How Busyness Destroys Your Creativity
From the moment we wake up to the moment we fall asleep, we are constantly bombarded with information.
First thing I do when I wake up is reach for my phone to check my messages.
It’s one of my bad habits and I wish I would stop doing it.
I work across different time-zones and checking my messages first thing immediately throws me into catch-up mode. So much has happened since I went to bed. There are emails to respond to, messaged to read, Instagram photos to see, not to mention all the breaking news you need to know to stay in the loop.
I have not had my first cup of coffee of the day and my mind is already in overdrive.
How we compromise our creativity
A report by the University of California, San Diego, suggests that on average we process 34 gigabytes or 100,000 words a day by consuming 11.8 hours of information a day. YouTube uploads a staggering 6,000 hours of video every hour and computer gaming consumes more bytes than all other media put together. In other words, we have created a world with 300,000,000,000,000,000,000 pieces of human-made information.
Psychological studies revealed that we have only a limited amount of attention available to us each day and once we use it up its gone.
We are depleting our attention storage by doing simple mundane task. Every status update you read on Facebook, every tweet or text you get is competing for resources and we become far less creative as a result.
David Levitin, a cognitive scientist, believes multitasking is a ‘diabolical illusion’, he further explains that what it does is to overtax the brain thus preventing this remarkable organ from resting or daydreaming.
In other words, every time we are not on autopilot we are literally diluting our creativity.
The energy that fuels your creative process is the same energy that fuels the mundane stuff. That makes it even more important for us creative types to be clever about managing all aspects of our lives, so we will have more energy for creativity.
Before I ditched the day job to be a full-time artist I worked as a personal assistant. I handled many of the daily distractions for my boss, allowing him to devote all his attention to whatever was before him. I handled his emails, his correspondence, made his appointments, booked his travel and restaurants, paid his bills and basically planned his day to maximum efficiency.
As a result, he was always incredibly focused on what was going on in the moment. There was a great infrastructure in place ensuring that each day runs smoothly and with maximum output.
Whilst most of us don’t have the luxury of an assistant there are simple tactics you can apply to dramatically reduce the mundane from your life, by doing so you create time and space to think creatively.
Effective ways to deal with mundane tasks
Mundane tasks are repetitive, boring, unproductive but necessary.
That being said, there must be a minimum of one thing, that you’re doing, that’s probably taking a couple of hours a week, that you could either automate or outsource for a very, very low cost. You can then spend that time either having a life, which is always a good thing; or spend that time doing the stuff that you know you should be doing.
Let’s look at 9 easy steps to help you create time and clarity.
1. Social media activities — Automate, automate, automate
There are tons of social media management tool out there with some great time-saving automation features. Look for a tool which allows you to schedule your content across all your channels and supports Evergreen posts.
If you can, outsource social media marketing tasks or website updates to somebody on Upwork for a small fee.
2. Pretend you are on vacation
Turn your email “Out of office” on. This takes off the pressure of having to reply “now” and gives you the freedom to work without distractions. Schedule time for dealing with emails in your calendar. Depending on how much mail you get, schedule time to reply daily or weekly or every other day and stick to it.
3. Use your voicemail to your advantage
Often I see people interrupt important conversations with friends or colleagues to talk to someone on the phone about something that can wait. Use your voice mail message to reflect what you are doing. “I can’t answer the phone right now because I am in a meeting. As with email, block out a set amount of time in your day to listen and respond to messages.
4. Organize your home and work-space
De-clutter your home and workplace and put systems in place to streamline daily tasks as much as possible.
If you have kids like me, try getting their school stuff ready in the evening rather than having to rush in the morning.
Do you have any unfinished projects around the house? Make an effort to finish them off, women’s stress hormones spike when confronted with clutter, men not too much. Elevated cortisol level can lead to chronic cognitive impairment, fatigue, and suppression of the body’s immune system.
5. Food, Grocery and other essential items
You don’t have to slog around the busy supermarket aisle to do your weekly grocery shopping. Instead of settling for a weekly supermarket trip have your shopping delivered to your door.
There are probably many smaller businesses who deliver food, snacks or vegetable boxes to your doorstep. Or use or Amazon’s Subscribe & Save for necessities like your toiletry or other items and have them delivered on a schedule.
6. Batch, Batch, Batch
Batching is the process of dedicating a block of time for specific tasks.
What repetitive tasks are you doing throughout the week? What tasks can you do together in a block of time?
Batching is a great way to get your social media done and you don’t have to worry about it again for months. Schedule all of your posts at once instead of going on each social site throughout the day. Not only will you save time by scheduling posts, but it will prevent you from scrolling through the sites when you should be doing something different.
I block off time each month on my calendar to prepare my marketing material. Photos I will need for social media, blog posts, and other marketing material. This way I am able to streamline my workflow, save time and always have a library of images.
A good friend of mine will usually film a year of video content in one week. Getting this done in a batch means she can focus on more important issues and grow her business rather than spending time each week to create content. It takes her on average 5 weeks of planning to film a year of content, but this is time well spend as coming up with new content can be huge distraction otherwise.
Work in bulk where ever you can. Think about how you can incorporate batching into your workflow to save time and energy.
The idea behind this is that each task has its assigned time and date. When you have time set aside for these mundane tasks they don’t weigh on you as much. You don’t worry about them because you say to yourself “I have scheduled a time to do that, therefore I don’t need to worry about it now.”
7. Love your calendar — don’t clutter it with the detritus of a wasted day
I am a huge fan of the calendar. Put everything on your calendar. Also, put reminders for everything on your calendar but don’t add anything you cannot or should not do. The more things you say “yes” to, the more you’ll clutter your calendar.
The best approach is to keep your calendar locked up with blocks of time where you get stuff done. These “blocks of time” are portions of your day when you can accomplish significant work.
8. Simplify routines and habits
Block off no-internet time for uninterrupted work and try not to check your email and social media compulsively.
Use tools to put limits on how much you can be distracted online. Chrome extension StayFocusd is great for blocking or limiting social media and other selected websites.
9. Don’t keep everything in your head
Externalize your organisation. Make folders, boxes, whatever; it doesn’t matter so much what you do, as long as the that the information is organized in the physical world.
Something which gets written and mentioned many times is writing a journal. It is a great way to empty your brain.
You’re busy, and you have a ton of stuff to do — mundane tasks included.
But luckily, there are many effective systems available which can help you reduce your busyness and by doing so you not only create time in your life put you also preserve your creativity.