If you’ve lived a creative life by any measure, whether you use your creativity professionally or not, you know how fickle it can be.
One day you’re flowing with ideas and inspiration to fill a month’s worth of work, solving problems that have stumped you for weeks, and creating things you can hardly believe came from your hands.
On other days, you can’t get a word on the page, a thick fog seems to preside over your mind, and you can’t seem to do anything right.
If creativity is an important part of what you do (as it is for most of us), it’s critical that you design your life in a way that keeps your creative pathways open. If you don’t, the wrong combination of elements can develop and leave you consistently lacking the creative power to do your best work.
How to Design Your Life for Maximum Creativity
Make an empty space in any corner of your mind, and creativity will instantly fill it.
– Dee Hock
Before we get into things, it’s important to understand that creativity doesn’t work like other skills and aptitudes you can improve upon.
Creativity is something you receive, however you decide to interpret that. If you’re in the right state of mind (which is accomplished through maintaining a variety of conditions), creativity will seem to flow from you as if someone was funneling it straight into your head. But the wrong state of mind, born from less-than-ideal conditions, cuts off this pathway like a clogged pipe.
Having said that, let’s talk about some tips for designing your life in a way that creates the perfect conditions for opening that pathway to greater (and more consistent) creativity.
1. Do problem tasks first
Unresolved tasks often act as anchors for our creativity without us even noticing it. That’s because these are often tasks we feel some level of resistance towards. By not doing them, we’re hiding from the pain associated with acting on the task, however small or simple an act the task might be.
Don’t believe me? Do this:
- Make a list of any tasks or to-dos you’ve been putting off for the past couple weeks (or longer?).
- Pick one and do it. I mean NOW. Not next week. Not tomorrow. Or later today. Stop reading and take action. Seriously.
- Now come back. How do you feel? Energized? Relieved? Relief is a good sign because it’s a sign that a weight has been lifted from you mentally, and that will help you creatively.
This is all about removing that mental clutter that exists but which we often don’t notice. It’s not until you start to clear some of this clutter that you notice the effect it has on your ability to think clearly and be creative.
Once you’ve tried this out, make it a habit to knock out these problem tasks first as soon as the day begins so you can move forward with a clear mind and often a good bit of motivation.
2. Clear the mind
This is possibly the simplest point on this list. However, it’s one of the most important and often involves something you’ll do daily.
Stress and anxiety are conditions which keep the mind frantic and clouded. By using a regular activity to clear the mind you can reduce the stress and anxiety and let your creativity flow more freely.
There are a few things you can do here, but it always comes down to adopting some consistent activity that allows you to maintain clarity of mind in the most basic sense.
Examples of activities you can do are:
- Meditate: Even five minutes is enough to make a noticeable difference.
- Read: This can be anything, but I’d suggest fiction as the storytelling format allows you to disconnect.
- Take a short walk in nature: This is partly dependent on where you live, but even if you live in a major city like L.A. or New York there are nice parks and locations that may serve as good options.
- Do something therapeutic or meditative: Some people have a simple activity that just does the trick. It’s therapeutic, almost meditative in nature, for them and fits with who they are. Examples are running, cleaning, or playing a simple game like Solitaire.
3. Create order
The persistence of chaos, the feeling that everyday life is out of your control and that all you can do is juggle in an attempt to keep everything together, is a huge damper on your creativity. And the thing is, the idea that life needs to be this way is a complete myth.
It’s important to first stop convincing yourself that this is necessary to be productive. This sense of chaos makes us feel productive, but in reality it has little to do with actual productivity. It just makes us feel better; like we’re doing more when we’re actually doing less (and killing our creativity in the process).
Next, you need to develop a system that calms the chaos. This can be a simple process of writing down what you have to accomplish for the week and what important benchmarks you’re shooting for each day leading up to that goal. By getting clear about this it becomes obvious when you’re doing something that’s productive vs. when you’re doing something that’s needless busy work.
4. Create a plan to optimize your finances
One of the greatest killers to creativity is worrying about finances.
For years, my mother owned a business designing women’s apparel. Over two decades, she successfully built it into a multi-million dollar business. However, as the business grew and her duties intensified, a problem arose: she couldn’t be the boss and the designer at the same time.
Being the boss, reviewing the finances and constantly managing the budget completely killed her creativity. When bills were paid and things were planned out well, she could think clearly. When it wasn’t or she had an issue, she couldn’t design anything to save her life.
This doesn’t affect everyone, but it has a noticeable effect on most people. If this is you, it’s important to craft a plan that will at least help you better manage your financial situation (if you haven’t already done it). This is obviously important for many reasons, but if you hope to maximize your creativity this is also important.
Even something as simple as setting all of your bills to autopay so that you can think about them less can be a huge burden lifted off your mind that helps you creatively.
Creativity can be fickle and hard to manage, especially if you’re attempting to tap into it consistently. However, if you design your life in a way that optimizes certain conditions you can clear the pathway to inspiration and maximize your creativity in a way that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.