Not long ago I wrote about how you need to stop using bullshit excuses that block your creative potential. Today I want to dive deeper into just one of the excuses I hear a lot: ‘I don’t have the time to create things’. I get that it is difficult. Even when you take responsibility for how you divide your time, it still is a challenge to actively make time for creativity. So how exactly do you prioritise creativity? Especially when you already skip on sleep and work hard to finish all your other important tasks. Let’s talk about some different ways to make time for creativity.
1. Eliminate time-wasters
Stop wasting your precious time on low value activities that do not deserve your attention. Make space for more fun and meaningful activities instead. Your creative time needs to come from somewhere. The trick is to look for time-wasters.
These days, most time-wasters are technology based: Facebook, checking your email 100 times a day, YouTube, Instagram or binge watching on series. Offline, they may be things like snoozing, long coffee breaks, chats with colleagues or other procrastination activities.
Identify the time-wasters in your life. If you find this difficult, track your time for a week and write down everything you do. Tracking your activities will give you insight in your patterns. Then decide what you could do less of. For example, you could check your email only twice a day, not watch TV, or install a site blocker. But how much extra time does eliminating time-wasters bring you? That depends on you of course. Even if you only save 20 minutes a day, it adds up over the course of a year.
Extra time is only one of the positive results of eliminating time-wasters though. More importantly, it frees your brain from constant distraction, unimportant decision-making and noise. Once you’re not surrounded by clutter constantly, you’ll start to have more space for thoughts of your own. You may find that when you are disconnected to the WIFI, you end up making something instead.
2. Use the in-between moments
In-between moments can be creative gold. Typical good in-between moments are whenever: you’re on the move, waiting, or doing mundane chores that don’t take a lot of brainpower. Think about the time you spend on mundane, reoccurring activities. Could you somehow optimise this time?
You could listen to a podcast while shopping for groceries, read a biography of a famous artist while you’re on the bus or train, carry a notebook with you at all times to write down any idea when it strikes (or a sketchbook to doodle) and brainstorm ideas while biking or waiting for your friend.
Creativity doesn’t have be something like making a 1500-hour oil painting. Creativity can be found in anything that inspires you, makes you think in a new way or exercises your brain to come up with new solutions.
3. Apply micro-movements
‘Micro-movements’ is a word I adopted after reading it for the first time in ‘Make your creative dreams real’ by SARK. “A micro-movement is a very tiny action that anyone can take toward some part of his creative dream. It’s 5 seconds to 5 minutes in length, and you write it down, along with a gentle date for completion.”
A micro-movement can be anything from scheduling an appointment, to creating a new document for the novel you’re going to write and stare at it for 2 minutes, to taking out your paint supplies from the attic. It’s about creating movement, any movement, which propels you forward.
Think of a creative project you would love to try. Then come up with a tiny first action you can take, right now. If you think it will take more than 5 minutes, make the task even smaller.
Micro-movements are perfect for when you’re stuck and your creative dreams seem too large. It’s a way to break down your large dreams into tiny baby steps that suddenly do feel attainable.
4. Schedule time for creativity
This one might seem kind of obvious, because it is. If you want to make time for creativity, schedule it. It’s as simple as that. Just like you would schedule a meeting with a friend or co-worker, block out time in your agenda for creative work. Then stick to your schedule and treat it like any other appointment (in stead of going ‘Oh yeah, I’m free that evening’ when someone calls).
You get bonus points if you already have a clear plan of what you want to do in your scheduled time. That way, you can get started right away. You don’t spend the first half of your precious time figuring that out (although it’s no crime and needs to be done at some point anyway).
Schedule time for creative projects. It’s the best way to work without disruptions and finish a large chunk of work.
5. Make yourself feel accountable
Place yourself in a position where you feel accountable. This is especially helpful when you find it difficult to find the self-discipline to schedule time for creativity. Consciously look for activities in which others will hold you accountable for your actions.
Force yourself to go somewhere on a specific time each week, by taking up a creative course (like a sewing or painting class). Or think of places where would you be missed when you don’t show up, like joining a creative club (like a book club, or collectors club). You could also call a creative friend to meet up for a crafty afternoon.
When necessary, guilt, shame and pain can be powerful forces to help you overcome your initial barrier to start creating. When you’re not used to prioritising creativity, it helps to give more weight and importance to your creative activity. You already paid for the course and don’t want to waste your money. You don’t want to let your friend down. Consciously build a system in which you feel awful about bailing out on your commitment.
6. Create helpful habits
Ultimately, creativity should be a habit. That way you don’t need to consciously make time for creativity. You’re already creative without thinking about it anymore.
It takes time, effort and self-discipline to grow a constructive habit. Creative habits will be a tremendous catalyst for your creative life though. But to form them, you need to actively plan them out.
Just like I do with my happy habits, you can set yourself an achievable goal for 30 days. After that period, you evaluate if you want to continue your creative behaviour and/or want to take up something new.
Make your new habit something you are truly excited about though. Motivation alone is not enough to break through old patterns, but it does help.
Think of some fun, creative habits you would love to have. Which would be most helpful? Which one makes you feel most excited? Which one is easiest? Pick one new creative habit. Pledge to start your new habit today. Over time you will gradually grow into a more creative person.
You might have heard some of the things I mention in this post before. My question to you is not about whether or not my points are new.
My question is: are you already actively performing the actions and behaviours to make time for creativity in your life?
If not, please don’t click away right after reading my post. First, come up with one simple action you will do today to make more time for creativity.
Simple and easy are two completely different things. The ways to make time for creativity are simple, but not easy.
So, tell me in the comments: how are you already spending time on creativity? What action will you take to improve your creative life?
PS. I added a ‘New Here?’ page to my blog with an easy overview of interesting articles. Check it out and let me know what you think!
July 25, 2015 at 22:14
Great ideas! I know that I cannot thrive without creativity. Luckily, my job as a primary music teacher allows me to be creative on a daily basis. One thing I do in terms of music creativity is every Christmas, I write a song for my school nativity performance so that once I have been teaching 10 years or so, I will have a complete music score of my own original songs. Doing one song a year is not very onerous and I always enjoy doing it. Similarly, I have written my own scripts for the nativity and arranged music for the orchestra and recorder clubs so that I am doing something creative in that respect. I make cards for friends and family and recently, I’ve been experimenting with shrink plastic and made some brooches- my favourite being a celery brooch!
I love words too so I like playing word games on trains when I am bored too!
But yes, technology is a HUGE time waster in my life and I need to switch off and make music- practice my flute etc!
July 26, 2015 at 15:19
Ohh I love that your job already allows you to be creative every day, that’s great! And shrink plastic is the best. I once made penguin medals from them (long story). I love to play word games with my family and boyfriend too. And yes, there is always room to improve but it also seems like you’re already a pretty creative lady ;)
July 26, 2015 at 07:14
I have two young children (and a full time job when not on maternity leave) so time for creativity is hard. But i try to surround myself with creative friends, we make ourselves more accountable, sharing projects and then asking each other how they are coming along. I plan to build a ‘timeshare shed’ for my husband to write in, me to craft and read in, and my sons to use as their den and playhouse. I am currently reading ‘the artists way’ by julia cameron (one for your booklist) which encourages everyday creativity.
July 26, 2015 at 15:28
Ohhh the timeshare shed sounds like so much fun! And I think it’s wonderful that you do not only get to plan creative time for yourself that way, but also valuable time for your family. Build it! :D