Practical Magic: Accessing Creativity and Productivity
You thought for sure I'd write about new moon shit this week, didn't you? Ha! Joke's on you. (But not really, here's where you can tune in for a few cool new moon ideas).
Let's get really practical.
holisticism means holistic mystic realism. Emphasis on the realism. So let's get real-ish and explore creativity and productivity in our work.
Here's the thing—I want to be creative, inspired, happy, productive, and efficient.
As a freelancer (yah! oh holisticism isn't my full-time job! I make the dolla dolla bills by writing editorial content and consulting on content strategy), I am lucky enough to have almost complete and total freedom over my life. So if for any reason I'm not feeling so creative, inspired, or happy, that's a 'me' problem.
It's not some boss. Or office. Or co-worker. It's my responsibility. I wish I had taken more personal ownership of this earlier in my career—as a creative, I was pretty quick to find an external reason for why I wasn't making my best work. (If any of my former bosses are reading this, sorry about that. I <3 u!)
I'm endlessly fascinated by the ideas of creativity and flow state, and find myself constantly trying to figure out the best practices to optimize for each. In fact, oh holisticism has a new project coming soon that really digs into these ideas, so stay tuned...
In the meantime, here are some of the tools and tricks I've discovered over the past few years that encourage creativity and productivity.
Make space for creativity
It's not what you think—I'm not telling you to design a workspace full of crystals and mood boards and natural light. Although that can help, sometimes.
No, I'm talking mental space. If you go freelance, become your own boss, or have a side project you're managing, there are some key tools you should pick up and use immediately.
Creating organized systems that you can operate within on a daily basis saves you time, money, and creative brainpower. I know, it's annoying AF. But I promise, it pays off in the end. Here are some tools that you can use to get yourself organized.
A necessary evil. These tools help you keep your inbox tight and distracting. The irony isn't lost on me that you're reading this because of an email, so, thank you. My favorite email helper is Calendly, a system that's really perfect for scheduling meetings with people who have crazy schedules. Other goodies include:
Analog to-do lists are great. But something a bit more robust is likely necessary if you're running a business or collaborating with other people. Kristine Lo turned me on to Harvest, a time tracking app and site that helps you see how much time you're spending on each of your projects and tasks. Super helpful when you're setting rates. Other go-to sites for project management include:
Yeah, money makes me kinda itchy, too. But the best way to get over that is to face it head-on. Downloading Quickbooks was the most empowering thing I've done in YEARS. And I'm obsessed with the app—not only does it automatically track the miles you drive or travel for work (and tell you the exact amount you're going to get back in your tax return), it has an easy invoice tracker that helps you get paid.
Tap Into Flow State
OK, great. Nailed the organize-y, Virgo stuff. Now you have systems in place that can give you the safety and structure to spend your energy getting inspired and in flow state.
"In positive psychology, flow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity."
Your method for finding flow will likely be unique to you—everyone has their own method and practice. This is what I've found helpful in my creative process.
Yah, kinda Type A. But as someone who tends to want to say 'yes' to everything, creating anchors on my schedule helped me reign it in. These anchors are recurring calendar appointments that I've specifically set time aside to do work on certain projects or meet with friends. They are non-negotiable and times that I rarely skip or move around.
Entering into a flow takes time—it's not really something that you do for 10- or 15-minute spurts.
Sometimes I need to sit with a project for 4-6 uninterrupted hours, which is impossible if you're constantly scheduling meetings and phone calls. Your calendar fills up pretty quickly! Now I take Mondays and Tuesday mornings to be totally 'heads down.' I barely leave my house, I hardly answer emails, and I try to limit my time on social media (FULL DISCLOSURE I'M TERRIBLE AT THIS!). If you try to reach out on Mondays and Tuesdays, it's not personal. Just werkin'.
I once read about an artist who did all her best painting from 10p to 4a—cray. I've found I do my best work in the morning. Before I begin, I do a few rituals that help me access my subconscious, creative mind. It sounds weird, but I kind of need to channel or 'tap in' to get editorial/creative projects flowing. Here's what that looks like:
- Wake up, and while still in bed write a few words about my dreams, or just allow myself to free write. Those few minutes after we open our eyes in the morning form a magic little window that allows us to access our dreamy, subconscious mind with a touch of lucidity—a lot of information can come forward if you let it.
- Make tea or coffee. It's more the ritual than anything, and lately have been inspired by Hannah Mills' beautiful Neakita teas to make myself a full tea ceremony in the morning.
- Meditate. Sometimes that means 20 minutes of meditation, sometimes it's a walk, sometimes it's pulling cards. When I pull cards I ask what I need to be aware of so I can be the best version of myself. Sometimes I pull a stupid card, like "Drink more water," which annoys me. But most of the time drawing cards forces me to see a new perspective around a situation that I'm feeling stuck in. This practice helps me find more creative solutions to almost everything.
- Light incense or palo santo. Scent has been used for centuries to transport us to another level of consciousness. Works for me.
- Start writing freehand notes. I start all projects by writing freehand in a notebook. Sometimes I write scribbles, sometimes it's full paragraphs, but the tactile sensation of writing encourages my creativity. Your brain processes information differently when you write vs. type.
Shit happens. I fall out of flow, get distracted, or for some reason, my usual method just doesn't work. And yet, work still needs to get done. To get myself back on track I do a few things:
- Meditate. Sometimes you just need a reset. And sometimes you just need to put a crystal on your forehead and take a nap.
- Dance. Going to class forces me to hyperfocus on something else for a while—namely, learning steps—and gives me a short mental reprieve.
- Move. Running is the opposite—I tend to think more when I'm running, but sometimes that's exactly what I need.
- Follow examples of other good work. Sometimes you just need to be inspired by someone else's greatness. As a writer, that could look like picking up the latest copy of The New Yorker, or as an artist it could mean heading off to the local museum to check out a new exhibit. (Generally, this does not mean tooling around on Instagram, Facebook, or Reddit ... even if you are a photographer or food stylist!)
- Exercise creativity in another way. I love this recommendation from Laura Rubin, founder of journaling company AllSwell, my FAVORITE journal of all time.
A quick creative exercise that never fails to get me writing? The Sensory Check. It’s as easy as this: What do you see, hear, smell, taste? Write it all down. It drops you into the present moment, connects you with the act of writing. I recommend doing this longhand, pen-to-paper, for added benefits (mental, emotional, physiological) but any device will do.
I'm dying to hear what you guys do to get in the zone. Leave your comments below so we can crowdsource this goodness.