The creative brain desperately needs:
- Freedom from distraction
to make cool stuff happen. Systems enable this.
I schedule low-level activities, if I can, at the same time every day, week or month – for example, email, shopping, phone calls…
I do this no less than 1 week in advance.
Through this, I can see what time I have left to do the high-level creative stuff – writing music, dreaming up new sounds, playing with new toys (aka studio equipment). Big blocks of uninterruptedness to mull and compose and edit and finesse. Time.
I write in my studio. I can write elsewhere, but at the risk of the work being uncreative, regurgitation, lacking in imagination. However, if I have room to myself, no other (noisy) people around, it can work. The studio is my Space. Other work happens in here, low-level admin work by necessity but during the Time specified on the schedule this Space is dedicated to high-level creation.
This next strategy may be a bit controversial but it really is a necessity for making the good stuff happen.
Distractions are a creativity-killer. They must be killed in return (die, evil distractions! mwahaha!) if you want to make something really cool, not just, well, meh. Distractions include email, phone calls, social networking of whatever form, et al. So turn off notifications, ringers, alarms. If you’re truly addicted, try something like SelfControl to block access to certain sites for a specified length of time. Shut the door and tell your colleagues that’s a sign that you’re not to be disturbed on pain of death. Keep a bottle of water or cuppa cha to hand. Eat in advance. Write a list of all those niggly little tasks and leave them for scheduled admin time.
Freedom from Distraction isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.
(There are always exceptions to the rule, say I’m nearing a deadline and I need realtime or close to immediate contact with clients or colleagues but, honestly, I really ought to have done all the high-level creating by that time anyway.)
Focus is reliant on these three precursors of Time, Space and Freedom from Distraction. Get these three right and, in theory, Focus should be a breeze. If it’s not, then I’ve clearly not automated my systems correctly to enable a length of Time, a breadth of Space and Freed myself from Distraction as well as I’d thought, and those systems need tweaking (which they always will – what works magnificently for one project inevitably won’t work as well for the next by the differing nature of these projects).
Makes it sound so simple (because it is ).
I had the idea for this post whilst captive on a train. Ok, I wasn’t captive, but I was pretty much putting myself through this process – a block of time, a table to myself, no battery life on my phone, a book that wasn’t really engaging me, only the repetitive if pretty scenery whizzing past the window to entertain me. And so my brain got to work…
I’ve been reading Cal Newport’s dead interesting blog of late – Study Hacks – which pretty much confirms a few of my ideas about productivity and creativity… but has a radically different take on following your passions and procrastination, and then backs it all up with nicely scientifically-gathered evidence (so obviously I love him now #intj).