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Productivity

How Finishing Mundane Tasks Can Lead to Creative Productivity
Finishing Mundane Tasks Can Lead to Creative Productivity 1024 680 samantha

Finishing Mundane Tasks Can Lead to Creative Productivity

Sometimes the path to creative productivity is a road less traveled when you’re willing to go out of the norm. Today I wanted to talk about the idea that digging into your daily chore list or completing an otherwise mundane task can lead you to become unblocked creatively on the project you desperately need to gain momentum on. Whether it’s a plot line for your novel, a color scheme for your latest painting, or even a blog post that you just can’t seem to sit down and let the words flow, the answer to your problems might just be the laundry you’ve been dreading to fold.

Cooperating with the Creative Process

One of the biggest challenges for me as a writer is sitting down to do the work. Often times, I feel like I will do everything else BUT sit down to finish my scripts. I’ve come to know my habits however, and part of the reason I do that is because I am a type-A perfectionist and I want my story lines and my dialogue to be perfect before I even sit down to write. I also get impatient. I just want it to be finished already, especially because I can see it so clear in my head! I’m not asking too much am I? For it to be all perfect before I even start?! I know, I know. I thought so.

“Mystery is at the heart of creativity,” says Julia Cameron of The Artist’s Way. “That, and surprise. All too often, when we say we want to be creative, we mean that we want to be able to be productive. Now, to be creative is to be productive—but by cooperating with the creative process, not forcing it.”

So what I’ve learned to do is to trust the creative process, not force it.

Treat Your Work Like a Cupcake

Yes, like a cupcake. Your story, your painting, your blog post…whatever your project is that you’re feeling blocked with, it needs time to bake. And sometimes when you sit down to delve deep into your project, you’re just creatively blocked because the right ideas haven’t come along yet. No one knows how frustrating that is more than me. But treat your project like a cupcake. Give it time to blend together and rise!

To Begin, Begin. Or…Finish Something Else

Often times the best way to get through that gray period where you’re feeling blocked, frustrated, and unproductive is to go do a nagging chore. Yes, I’m actually telling you to go do the laundry which you hate, the dishes that you despise, or drag yourself to the gym that you’ve been avoiding. How in the world does this relate back to finishing that creative project? Because sometimes completing a mundane task has a funny way of leading us into the perfect idea for our story or hitting us smack in the face with a blog post title that will make your fingers fly across the keyboard to get it out. That “dark period” where you feel like a complete failure because you just can’t get into that productive creative flow can be a tricky state. But in a weird reverse psychology way, the art of finishing something seems to be a nice remedy to your beginning.

A Mundane Task: Part of Creative Discovery

As Julia Cameron puts it in The Artist’s Way, “We are an ambitious society, and it is often difficult for us to cultivate forms of creativity that do not directly serve us and our career goals.”

So while you may think that going for a dreaded run or doing laundry will do nothing to unblock you or push you along in the creative project that you just can’t seem to be productive with, it actually can very much do the opposite.

“Many hobbies involve a form of artist-brain mulling that leads to enormous creative breakthroughs. When I have a screenwriting student stuck at the midpoint of act two, I ask them to please go do their household mending. They usually balk, offended by such a mundane task, but sewing has a nice way of mending up plots,” says Cameron.

It’s hard to do things that at first seem like they won’t further our goals or our career. I don’t think any of us are exactly thinking, “Okay, first vacuum and then I’ll be straight on my way to being a New York Times Best Seller!” But creating order in our life can suddenly put in us the need to create order in our creative project, which then turns to productivity. The routine of doing another task can often jump start our creativity and even the sense of accomplishment that we feel when finishing a nagging task. Suddenly you go from 0 to 100 with a newfound sense of energy and purpose with your work.

The Answers to Your Creative Productivity Questions

When unfinished work presents itself, a million questions can run through your mind. I know when I’m stuck on a specific scene I’m working on, I’m usually asking myself a thousand “what if” questions. “What if this character does this instead of that?” “What if my plot goes this way instead of that?” Completing a mundane task can sometimes provide the answers to those questions.

Cameron gives a great example of this in The Artist’s Way (last quote I promise). She talks about a woman, a designer, who bicycles home from work every day. The rhythmic and repetitive motion provides solutions to her most nagging creative questions that block her from being productive and coming up with simple design solutions. When bicycling, “Solutions just come. Somehow, I am freed to free-associate, and things begin to fall into place.”

Takeaways

So, go clean your room, take a shower, put the dishes away, or take a run. These everyday mundane tasks are itching to get your creative juices flowing, whether or not you think they are. These chores just might be the needed step towards unblocking yourself/your creativity. How else do you think I got this blog post done 😉

How To Powerblock Your Days and Crush Your Creative Goals
How To Powerblock Your Days and Crush Your Creative Goals 819 1024 samantha

How To Powerblock Your Days and Crush Your Creative Goals

Structuring your days with topic-focused workflows can be the difference between productivity and procrastination at the end of your day. I recently polled a Facebook group I’m a part of to find out the biggest roadblocks for creatives when it comes to productivity and making their creative dreams a reality. I wasn’t too surprised to find that so many entrepreneurs said time. I got multiple responses that sounded just like this one:

“Too many ideas… I feel pulled in every direction. I know I could probably do it all but I feel as though trying to start everything at once is not going to work and it’s hard to pick where to start.”

I know for so many of us (myself included) time feels like this unconquerable ninja that always seems to evade us, especially when we have so many ideas and tasks swirling around in our heads. We may not be able to go back in time or control how many hours are in our day, but we can control how we use our time. Today I want to share how I schedule my work flow so that I have my most productive week. Do I do this every single day of every week? Definitely not if I’m being honest, because I’m human. However, when I am able to hunker down and be serious about my work, this way of thinking really helped me. So, grab your coffee and get comfortable because what we’re covering today could be a real game changer to your day-to-day work habits. Be sure to read through ‘til the end and head over to my “Resources” tab to grab your free powerblocking worksheet for constant creatives!

A Typical Day: Pre-Powerblocking

You know how you write those lists the night before of what you’re going to do the next day? And you’re feeling great because you’re going to wake up and be super productive and everything will be just peachy. You’ll even have time to watch 2 episodes of your favorite show after you accomplished SO much. And then…the morning comes and you sleep 45 minutes longer than you planned. And when you wake up, you start tackling your to-do list. Well, that to-do list leaves you frazzled because you start trying to do everything at once, right? Oh man, the stress that I’ve had trying to write a blog post and then I pause to go over to Instagram to post something and then I work on a new design for my Etsy shop and then I go back to the blog, then realize I wanted to work on a character in my script so I open up Final Draft, etc. etc. the list goes on and on! My head hurts just from reading that unorganized sentence. By the end of a day like that, we don’t feel very accomplished because we made tiny tiny progress on our giant to-do list.

The Secret to Productivity

I’ve discovered that the secret to productivity is: there is no secret. Once I started to train my brain to think of productivity as a choice great things started to happen and I know they will for you too! We have to CHOOSE to be productive. That means it’s no one’s fault but our own when we open our laptop and all of a sudden Facebook is playing a cute dog video (don’t even get me started on my favorites haha) or Pinterest pops up because I can scroll for days! Yes, it’s so much easier said than done but we can actively help ourselves be more productive each day.

Powerblocking Your Work Flow

I was first introduced to the idea of powerblocking by Lisa Jacobs of Marketing Your Creativity. She is a business-wizard and productivity master who always doles out heaps of useful information to her email list. Lisa describes her powerblocks as 90 minutes of uninterrupted time reserved purely for income generating work. She schedules 2-3 powerblocks each day of the work week and makes sure to stay away from anything social or recreational (no tweeting, texting, pinning, etc.)

After taking up her routine for a little while, I did some modification and found what works best for me and I’d love to share it with the constant creatives of the world.

I powerblock my entire days, choosing one category to work on per day. What does that mean?

  • For me, I found that I got overwhelmed with my to-do list because I had too many different projects or categories in my life and business to work on. When I powerblocked my time and scheduled out 90 minute blocks per day to work on the important tasks, it still felt like I was only making tiny progress; 1 Etsy design here, half a blog post here, etc. For some people, you may feel the complete opposite and that’s totally fine! I decided to gear each day of the work week towards a different task or business.
  • For example, here’s what a typical week might look like:
    • Monday is geared towards working on my blog
    • Tuesday is geared towards working on my Etsy shop
    • Wednesday is geared towards working on my writing projects
    • Thursday is geared towards doing research for my blog and Etsy shop (SEO research, brainstorming new ideas)
    • Friday might be a typical powerblocking day where I work on multiple things, but my to-do list usually isn’t as big.
  • Each day, no matter what creative business I decide to work on, I work on tasks geared towards that and ONLY that in those 90 minutes periods.

What My Day Looks Like

Of course, there will be things you have to do every day and your entire 9-5 typically isn’t geared towards your creative goals. You might have a job to work, chores to do, kids to take care of etc. in between these powerblocks. That’s even more the reason to assign a day of the week for a specific category or business.

Here are some things I do each day to maximize my productivity:

  • I might be working on just my Etsy shop one day, but I still try to keep as focused as possible. You can go back to traditional powerblocking and section off time for a specific task within that category. For example, I’ll dedicate an hour and a half to getting a new notebook design done. After a small break, I’ll go back and work on another task for my Etsy shop like updating descriptions, etc. I repeat throughout the day and try not to be tempted to work on my blog 😉
  • Don’t be social when you’re doing a focused task. I try to put my phone on silent and won’t check my email until I finish that design or blog post.
  • Take breaks. If you work from home, I don’t suggest working for 6 hours straight on the computer. That will only strain your eyes and you’ll be starving! Take time to eat lunch, call your friends, workout, go do whatever it is that you need to do! If you work a part-time job, try to get a task done for your selected category or business both before and after your job.

How Can This Work For You?

Constant creatives come in all shapes and sizes. Powerblocking your days can work for you if…

  • You have a full-time job but want to work on your side hustles outside of the office. Instead of getting home and trying to get 1 task done from each of your side businesses, work on 1 business or category per day.
  • You work from home. This new routine will probably be your new best friend if you’re a work from home blogger, creative, entrepreneur, etc.! There are so many distractions that come from working from home, but having dedicated work days to specific things can really maximize your productivity.
  • You work a part-time job. When you only have a few hours a day to work on what you love before heading off to your job, power blocking can help you get important tasks done and make the time you do have really count.
  • You’re a student. The days of studying and doing homework 24/7 are not lost on me. Sometimes it feels like I’m still doing that, just in different ways haha. Setting aside chunks of time to really focus on one topic at a time is a great way to study during finals when you have five tests in the span of two weeks. Having self-control to not look at your phone during that 60-90 minute chunk and retain information about what you’re studying makes the world of difference.
  • You’re thinking about making the leap of quitting your corporate job to work from home, but aren’t sure how you’ll stay productive. Maybe you don’t know what you want to do when you quit your job, or maybe you know exactly what you want to do. Either way, working from home doesn’t have to be filled with distractions if you don’t let it. Powerblock, take breaks, hang out with your dogs, repeat. It’ll all be fine!

Mindset is Everything

Something I actively remind myself about frequently is that it’s okay if I fall off the wagon sometimes. There’s no use in beating ourselves up about things if we don’t have a productive and organized day. The only thing we can do is tell ourselves that the work will get done. That’s such an important reminder for me. Again: the work will get done. You might be like me and give yourself mental deadlines (and real ones written in your planner) so when I reach those deadlines it feels great. However, when I don’t reach those deadlines it can feel like a big loss for me.

I recently went on a weekend getaway for a friend’s birthday and I told myself I had to get 2 blog posts and 3 new Etsy designs done before I went. That week ended up giving me a last-minute audition and a screenplay competition I really wanted to enter that I found out about just that week. Preparing for those two things took precedence and so my important to-do list got put on the back burner. By the time I left that weekend, I only got 1 blog post written and 1 Etsy design completed. It really felt like such a loss to my productivity. However, I decided to let it go and asked myself, “What’s the worst thing that can happen if I return to my work on Monday and power block my upcoming week?” The truth is, the work will always get done. All we have to do is reset and start where we left off. Let’s try to remind ourselves that we’re human and it’s okay to take a coffee (or wine) break every once in a while!

I’d love to know if you give powerblocking a try or have your own way of scheduling your work! Leave me a comment below and let me know! As promised, head over to my “Resources” tab to grab your free powerblocking worksheet for constant creatives! 

 

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How to Powerblock Your Days and Crush Your Creative Goals. The ultimate guide to being productive and organizing your work week!

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Morning Pages for Creatives: How They Can Help You Gain Clarity in Your Life & Business
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Morning Pages for Creatives: How They Can Help You Gain Clarity in Your Life & Business

The Importance of Morning Pages & How It Changed My Life

Five years ago, I was told about Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, a 12 week step-by-step guide to uncovering your “inner artist” and becoming unblocked creatively.  What I thought I would discover is a cult-followed book that spouts a bunch of non-sense about how to overcome self-doubt or the “secret” that would fall short of my expectations like so many other books. What I never thought I would find is a book that changed my life.

I know—that’s a heavy statement, but I mean that even in the lightest of terms too. At the heart of The Artist’s Way is a ritual called morning pages. At the very least incorporating this ritual changed my morning routine and in the greatest sense, it made me acutely more aware of what I want out of life, in my career, and to sort through things/thoughts/people that might be weighing me down. You might’ve heard of “morning pages” described in a different way. I had heard of stream of consciousness writing or free-writing, where in both instances you write about whatever comes to mind. Morning Pages are similar, but Cameron refers to morning pages as 3 pages written in longhand form (preferably on 8 1/2 x 10 paper) every morning. The idea behind this ritual is that you will start to free yourself creatively, write away the self-doubt that burdens your creative dreams, discover things about yourself you may not have realized, and get to the core of what might be blocking you from creative success.

What’s the Difference Between Journaling and Morning Pages?

Mornings pages aren’t addressed to anyone, as in “Dear diary…” and unlike a journal or diary, they aren’t meant to look back on and read. Think of them more as a write them and let ‘em go type of thing. But, it’s up to you to decide where you want to take your morning pages. Similar to a diary though, they are meant for your eyes only. What I love about morning pages, as Julia Cameron puts it, “There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages.” This takes away so much pressure because you can rest assured that you’re free to write whatever comes to mind. If you want to complain about the dentist yesterday, that’s fine! If a new character pops into your head for your novel, go with it! At first, the task of writing 3 pages every single morning is daunting. I’ll admit that I even dreaded it at first because it felt like I had to think of things to write. If you have to, you can write over and over again “I don’t know what to write” until something pops up. But don’t feel like a fraud if you struggle with this at first because it becomes easier. That I promise you!

The best thing you can do is explore how morning pages best fits you. There’s no wrong way to go about it, so try different things! For example, I usually feel like I need to spend the first page writing down things that are bugging me or stressing me out or weighing negatively on my mind. Then the other pages are usually more positive, filled with things I want to do or I’m working on or excited about. I’ve also heard of some people using their morning pages to map out their day or to do a handwritten meditation, so there’s a lot of possibility for something that’s “stream of consciousness.”

Moving Through Morning Pages

A lot of thoughts will pop into your head as you move through the weeks of The Artist’s Way and morning pages. So even when you think you want to quit or don’t want to get up 30 minutes earlier to write your pages, here are some advantages that come from them:

  • You start to look forward to it. You move from struggling to find things to write, to struggling to keep up with all the thoughts that are popping into your head. Seriously—you should see some of my pages. They start out so nice and then towards the end of the 2nd page it’s completely chicken scratch because I have so many things that are coming to mind that I want to write down before they vanish! Chicken scratch or not, you start to find a peace of mind not just about your creative pursuits, but about your life, relationships, things you stress over, things you have anxiety over… the list never ends. You end up recording your thoughts about things you didn’t even realize you had an opinion on, or a feeling about, or an idea of. That’s pretty powerful, isn’t it?
  • You gain more confidence and hear that voice A LOT less that says, “Are you crazy? You can’t do that.” As Julia Cameron likes to call it, your “inner critic” shuts up a lot more.
  • The greatest thing that happens though, is the clarity you get from doing these morning pages. Essentially what we’re doing is starting our day with a thought dump. You write down everything that comes to mind (good and bad). I found that when I did this brain-dump in the morning, I was able to move through my day with such a freeing feeling. A lot of the thoughts that seemed to cloud my mind or give me anxiety over were all dumped into this notebook that I left behind as I went about my day each morning. And then came the flood of creative ideas.
  • It was as if I had to push aside the worries and self-doubt that clouded my brain to make room for confidence and ideas that were just waiting to pop into my mind. I have no doubt that’s what will also happen for you and THIS is why Julia Cameron created “morning pages.” But it’s not just meant for creative people that need to make room for more ideas or who are feeling creatively blocked.

What If I am Not A Creative?

Morning Pages is one of the most helpful rituals/tools for people that don’t even know they are creative. Everyone is creative on some level, but what “creativity” looks like is completely different for each person. I know, I know—maybe you’re sitting there on the other side of this screen saying: “Sam, I am not creative. I work out of an office in a cubicle from 9-5 and the thought of writing or drawing or taking a picture sounds like the most boring thing in the world to me.” That’s fine! But if you don’t think re-decorating your room or sanding a coffee table down to be re-painted or baking a pie is creative…then I’m real excited for the things you’ll discover after making morning pages part of your ritual.

The discovery that comes through writing down everything that passes through your mind is amazing. You may be that “suit” that works in the office, but when you start to do morning pages you start to uncover dreams you buried 30 years ago and suddenly that idea you had of opening your own restaurant doesn’t seem so crazy anymore. So yeah, I’d say that morning pages are pretty dang life-changing!

Give It A Go

Here are some of my tips for starting morning pages:

  • Have an open mind. Like I said, even if you don’t consider yourself creative or don’t think you have any thoughts or feelings buried within you—just try it!
  • Take it one day at a time. Don’t think about week 12 when you’re on week 1. It will make it easier on yourself when you think of the day’s ritual of writing those 3 morning pages as opposed to stressing about how many you’ll need to write by the end of week 12. Don’t stress because more than likely your mindset will shift by the end of it all.
  • If you find 8 ½ x 10 page papers too daunting, choose a smaller notebook. This is something that I’m not sure would be recommended straight from Julia Cameron herself, but I’ve found that I feel accomplished after writing these pages no matter how big the pages are. I wouldn’t sell yourself short, but don’t stress on page size either.
  • Don’t write your pages on your laptop. This is a big no-no because it’s defeating many of the purposes of morning pages. Writing longhand means you have time to process your thoughts and ideas. You have time to sit with your thoughts whereas on a laptop, you’re more likely to rush through your pages and focus more on grammar errors than being aware of what’s going on in your head and heart. Plus, is it just me or is there something a little romantic and nostalgic about writing in a notebook with a good cup of coffee at hand?
  • Put your phone on silent. Your thoughts will get interrupted right when you’re on the verge of something great and your brain will start thinking ahead about your to-do or the Instagram you need to post. For the 20-30 min. that you need for your pages, that cute puppy video can wait!
  • Just start. Morning pages are really such a simple idea that it’s almost unbelievable to people that they can have this much of an impact. So with that, I leave you to go try morning pages for yourself!

Leave a comment below and let me know how you feel about incorporating this exercise into your routine! I’d love to know if you plan on giving Morning Pages a go and your thoughts throughout the process. Reach out if you’ve read the Artist’s Way and currently write morning pages yourself, too!

Ready to give it a try? As silly as this sounds, sometimes I was more apt to write my mornings pages when the paper or notebook was cute. Feel free to check out my Etsy shop and the cute notebooks I’ve added!

xosamantha

Pin the below image to Pinterest so you can easily refer back to this guide on Morning Pages!

Morning Pages for Creatives: How To Transform Your Life and Business from The Artist's Way Tool of Morning Pages

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