Tell me if this situation sounds familiar to you. You are just going about your day, and everything is going pretty well. You run some errands, make some phone calls, put out a few fires here and there, and you are feeling pretty damn productive! Now it’s time to sit down and put together some new content or work on a creative project.
And then, somehow you are suddenly down a rabbit hole with 50 tabs open on your laptop. Replying to emails and putting out more not urgent fires, following up on leads, shopping on Amazon for a new file folder because you have been wanting to Marie Kondo the heck out of this office for a while now, and watching a YouTube tutorial about some new software that you are interested in buying that is 100% not needed in order to create the thing in front of you, but you know – learning is important, right?
If you are a creative of any kind, whether your medium is words, graphics, code, ideas, or physical materials – you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.
You cannot multitask your way through the creative process.
Creativity is naturally deep work. It requires your full attention. But if you don’t have a plan in place to protect the time you need to create, you will find yourself procrastinating, falling behind, missing deadlines or making up the hours by working overtime. It’s a recipe for burnout, and it also decreases our overall output to go about projects this way. You may love being creative, but your stress will wreck your flow.
Think of it this way. Give me a piece of chocolate cake covered in hairspray, and I won’t want to eat it. I don’t care if that cake is covered in the richest homemade chocolate icing imaginable. I won’t want anything to do with it. In the same way, creative projects, when doused in your anxiety, lose their appeal.
We need to create space and boundaries around our time in
order to allow the creative process to unfold. This is what time blocking is
Time blocking is a process of breaking your day down, hour by hour, and creating literal blocks of time on the calendar, where a specific task takes place. For example, you might have one or two creative blocks, during which time you do not engage on social media, check emails, make phone
calls, or browse the internet. Some people benefit from time blocking the whole day, and set up “office hours” for their email and touching base with their team, while others just need those 1-2 solid hours of creative time blocked out.
Not only does time blocking improve our focus by removing distractions – it also increases our output by limiting our time.
The counterintuitive magic to this is something that Gay Hendricks calls “Einstein time.” If you give me 6 hours to do a task, it will take me 6 hours to complete it. If you give me one, it will take me one hour. Reducing the time we spend on a task while increasing the focus we give to it helps us get more done in less time, AND we actually get to enjoy the creative process while we are in it.
No, this isn’t going to cure you of creative blocks, and it isn’t going to make you 100x more prolific overnight. But it is going to help you enjoy your creative work more, decrease your stress levels, and help you hit a flow state more often in your work.
And we all want that, right?
If you have a lot of people who need you during the day, make sure to tell them you are going to start time blocking before you do it so no one is worried about you. It’s also a good idea to create auto reply emails to go out during blocks when you won’t be accessing emails.
Expect it to be hard at first. But it gets easier.
If your brain is used to procrastinating, deep work during the creative time blocks will be challenging. But I encourage you to give it a shot for at least a couple weeks. Most people find their brains begin to adjust to this new method after a few days and most people start to see a massive shift in their creative output and overall work satisfaction within a month.
I put together a printable daily time blocking schedule for you this week. Print out a copy for every day that you have creative tasks to do. An important thing to note is that the example given in the printable given is just an example. Some people block every hour during the day, while others only block the creative hours. Other things you’ll notice that are optional but helpful include color coding your blocks, and making a list of priorities each day to keep you on track with specific tasks/projects.
When would you benefit most from adding a creative time
block to your day?
block to your day?