After reading an article about “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work,” by Mason Curry, I started thinking about how to adjust my own routine to boost my creativity.
The author of the Harvard Business Review article noted that many creative geniuses had structures in their lives to support their work. She found seven things they had in common:
- A workplace with minimal distractions
- A daily walk
- Accountability metrics
- A clear dividing line between important work and busy work
- A habit of stopping when they’re on a roll, not when they’re stuck
- A supportive partner
- Limited social lives
Some of those seem like luxuries, or not very desirable–like a limited social life. But the truth is we have to make choices if we want to increase our creativity. Here are some ways we can adapt those artists’ methods in our world of constant access to information and overburdened schedules.
Distilling the habits of highly creative people
- Simplify – Many of the geniuses shared habits that simplified their lives. Whether it’s engineering your workspace to be disruption-free, or asking your partner to take care of some additional household duties, the goal is to get rid of the distractions that prevent you from working. In today’s world these habits can range from turning off the TV to software programs that block you from visiting your favorite time-wasting sites.
- Discipline trumps talent – Having a disciplined approach to your work and repeating the same patterns day in and day out are necessary even for very gifted people. For example, the article talks about how Andy Warhol would spend about two hours daily recounting the previous day’s activities in detail, so his friend and collaborator Pat Hackett could note them down. This habit lasted from 1976 until 1987. Many people have amazing talent, however, they have to hone their talent with hours and hours of dedicated practice.
- Knowing when to stop – I found it fascinating that these creative geniuses would stop when they were on a roll or go for daily walk breaks. In our culture of staying in the office until the boss leaves, extended walk breaks seem unfathomable. However, if you want your brain to function at its highest ability, then you do have to take some time off to rest. Personally, I do that with daily exercise first thing in the morning before everyone else wakes up. It’s a great way to start the day and get your workouts in. Sometimes if I need to, I also take a 20 minute nap in the middle of the day that gives me a second part of the day when I’m fresh and awake.