A couple years ago, I took a career sabbatical and joined a Buddhist monastery retreat. We were introduced to a rigid schedule of 6:30am chanting meditation, walking meditation, silent meals, study, chores, and sitting meditation.
The routine was comforting and freeing at the same time. While some of us joked that we felt like we were in a “prison,” there’s something very comforting about set structures, routine and rituals that frees the mind. Perhaps this is why so many prisoners themselves find God, have an awakening, or profound spiritual transformation while they are imprisoned.
My graphic design client, a productivity coach, and I were discussing the importance of having systems and containers to harness creativity. To serve creativity, instead of stifle it. To create containers where creativity has room to grow and blossom. Because lets face it, your best work can’t happen without structure. This is why designers start with creative briefs or client questionnaires. The blank slate can’t be completely blank. We need direction, a focus, a structure.
Without structure, we won’t be able to visually communicate what you want, and to have complete free range with no direction means a stab in the dark. A nightmare client is someone who has no clue what they want, and isn’t interested in the collaborative process of figuring out your brand/visual identity.
Characteristics of success
Successful people have some common traits.
1. They wake up early. They start the day early to get more things done. They might have a morning routine before getting into a work schedule.
2. They exercise. They make sure to move daily. This might be part of their morning routine, or it could be bursts throughout the day, to break up the work routine and inspire creativity.
3. They are highly structured. They structure their day to be more organized and productive. And it works. They push forward. They make goals and achieve them.
These three traits revolve around schedule, routine, and structure. When you develop structure, you’re free to grow and free to create. Structure takes care of activities and your mind is free to do the rest. Structure creates a container. When it comes to creativity, it’s also good to think inside the box. Structure builds a better container for creativity to run free.
Creating more structure
As a multipotentialite, it can be a challenge to focus, or feel like you’re making headway on all of your projects. This is where creating structure comes in. When you have the systems in place, you’ll have more freedom to do your own thing, like a well-oiled machine.
Tools – Whether you utilize old fashioned tools like filing cabinets, folders and notebooks or the plethora of digital and tech tools–software, apps, websites, smartphone–this will help you organize information and create a system.
Systems – Once you have the tools in place that you want to use, you need a system to be able to use the tools and a way to access information and take notes. How do you organize your ideas and track progress? This is where process comes in.
Processes – Processes are daily routines, weekly check-ins, quarterly reviews, etc. In order to maintain systems, you’ll need to have a process. Discard what isn’t relevant to you. Only track the processes that matter, and decide what those are. What needs tracking? What’s working and not working? Constantly evaluate. If you’re doing something that’s working, find out why it’s working and scale it. You can automate your processes to have more time to do your work, create, and explore.
Habits – You’ll need to turn your processes into a habit. Do them regularly to keep momentum going and stay productive. Create a framework. It’s also possible to outsource your processes and hire a virtual assistant, for example. But you’ll still need to instill habits, create processes, routines and standard operating procedures for your VA to follow.
Time-management – Once the infrastructure is in place for your systems, managing your time is the last thing to polish to stay focused and productive. Give yourself deadlines. Set a far reaching goal and set little deadlines along the way so you keep on track and take steps to accomplish the goal. Try to work without distractions. If you need to, I find it easier to work offline to keep distractions like social media out. Only do social media and check email at certain times of the day and give yourself time limits.
How have you created structure and systems to free up your creativity and add room to explore? What works for you?