talk about in a future post– to accomplish your goals.
Likewise, setting goals too low can be equally not good for you.
Starting to work out by doing 10 pushups is fine, but after the first couple of days, our bodies get used to that. We should try for consistent growth.
There will still be days where we won’t see growth, but that’s natural. The important thing is to do what we can to grow, and trust that– through the process– growth will happen naturally!
Generally speaking, set goals that are achievable, but will require some stretching.
This is possibly one of the most overlooked but important things about productivity.
Unfortunately, I’ve fallen into the trap of going through with a goals, but not taking time to sit down and see how those are going.
Because of that, I now schedule time every week to sit down and review my week (I call this my “grows and glows time”- thanks Dr. Weatherford!), where I see what worked, what didn’t, and how I can improve my productivity, relationships, and myself spiritually.
Without it, I could be easily heading off-track without realizing it because I haven’t been paying attention to the trends that have been happening (ex. My Bible-reading time has been reducing).
This also gives me a chance to take a breather in life and be thankful for everything that’s happened.
And above all… be intentional. Not to the point of being robotic and stressful, but I personally want to wake up knowing today is a rest day, or that I’m working on a song for an album. This goes back to the first point of having a plan. Without it, it’s like not having a road map and trying to go from San Francisco to New York City.
Being creative is all about freedom- but having discipline to harness our creativity is one of the best decisions we can make!
So, no, you don’t have to choose between being creative and being productive or organized. Just make sure you have a plan (and are intentional with it) and prioritize well, keeping things simple while setting reasonable goals.
And, of course, take time out to make sure you’re still on track!