Thursday, September 14, 2017

10 Tips for Increasing Creativiy + Productivity

Hello! Today I'm writing about some things I think about a lot. In fact, I've thought about all of these topics in one form or another for almost as long as I can remember.  The primary reason I started my blog over nine years ago was to keep a record of these three things in my own life.  Creativity, productivity, and inspiration: how do they all fit together? and how can one cultivate more of them on a daily basis?

I've had notes for this post in my planner for quite some time, and I have a

good outline for today's thoughts.  I'm sure I'll need to write about this again down the road (as I'm always learning), but here are some of the things I've learned up to this point. 

Working in a creative field means that I am always looking for inspiration and planning future projects.  And in today's busy world there are plenty of time wasters--I love John Quincy Adams's labeling of this as "misapplying time."  Since there are only so many hours in the day, I also spend a lot of time trying to learn how to use my time better (not too long ago I wrote this post on time management for quilters). 

Recently I've made some changes that are helping me to make the best use of my time: I feel like I've been able to be more creative and more productive and yet also have more time for relaxing and spending time with my family.  The book Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind (The 99U Book Series) has given me some terrific ideas that have really made a great impact on my life.  (The book is a compilation of ideas by successful people and creatives in a variety of fields, and I learned much from the ideas and suggestions contained therein). 

10 Tips for Increasing

 Creativity + Productivity

 1.  Rest, renewal, and solitude are very important ingredients to having more creativity, more productivity, and more inspiration in life.

I really do try to get at least seven hours of sleep each night, take time to ponder things, and spend time alone (usually on my daily walk). As a result I feel like I'm able to maintain my health and my focus on what matters most (most of the time...sometimes life just throws curve balls).

2.  Do your most meaningful work first.

For me this often means doing some sewing first thing in the morning before checking emails and doing business-related tasks (this book-- Never Check E-Mail In the Morning: And Other Unexpected Strategies for Making Your Work Life Work while a few years old--is an excellent resource on this topic). Sometimes, of course, this isn't possible because of the schedule for the day; however, when I'm able to put this into practice I accomplish a lot more.

3.  Have a routine.

This was a hard lesson for me to learn.  I was wasting a lot of time by not having a clear idea of how much time different tasks take and by not having a specific time to accomplish them.  Now I try to have a start and finish time in mind for computer tasks, sewing tasks, and design tasks, and I do these tasks at about the same time each day.

4.  Maintain focus by getting rid of interruptions.

Try to schedule time blocks of uninterrupted creative time. For me this means putting my phone on silent when I'm sewing or working on patterns.  When my kids were younger I accomplished this by doing most of my sewing while they were napping, at school, or after they had gone to bed.  Find what works for you, and keep those interruptions at bay.

5.  Have identifiable tasks to do for your creative time. 

This makes larger projects not seem so overwhelming.  For example, if I head into my sewing room with "make a new Christmas quilt" as my only objective, I won't be as productive as if I go in knowing I'm going to cut out a project or make all of the half-square triangles for a quilt. Having larger tasks broken up into smaller, more easily do-able projects makes it easier to stay on task.  Additionally, I try to have no more than three major tasks to do for any given day.

6.  Limit Social Media.

At first I thought it might be a little ironic that I was writing this in a blog post.  But not really.  Let's face it, many of us get a lot of information, and good information, too, from the web and social media.  Social media has its place for helping individuals to learn and gain knowledge about a variety of topics. It's easy to make a plan for managing social media, though, and stick to it.  I read blogs in the morning, check Pinterest in the evening, and post/check Instagram a couple of times a day.  I don't have Facebook on my phone which is a huge time-saver for me (I usually only check that once a week).

7.  Work on projects just for fun.

As quilters we all have projects we need to do: make a baby quilt for a friend, make a block for our guild project, or make gifts for family and friends, just to name a few examples.  But it's really important to work on things for fun--things that don't have deadlines and help us to enjoy being creative. It helps to have a "bucket list" of projects for times when we want to just make something for the sake of making something.

8.  Let go of perfectionism.

This one is pretty self-explanatory.  Stop worrying about what you know or don't know, and create because you want to.  I actually just read an excellent article on this topic by one of my favorite designers.  Anna's blog and designs have been inspirational to me for many years, and she will really motivate you to not worry about the "perfect" with her thoughts on this topic in this post.

9.  Take time to plan.

When I'm busy I sometimes think I'll save time by leaving this step out.  But it's so important.  I prefer a weekly calendar and usually have a list of things to accomplish throughout the week rather than scheduling every minute of any given day.  I look over my calendar each evening and on a weekly basis update for the following week.  Use whatever method works for you, but be consistent in your planning.

10.  Be ready to begin.

Clean up each evening and have something ready that you can sit down and work on right away.  This has helped me more than I can adequately relate.  Sometimes I just don't have large blocks of time in which to work; however, if something is prepped and ready to go, I can maintain steady progress on my projects. 

I hope this post will be helpful to you as you continue on your creative path making wonderful quilts and projects for yourself and those you love and care about. I'll continue to share my thoughts and ideas on these topics as I continue to learn new things on these topics.

Pin the image above so you can refer to this post again as needed.  Thanks so much for stopping by and happy quilting!


Susie Hoover said...

What a helpful post - thank you! I will also pass some of this information on to my hubby. He could probably apply a few of these tips to his non-quilting job!

Judy H said...

I agree totally on all points with you. I use making a quilt in a planner/productivity I give to college freshmen. If I say "make a quilt" that's the end of the process. Then I show you have to break it down...pick pattern, fabric, buy what I need, cut it out, sew it together, etc. As you move through the steps, you know exactly where you are and can stop, put it down and pick it right back up again, because you know where you stopped in the process. Works much the same way for writing a paper for a class.

Karen said...

Social media is my biggest time suck. I've known for a while but ignored it. Honestly, I don't even know how to stop now. This is so stupid, but I've actually googled how to wean myself off social media!

Susan said...

Wonderful tips and great reminders! I'm a list maker and I try to make time for my creative outlets by adding sewing/stitching time to my To Do Lists. You will often see "Stitch 1 Hour" on my list right below "Load/Unload Dishwasher" or "Clean Bathroom". It's a welcome break to look forward to among the tedium of keeping house.

tirane93 said...

that was a very helpful list! it's good to know other people consider these topics too. i particularly love your suggestion to do meaningful work first thing (rather than surf the net or whatever).

Hildy said...

Thanks for sharing these great tips with us! What I discovered about myself and my sewing projects is (and this may sound stupid) that you really sould only make what you love. For example I need to find the right fabrics for it otherwise I will get frustrated while I'm making it and probabaly won't finish it. And if there's something in the pattern I don't love or would make it different I just make it my way. A project I love turns out even better then it first thoguth (most of the time at least).

Myra @ Busy Hands Quilts said...

Such good ideas for keeping it all in balance.

Alycia said...

Thanks for sharing - I too took FB off my phone - only because I am so easily distracted - and it has helped me stay focused, and then when I am on FB - I really enjoy it ;-)

AlaskaBerninaGirl said...

The best way to give up social media is cold turkey and to be sure to actually sign out of your account or it is too tempting to get back in. Or schedule for it with a definite ending time otherwise the next thing you know your entire day and all good intentions have flown out the window. I see so many people who are living for social media, it is so sad. Once I took all of this off my phone and signed out or inactivated my accounts I began getting more done in my actual life. Just my two cents!

Michele said...

Super post! I enjoyed reading the comments too! I find a to do list is my best source of productivity. If it's not on my list, it's not likely to get done. I also feel better seeing what I've accomplished during the day. If I don't write it down, then cross it off, it's easy to wonder where all that time went. Oh, and I'm not on Facebook. Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only one who isn't. I don't have anything against it. I just figure I don't have time to be on every kind of social media. Thanks so much for the tips!

Rosemary B❤️ said...

These are great tips.
I will try to follow some of this advice.

Martha Cook said...

Great list of being disciplined and following a routine and schedule to be ready to enjoy and be productive. I would add one more oldies, rock, or classical anything to put a jig in your moves :)

Carol C Thomas said...

I see why I have not been productive. I haven't succeeded at any of your suggestions. I do many of these suggestions for my school work but I don't do any of this for myself, for quilting. Thanks for writing this one.

Suze said...

I took a graduate class in creativity.

Ms. Gwyn said...

These are tips my daughter can use as she completes her senior year and heads off to college the next. I try to abide by these 'rules'. I don't quilt as much as I would like, but when I do, I feel productive.

Karen said...

Thanks for the suggestions, Sherri. I love the accompanying photos too!

Leeanne said...

Some great tips there! As a professional quilter I have to be fairly organised each day to get through 'the pile'...........I would love to know how you hang your mini quilts in your sewing room?

Helen L said...

great tips, and I'm going to refer back to this to help me along. I've got to figure out how to get rid of so many emails!! I unsubscribe, but they somehow find me again!!

Christine N said...

Great post! I have really been interested in productivity tools to help me organize my work and life. You've shown how quilting is a natural fit for this because there are so many projects with many, many steps. I like the Getting Things Done book - maybe you would too! Thanks!

Jackie Norwood said...

Great advise...I really have to block time to get anything your sewing room!

Anne / Springleaf Studios said...

Thanks for the tips. It was a perfect time for me to be reading this as I've struggled with actually getting to work lately. Too much time on the computer and not enough at the machine. I need to try the sew first, computer later approach.

Susan-Sharon Passmore said...

Great tips! I see several things that I can incorporate into my time management goals. Thank you for sharing.

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