I used to think refining my process was a waste of time. But then I discovered that investing time into the way I work gives me back significant time in the long run. This investment helped eliminate distractions that normally took away from my creative process.
While figuring out our to-do list and daily schedules is extremely important, it can create a shadow over the achilles heel of the creative process.
Achilles heel: Having an inability to focus, or keep distractions under control, that is specific to you, your environment and your mind.
In short, a weakness is when a creative individual or productive worker doesn’t take the time to study the things that interrupts their workday. They allow the cycle to keep repeating itself. They don’t study the changes that need to be made for a greater output.
Now, I am a big advocate for not feeding the hustle, workaholic culture that Western civilization has tossed into modern play. The intention of discovering this part of ourselves is not to become these idolatry-productive gods, rather, give us time back.
I want you to spend time with your families. I hope you shut the computer every night and get excited about the evening hours, or the weekend plans.
Identifying distractions and focus inconsistencies can be one of the most game changing things you can discover about yourself.
By getting the things done, structured under healthy standards (reasonable goals and tasks) you will end your day increasing your self-satisfaction and mental wellness.
This does not include consideration for any mental or focus related conditions, but I imagine that in conjunction with a mental health professional, these supplements can help.
As someone with severe Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), the below has really helped me learn about how I operate.
I’m going to walk you through 5 Steps on what to do moving forward to help resolve distractions and increase your focus. These will be your exercises for today, Day 4.
Step 1 – Knowing The Mind and Body Connection
It’s no secret that your body’s health plays a role in your mind’s functionality. Perhaps you’re rolling your eyes at this, and it’s understandable, we hear this a lot. But have you actually done something actionable about this tip? When I got honest with myself, I sighed. I really needed a change.
The reality is: Many of us get comfortable with our own complacency that we are slow to change, or make no change. For example, you’ve accepted you are unable to get reasonable sleep, and you’ve built your life around that to accommodate that “truth.”
Now, sometimes we are in temporary situations where yes we can’t make a change. For example, new parenthood. However, I think many of us can identify physical/body health elements that we’ve slacked on. These impact; energy, focus, space and time for creative thought, research time, discipline, and good habits.
Accepting Bad/Poor Habits & Distractions
When we accept a bad habit, we are also accepting that we are able and allowed to make another bad habit. As a creative person, you’re often seeking new ideas and inspiration, “Why can’t I find it!” Is a phrase I used to ask myself mentally a lot. But I realized that a lot of my “ideas” and “inspiration” were buried under poor habits.
Poor habits take up more time in the long run then healthy habits.
Let’s look at an example. If you skip eating meals, you’ll start getting agitated, or your blood sugar will crash. You get hungry. Maybe the hunger strikes when you’re mid-paragraph in a profound thought or drawing. But you stop, get up, and abandon the thought.
Something else in the kitchen distracts you, and suddenly an hour goes away. You realize this, rush, grab something unhealthy, and head back to the writing element. You inhale your unhealthy snack.
And then get frustrated because not only did you forget your thought process/idea, but you feel guilty for eating your unhealthy snack, and you ruminate. Now you’re thinking about that, and you’ve completely derailed your energy. Then your body crashes again an hour later.
I want to say, by the way, unhealthy snacks are totally cool in moderation. But I find food-guilt and body goals are something many of us have to a capacity, so this is a common example. It overlaps a lot.
Sometimes my productivity is an excuse I use to not take care of myself.
I’ve learned that is not a good enough reason because taking care of ourselves is productive, healthy and more important than your to-do list.
- Before your next big creative undertaking. Do a check-in with yourself, and get honest.
- What physical elements for your body could you shift, add or remove in your day? Do one of those changes this week.
- Try changes one at a time, instead of piling on a bunch, unless they are closely related. This can be a big or small change. The trick here is picking one and just do it. You’ll prove to yourself that you’re worth the investment.
Step 2 – Taking Inventory of Distractions You Can Control
There’s going to be distractions you have zero ability to handle, prevent or monitor. We don’t need the most peaceful days, or perfect environments, to achieve something or be creative. Sometimes high stimulation helps people; such as in busy environments.
But I am talking about distractions. You know, the text messages. The phone is being picked up every 45-seconds. Music that works against you, not with you. Or even picking your workspace everyday (we’ll cover that more later).
Remember that the more you give into a distraction, or the more you accept its existence, you are picking that experience over your creativity.
By checking Instagram every two-minutes, you are telling yourself that it’s more important than your writing assignment.
Sure, maybe it’s more engaging, or relaxing, but is that your equivalent to important?
You might think, “OF COURSE!” But ask yourself, if you don’t finish your writing assignment or goal, is that going to make you feel better or worse at the end of the day?
Let’s assess some of the things & distractions you can control.
- Cut out an hour and do a reset of your distractions – first identify them.
- Add in focus settings on your phone notifications or apps.
- Really take inventory of music that works better for you at different times of day, or working types. Or invest in noise canceling headphones.
- Put do not disturb around meetings if you need too to prevent excess conversations
- Schedule or use a timer for working sessions and breaks
- Add in a reward or a more relaxing type of working session (I’ll cover this more in the next tip).
Tip #3: Swallow Your Frogs First
Mark Twain famously said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”
Having a productive hierarchy has been my new crucial element in my workflow process.
Productive hierarchy is the process of assessing the weight, value and time of your tasks. This allows you to counterbalance them with specific parts of yourself.
For example, as someone with anxiety, and knowing I work better in the mornings, I will do my most laborious, stress-inducing tasks earlier in my day, then later. It gives me peace of mind during the rest of the day, and I work faster in the morning to get it done.
I know I also hit an energy slump around 2:00pm, so I’ll incorporate a relaxing break or a relaxing working session.
You can speed up your mind or slow it down with your body, like breathing; you don’t need to always “power through” everything.
You may be wondering, what is a relaxing task/working session?
This is something I’ve created, which may or may not work well for you. So experiment.
Essentially, I identify tasks that are very sumientry, or don’t require a ton of thinking space. For example, cleaning dishes, deleting emails, or scheduling social media posts.
Maybe I’ll put on an episode of my favorite show while I do this, or get a fresh cappuccino and sip while I work. Other times it’s a podcast episode, or taking fifteen minutes to read while a video exports.
Your lighter tasks are great opportunities to slow down. But it’s important to keep going if you can with the small tasks. These guys can add up throughout our week, then overwhelm us.
Tip #4: Reinvent Your Workspace to Work For You, Not Against You
This is a game changer guys. For so long I was making a crucial mistake, and that was not investing time in refining my workspace. Before COVID-19, like many, I was handed a workspace, and I forced myself into it, and slowly adjusted it to serve me.
Most of us are working in a space that is losing our energy, focus and time.
But now, we’ve learned we can control our environments more, regardless if you’re back in the office or not. One of the biggest investments you can make in your goal/success journey is to invest money or time into your workspace.
This is like picking the soil before you plant. Having water available, it’s all crucial to growth and consistency.
A workspace should have three main components:
- It should be the path of least resistance.
- Meaning, you can get to it easily, and get to work easily. If you have a ton of hurdles, you’re going to lose energy and focus fast. You’ll also feel discouraged and skip out on consistency.
- It should have tools within it that lessen the need for you to do extra tasks.
- For example, your chargers are all plugged in, and fastened to your table, so you don’t need to go searching for them everyday. Or, you get cold often, so you have a pair of slippers in the room.
- To take this a step further, incorporate tip one here. Invest in a chair that doesn’t harm your back, or a water pitch to stay hydrated. You can even put packaged healthy snacks in reach to limit temptations for other foods.
- It should have your ownership
- Even if you have a small desk tucked in the corner, it should be yours. Meaning you have the control to clean up at the end of the day, so you can start fresh, and keep your items and system together. You waste processing energy with decision fatigue if you constantly need to move things around, and make space to work.
A few examples:
- Create a workspace in your home. Therefore you have a place to work that doesn’t require commuting or traveling far.
- Untangle chords, buy extra chargers, and plug everything in so it’s a sit-down, get up, procedure (not running around).
- Organize drawers, baskets and storage
- Have water nearby, and healthy snacks to prevent you from getting up all the time
- Close the door, or block it off, so it’s your space only, not communal, if possible
Tip #5: Set Reasonable, Smart, Goals, To Increase Self-Satisfaction
If you don’t set reasonable expectations, or goals, you’ll never feel satisfied with your creative process.
Part of fleeting motivation, and energy to complete a task, does rest in understanding your goals well, and setting healthy goals.
In the above article we cover a mindset shift, and I would encourage you to indulge so that serves as your action.
Written by Sarah Edwards (@setapart_company), TPCT Project Coordinator.