How to increase your creative productivity

By in How To


4 comments

These days, more and more artists and creative freelancers are working from home studios, often fitting in their practice around other work and life commitments. This requires an incredible amount of self-motivation in order to stay on top of your work, and to keep your practice going. Procrastination is a freelancer’s worst enemy, and unfortunately there have never been so many distractions readily available to us.

Your art = creativity + productivity

From online catch-up television to Facebook to those tasks that are always there – washing up, making tea, painting the odd skirting board…
So how do we prioritise our workload and make sure we do the things we really need to do?
Well, here are a few suggestions:

Focus – one thing at a time

Photo by iStock.com/krisblackphotography

Does this sound like you?  You wake up, think of all the things you are going to achieve in the day, and plough headlong into tackling every single task in your head at once. Writing an important email to someone whilst simultaneously uploading your latest work to your Facebook page is never a good idea.

The first step to improving on this is writing a list of everything you need to do. It might sound simple and obvious, but it’s easy enough to get carried away with tasks before working out the actual importance of each job. Simply writing a list may not solve the situation, but it will definitely help get a clear idea in your head.

A good idea is to write this list the evening before you plan to address the tasks, as it will often enable you to sleep better once all of those thoughts are down on paper! The next, and most important step is to set yourself goals. Set yourself realistic deadlines, and number each task in order of priority. This act of using your organisational skills will essentially make you feel more in control of the tasks at hand, and enable you to think more clearly on each individual job.

Since other creatives have been facing similar issues, some successful approaches spread, for example…

The Jerry Seinfeld productivity method

This is a well-known and popular method to improve productivity. It’s particularly relevant in relation to creativity, because it originates from a highly successful creative writer.

Photo by iStock.com/miflippo

The aim is simple: get a wall calendar, set yourself a task that you need to do every day (In Jerry’s case, writing. But painting, drawing, printing could all apply!), and make sure you cross off every day with a big red X.
Your goal is to never break the chain of productivity, to never have a day where there is no X. As soon as that happens, the chain is broken.
This idea works on the theory that ‘daily action builds habit’, and that small improvements repeated everyday will eventually grow into big achievements. It has been working for a lot of folks, so maybe you want to give it a try for yourself.

What time of day do you tend to do your best work?

For many people, early morning is the best time of day to work. However this is not the same for everyone. Lots of artists fit their work in around other things, but it’s really valuable if you can set aside a specific time of day to focus on uninterrupted work.

Artist working in the evening | Photo by iStock.com/gorodenkoff

If you work during the day, and try to do your art in the evening, think about whether this is really working for you? Perhaps getting up earlier and working on your art before you head out for the job might actually be more effective?
Explore different options and test for yourself when you are at your most productive. Then, prioritise this as part of your every day routine.

Organise your work space

The old saying ‘tidy house, tidy mind’ has never been more relevant than in your creative workspace! Whether it’s your studio, shed, bedroom or cupboard, a clean, organised working area is absolutely essential to productive workflow.

Photo by Krasznai

Think about what items you need for each task, and make sure they are close to hand. Are the scissors in the kitchen? Get them out of there! Need scissors and before you know it you’ll be baking scones and inviting the neighbours over. If you have all of the necessary tools, there will be less to distract you, and more time to focus on uninterrupted work.

How do others do it?

We asked our Twitter followers how they maximized their productivity, and here’s what they had to say…

ClubCreativeArtSep 18, 11:28am via Web @TheArtistsWeb I plan, create lists, prioritize, “go with the mood”, allow for trial and error, make room for fun, research, review goals

sylviapaulartSep 18, 11:37am via Twitter for Android @TheArtistsWeb I leave the housework until someone is coming then have a blitz.

sylviapaul.com @TheArtistsWeb Absolutely go with the mood! And prioritise the orders!

If you have suggestions and tips to add we’d be looking forward to get your input. Please feel free to leave a comment and add your piece.

Finally, a little video on avoiding distractions from Miranda July

4 comments for “How to increase your creative productivity

chris

October 8, 2012 at 8:43 am

My current top productivity tip is the 30min rule:

When working, set an alarm/timer for a 30min count down. When alarm rings, take a break. Doesn’t have to be a long break, even just getting up to get a glass of water. Keep setting the alarm, so you never work for more than 30mins without a break.

In my experience (and apparently in much research) concentration and productivity starts wane after much more than an hour without a break.

ruen

October 9, 2012 at 3:58 pm

@chris, i am going to try that 30 minute alarm routine. i think that will be effective for me. thanks for the additional tip!

Fiona

October 11, 2012 at 10:13 am

ahh good idea – but maybe have an alarm for how long the break is to !!!! mine can be for hours !!!!

Anne Bevan

October 23, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Thanks for this wonderful article – learning to work from a list and calendar has been a major positive life changer for me.
And, it’s AMAZING how much you can get done in a short period of totally focused activity. My ideal is 40/20 and it works for any kind of activity whether it is creative studio time, office/marketing or even good old housework Here’s my rationale – when the timer goes off after 40 minutes, I reset for 20.
There is usually the “just one more thing” to take care of, but I still have time for the powder room, glass of water, cup of tea, or quick phone or email.
Two or three 40/20 sets in the morning, longer lunch break, another two, then a longer time to walk the dog, visit, and/or do my errands.
Of course there are lots of other things that require time and attention, but just keeping this schedule in my mind as the ideal helps me stay on track. The bonus – it really reduces the stress of indecision so my work day is far more gratifying and, actually a lot more fun.

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