Have you ever tried to manage your calendar in a way that doesn’t actually work for you?
You got a new scheduling tool. You invested time and energy to bring it into your life. It was supposed to focus you and increase your productivity and creativity. But all it did was add another layer of work and stress — without any real benefit.
Maybe you just didn’t stick with it long enough. New habits take a while to settle in.
Or — maybe what you need to do your best, most creative work isn’t more detailed scheduling, but less.
To discover if this is true for you, consider the following:
How do you develop your best solutions?
“I get my best ideas in the shower.”
Have you ever said something like this? Maybe not about the shower, specifically, but about any other non-work environment that triggers your best thinking?
There’s a reason why your best solutions come when you’re not scheduled to be working on them.
Epiphanies — your best, most creative solutions — develop incrementally. They aren’t instantaneous. They may feel like they are, but they’re actually a long time in the making.
Before an epiphany occurs, you’re actually busy developing it. You’re gathering bits of information and ‘weaving’ them together without even realizing that weaving is taking place. At some point — often uncontrolled and unscheduled by you — the last ‘thread’ gets pulled in, and a pattern emerges. The solution becomes clear to you.
You may recognize the pattern in an instant, but you didn’t create it in an instant. The creation took time. And plenty of cognitive spaciousness within which to ‘weave.’
Think about it. Can you imagine trying to weave a large, intricate rug in a cramped closet? Even if you wouldn’t recognize a loom if it fell on your head, I’m sure you can envision what happens to a creative process when it gets cramped and confined.
This is why blocking rigid times to work on a specific problem (and isn’t every piece of work about solving a specific problem?) may not produce the results you want. If it doesn’t, it’s because you haven’t allowed time and space for the weaving. The creating.
For most of us, creative flow isn’t an on-demand resource. And for most of us, our most vibrant creativity occurs when we’re doing the opposite of demanding it. Hence, the shower epiphanies.
Does your calendaring process support creative flow?
I’ll be honest. Years ago when I first started freelancing, my inability to schedule my creativity drove me nuts. After all, I was being paid by the hour to be creative. Every productivity expert I came across told me I needed a defined schedule to boost my creativity, and therefore my productivity.
But when I tried the standard “task batching” guidelines they recommended, the opposite happened. Instead of blocking out time to work, my creativity got blocked and my productivity plummeted. I appreciated the set times to focus on a specific client and their needs. But I didn’t do my best work during those periods. Not even close.
There seemed no point in setting a detailed calendar if it didn’t support me to do my best, most creative work.
You don’t have to be a writer to need access to your creative flow. We all need it. Your creativity is your differentiator, regardless of your profession.
You owe it to yourself to ask yourself: does your schedule keep you on task without blocking your creativity?
How can you calendar to increase your creative flow?
Strip your calendar down. Drop the fussiness. Add only actual events, small repeatable tasks, and final deadlines.
Every Monday morning, study your calendar for the next two weeks. Visualize your deadlines. Map them in your mind. This will trigger the subconscious weaving process for each problem you need to solve.
As your week unfolds, check your calendar every morning to remind yourself of your deadlines and trigger additional deep thinking. Make short notes of the solution narratives that are forming in your mind. Or don’t. Do whatever feels most effective to you to organically facilitate the weaving process.
As deadlines draw closer, instead of pre-scheduling blocks of rubber-meets-the-road working time, wait until an idea is ripe and then sit down to document your solution.
Each time you sit down, if you hit a wall, stop working and stop the clock, even if that wall comes only after 10 minutes of actual work. Hit pause, let go, and let the weaving process resume. Let the cognitive barriers untangle themselves until you’re ready to work on the problem again. Because they will untangle themselves, if you let them.
Fair warning: From the outside, this process can look undisciplined and inefficient.
Culturally, we’re used to rigidity in our scheduling. It’s a social norm. And it can be hard to step away from. It’s easy to feel that if you don’t have a tightly managed schedule, you’re disorganized.
Or even worse — that if you’ve scheduled a block of time to work, that’s the same as actually working.
Inject white space into your calendar. Give yourself elbowroom to weave. Not with laser focus on each thread, but with holistic understanding of the pattern.
If you do this, your creative solutions and productivity will improve.
You will become both disciplined and efficient.
Most importantly, you’ll actually give your clients the creative expertise they’re paying you for.
Allyson Baughman is one of our Strategic Referral Partners. She specializes in thought leadership writing coaching, editing and ghostwriting. I thought this was a very interesting take on calendar management…something that can prompt us all to think a little differently. Learn more about Allyson here. – Beth
We also thank Greenville Office Supply for supporting Calendar Month.