I am sure you’re aware of how hooked we are on technology.
From the moment we wake up to the moment we fall asleep, we get bombarded with information.
First thing I do when I wake up is reach for my phone to check my messages.
It’s one of my bad habits and I wish I would stop doing it.
Checking my messages first thing immediately throws me into catch-up mode. So much has happened since I went to bed. There are emails to respond to, messages to read, Instagram photos to see. Not to mention all the breaking news you need to know to stay in the loop.
I have not had my first cup of coffee of the day and my mind is already in overdrive.
It’s selling you short
A report by the University of California suggests that generally, we consume 11.8 hours of information a day.
This translates to processing 34 gigabytes or 100,000 words a day.
YouTube uploads a staggering 6,000 hours of video every hour. Computer gaming consumes more bytes than all other media put together.
In other words, we have created a world with 300 quintillion pieces of human-made information.
Yet, little good comes from getting distracted.
Creativity takes a massive hit when you are busy.
Our brain works in two different ways.
When you are working on your artwork, you are in the “focused” mode.
Your brain adopts “diffuse” mode when you are relaxed, exercising, or daydreaming. Studies have shown that activity in many areas of the brain increases when your mind wanders.
Our “focus mode” gets depleted by doing simple mundane tasks. Status updates you read on Facebook, every tweet or text you get is competing for resources.
Basically, you are preventing your brain from resting or daydreaming.
As a result, you become far less creative.
It’s dimming your creativity
We have higher-than-ever expectations about being available and being up-to-date.
If you pick up your phone or fire up your laptop when you’re bored, think again. Studies show that we can benefit from boredom. Especially creatives who are required to hit the reset button to keep their creative juices flowing.
It’s a rare moment when we take a break from the daily rat race.
A growing body of evidence shows that regular downtime improves creativity and eliminates stress, exhaustion, and the much dreaded creative block.
The ideas you have while driving or in the shower are not coincidental. They’re a result of you taking a step back, whether you’re aware of it or not.
A structured downtime can help you generate better ideas and your best creative work.
Downtime means carving out space in your day for daydreaming, meditation or doing nothing.
But, this is impossible if you spend every free moment reaching for your phone.
Every morning I go for a 30 minute walk. It can get pretty boring. Many days, I’m tempted to skip it and start up the laptop. But it’s one of the most important things I do each day.
When I get back home I am much more relaxed and clear-headed. In addition, when I start my work, it’s much easier to avoid distractions and stay focused.
One thing is certain: our capacity for what psychoanalyst Adam Phillips has termed “fertile solitude” is essential.
Not only for our creativity but for the basic fabric of our happiness. We need time free from external input.
Otherwise, we’d struggle to fully access our inner life, which is the raw material of all art.
The Simple Solution
Before I ditched the day job to be a full-time artist I worked as a personal assistant to the head of a large corporation. I handled many of his daily distractions and planned his day to its greatest efficiency.
Allowing him to devote all his attention to whatever was before him.
As a result, he was always focused on what was going on at the moment. There was a great infrastructure in place to ensure each day is productive and runs well.
Whilst most of us don’t have the luxury of an assistant there are simple tactics you can use to reduce the mundane from your life.
Not only can you then spend that time having a life, which is always a good thing, but you also create time and space to think creatively.
Let’s look at 10 easy steps to help you create time and clarity.
1. Social media activities — Automate, automate, automate
There are tons of social media management tools out there with great time-saving automation features. Look for a tool which allows you to schedule your content across all your channels. It should also support Evergreen posts.
If you can, outsource social media marketing tasks or website updates to somebody on Upwork for a small fee.
2. Pretend you are on vacation
Turn your email “Out of office” on.
This takes off the pressure of having to reply “now” and gives you the freedom to work without distractions. Schedule time for dealing with emails in your calendar. Depending on how much mail you get, schedule time to reply daily or weekly or every other day and stick to it.
3. Use your voicemail to your advantage
Often, I see people interrupt important conversations to talk to someone on the phone about something that can wait. Use your voicemail message to reflect what you are doing. “I can’t answer the phone right now because I am in a meeting.” As with email, block out a set amount of time in your day to listen and respond to messages.
4. Organise your home and work-space
De-clutter your home and workplace. Put systems in place to streamline daily tasks as much as possible.
If you have kids like me, try getting their school stuff ready in the evening rather than having to rush in the morning.
Do you have any unfinished projects around the house? Make an effort to finish them off. Women’s stress hormones spike when confronted with clutter, men not too much. Elevated cortisol level can lead to chronic cognitive impairment, fatigue, and suppression of the body’s immune system.
5. Food, groceries and other essential items
You don’t have to slog around the busy supermarket aisle to do your weekly grocery shopping. Settle for a weekly supermarket trip, have your shopping delivered to your door.
There are many smaller businesses who deliver food, snacks or vegetable boxes. Or use Amazon’s Subscribe & Save for necessities like your toiletries or other items and have them delivered on a schedule.
6. Batch, Batch, Batch
Batching is the process of dedicating a block of time for specific tasks.
What repetitive tasks are you doing throughout the week? What tasks can you do together in a block of time?
Batching is a great way to get your social media done and you don’t have to worry about it again for months. Schedule your posts at once instead of going on each social site throughout the day. This will save you time and stops you from surfing the internet.
A good friend of mine will usually film a year of video content in one week. This means she can focus on more important issues and grow her business rather than spending time each week to create content. It about 5 weeks of planning to film a year of content. But this is time well spent as coming up with new content can be a huge distraction otherwise.
Work in bulk where ever you can. Think about how you can incorporate batching into your workflow to save time and energy.
7. Love your calendar — don’t clutter it with the detritus of a wasted day
I am a huge fan of the calendar. Put everything on your calendar. Also, put reminders for everything on your calendar but don’t add anything you cannot or should not do. The more things you say “yes” to, the more you’ll clutter your calendar.
The best approach is to keep your calendar locked up with blocks of time where you get stuff done. These “blocks of time” are portions of your day when you can produce significant work.
8. Simplify routines and habits
Block off no-internet time for uninterrupted work and try not to check your email and social media compulsively.
Work with your phone to spend less time on it. The iPhone app Moment and Android’s Quality Time track how much time you spend scrolling and allow you to set limits.
I have a rule that I’m not using my laptop in the afternoon. This keeps a part of the day free for the family: playing with my children. Sometimes it’s hard to drag myself away from the computer, but it’s always a relief when I turn it off and take a break.
9. Filter information
It’s impossible to keep up with all the news, blogs and social media updates. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by all the information start to filter news.
Make a list of websites, blogs and people on social media that send you the most interesting content.
Carry on following only them and ditch the rest.
10. Don’t keep everything in your head
Empty your brain by externalizing your organisation. Make folders, boxes, whatever; it doesn’t matter so much what you do, as long as the information gets organised in the physical world.
Your next artwork depends on this
What happens to you when your creativity gets drowned by the daily grind?
You’re busy, and you have a ton of stuff to do — mundane tasks included. Your mind is in overdrive, you have no time to think and your creativity takes a hit. Your inspiration has run dry and you are not the artist you want to be.
You have not only lost your willpower but also your precious creativity.
It’s time for a change.
Stop feeling like you have no control.
There are many effective systems available.
Use them as a tool to:
● take control
● create more time
● preserve your creativity
● invest into the artist within.
Take a moment. Give it a go and ignite the spark for your next great idea.