Why Managing Your Time Makes You More Creative

You might think that time management and creativity are bit like chalk and cheese. If you’re a creative type (or if you want to be more creative), then all the usual advice about organizing yourself and avoiding procrastination might just not seem to apply. After all, isn’t a bit of disorganization and procrastination just part of the creative process?

Well, you might be perfectly happy doing your creative thing while everything around you is in a state of chaos. There’s a good chance, though, that some simple time management skills will hugely boost your chances of actually finishing that novel, or completing that painting.

Good Time Management Frees Up Extra Creative Hours

When I talk to writers, one big problem crops up over and over again: finding the time to write.

However much you love your creative work, you need time for it. That means being organized in the rest of your life: finishing your day job on time, getting the chores done efficiently, scheduling your creative sessions in your calendar, and so on.

Yes, time management might not seem nearly as exciting as creating your new composition, or sketching out some ideas … but it’s a critical support for your creativity.

Good Time Management Helps You Stay Focused

Does your creative time ever end up as a few hours of web surfing and smartphone fiddling?

Most of us struggle to focus, and creative types are no exception. Sure, you’ll have days when you’re completely in the zone … but to get to that point, you probably need to push past the initial few minutes when you’re tempted to procrastinate.

By learning to sit down and concentrate on one task at a time, you’ll be doing your creativity a huge favor.

Good Time Management Helps You Organize Big Projects

If your creative work involves big, complicated projects – like publishing a comic book, producing an album, putting on a live event, or writing a novel – then you’re going to be juggling a lot of moving pieces.

To avoid everything falling down around you, you’ll need strong organizational skills. This is a key part of time management and, even if you think you’re “just not very organized,” it’s something you can work on.

My rule of thumb is to put as much as I can onto paper, rather than keeping it in my head – even if it’s just little stuff, like “don’t forget to buy milk.” That way, I free up more mental RAM for important stuff, like mulling over the newest plot twist in my novel…

Good Time Management Lets You Know When to Be Creative

We all have peaks and troughs of creative energy during the day. You might be at your best at 9 – 11am, but you may have friends who thrive at 6 – 8pm.

It’s important to know when your personal peaks are, so that you can harness them for your creative work. Let’s say you need to do a few chores on Saturday and you also want to work on your latest poem: if your best creative hours are in the morning, you’ll want to leave those chores for the afternoon.

I know this might sound like it’s obvious – but it’s surprising how few of us are careful about scheduling things so that we can use our most energized times to the full.

If your life involves a lot of creative activity (or if you wish it did!) then drop a comment below. Let us know what works for you, or what you’re struggling with.

This guest post is by Ali Luke. Ali is currently on a virtual book tour for her novel Lycopolis, a fast-paced supernatural thriller centered on a group of online roleplayers who summon a demon into their game … and into the world. Described by readers as “a fast and furious, addictive piece of escapism” and “absolutely gripping”, Lycopolis is available in print and e-book form. Find out more at www.lycopolis.co.uk.

Check out my new Kindle eBooks: I have just released two new "Best of TMN" eBooks via Amazon. If you are new to TMN or want a compilation of some of my best TMN writings, then please check out my new ebooks on Amazon by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • http://www.charlielyons.ca/ Charlie Lyons

    This concept is so simple yet escapes us, definitely including myself. I don’t personally consider myself a “creative” so I have to work harder at content creation than the average blogger but I don’t even get to sit down to work hard at a post if I don’t block out the time to make it happen.

    Great post, Ali!

    • http://twitter.com/aliventures Ali Luke

      Thanks, Charlie! I think anyone who blogs is creative … and blocking out the time is so crucial for all of us.

      • http://www.timemanagementninja.com/ Craig Jarrow

        I agree. :) Great post, Ali! 

        See you soon, in NYC!

  • http://twitter.com/HomemakersDaily HomemakersDaily

    Absolutely true!  Being disciplined with time frees you to be more creative than you could ever imagine.  Being undisciplined clutters your mind so you couldn’t think a creative thought if your life depended on it.  Well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration but you get the idea.

    • http://twitter.com/aliventures Ali Luke

      Yeah, that mental clutter really puts a dampner on creativity. The more on top of things you are, the easiest it is to get into a good mental creative space.

      • http://www.timemanagementninja.com/ Craig Jarrow

        I agree… ironically… it goes something like… 

        “the more you empty your mind… the more room you make for new ideas.” 

  • http://twitter.com/technolit Sandra Balestrin

    Someone I follow tweeted this article tonight.  I’m so glad I followed the link!  I will be revisiting your site often! 

     I am an adult diagnosed with ADD.  I am not currently on meds, but am planning to resume them until I can get my time management on some kind of normal-ish path.  I’m switching doctors, though, because the new clinic has a multi-disciplinary approach that offers coaching sessions as well.  My goal is to get on, then off, the meds as soon as I can.  I don’t have to be perfectly organized; I just want to feel normal stress instead of this incapacitating stuff.  It appears that your site is going to be quite complementary to the coaching.  Every day, I seem to find some other little tidbit of help/hope.

    My guess is that within the next 6 months or so, I will have re-freed some time to re-embark on some artistic ventures…. not to mention resuming some kind of physical activity like running.  Your article makes a lot of sense.  I’ve been so guilty of ignoring those personal peaks you wrote about.  My job isn’t flexible enough for that kind of scheduling, but my weekends certainly could be.  Once I get a handle on that, I’ll go for the weeknights… like a real TMN!

    Thanks for this site!

    • http://twitter.com/aliventures Ali Luke

      Sandra, so glad you found the article useful! This is Craig’s site really, but I’m sure he won’t mind me saying a big “welcome!” to you. :-)

      I really hope the ADD management goes well for you … I can only imagine how tough that must be. Good luck with the new doctor, and with finding more time for physical activity (I definitely find that exercise helps me to focus better). And hope you stick around at TMN too!

    • http://www.timemanagementninja.com/ Craig Jarrow

      Sandra, thanks for the kind words and welcome! Glad you found TMN!

      Sounds like you are well on your way to taking action. Hope your endeavors go well! Best wishes!

  • http://www.writechangegrow.com/ Thea | Write Change Grow

    Hi Craig and Ali
    Great to see Ali’s writing here, I always enjoy reading her work.  
    I always feel a little guilty when it comes to brainstorming.  It’s certainly not procrastination but it doesn’t quite feel productive at the time either (at least not until you start working on a piece of actual writing).  I seem to have a strange brainstorming quirk. For some reason sitting in my office doesn’t always produce the best writing ideas.  I find if I am feeling frustrated I go into my room and lie on the bed.  I don’t know what it is but suddenly ideas are flying all over the place and naturally I rush back into my office to start writing them all down. I was wondering if Ali has any tips on how to make brainstorming sessions for writing ideas feel more productive?
    I have definitely gotten in sync with my most productive time.  Mornings and evenings work best for me. Afternoons seem to be my lest productive.
    Cheers
    Thea

    • http://www.timemanagementninja.com/ Craig Jarrow

      Thea… thx!

      Hopefully, we can all three say hello at BlogWorld in NYC! ;)

      • http://twitter.com/aliventures Ali Luke

        :-) I’ll be around all week!

    • http://twitter.com/FreelanceMikey Michael LaPenna

      Thea,

      Everything sounds productive to me regarding what you just said. Providence moves to where your attention is I belIeve. Think less stressfully and just do is my advice.

      Cheers equally,
      Mike in New York

      Twitter: @FreelanceMikey:twitter 

    • http://twitter.com/aliventures Ali Luke

      Thanks Thea! And it’s great to be here. :-)

      In terms of brainstorming — a lot of people find it useful to get out of their day to day workspace. (I like to brainstorm on paper, at least, whereas I type straight onto the computer for pretty much everything else.) I also find it’s useful to carry a little notebook and a pen if I’m out and about … sometimes ideas come up at the craziest times. 

      I find that “proper” writing always feels productive for me whereas brainstorming can feel like faffing around … I have to remind myself firmly that a strong idea is a crucial part of a good piece, and that the time spent coming up with ideas is important. You might want to try putting your brainstorming sessions into your to do list? That way, you can at least cross them off once you’ve done them (which always makes me feel more productive…)

  • http://twitter.com/FreelanceMikey Michael LaPenna

    I hit my stride at 3 pm usually and then I might get more oddish ideas after midnight. Any others like me?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/kellyannjax Kellyann Shaw Wulbern

    I live by a schedule! I feel so much more free when I can see what I need to do. I can then schedule what I want to do. I was a single mom of 3 girls for about 7 years, so as you can imagine, being organized was key. Not only in Time management but organizing the kids schedules, cooking, grocery shopping, knowing all the stuff required of me and ME time. (I, too, write out everything especially buying the milk !) The best thing I did and learned (Hard Lessons come from being a single mom) was to be completely organized and letting the kids know what’s going on. Learning to say NO was another! When my children tell me, “MOM, we are out of…”, I tell them, “Go, write it down for me. If you want it, it needs to be on my list!” -Otherwise, it doesn’t get done.

    I just recently found your articles. I really enjoying all the content! Great advise to pass on. Thanks!

    • http://www.timemanagementninja.com/ Craig Jarrow

      Kellyann,

      Some great examples in your story. Thanks for sharing!

  • Lee Anne

    As a general rule, I don’t like to plan my schedule too far in advance. I also don’t like having too many things on my calendar. For whatever reason, a full calendar tends to haunt and distract me; the older I get, the more I enjoy both the quiet and the flexibility. That said, when I do have meetings and other business activities, scheduling them all on one or two days helps me reserve large blocks of time for my creative work. And by doing so, I am much better about protecting that time and saying “no” to interruptions. So I guess you could say I employ “just enough” time management.

    I also appreciate your comment about knowing your personal peaks or most creative times of the day. I love writing first thing in the morning and, if I’m lucky, will get lost in the writing for hours. I do much of my most creative thinking at night, however. Mid-day, I’d really just like to take a nap.

    Thanks for the great article!

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  • Shenoi

    I’d like to appreciate your initiative to bring out the best article like this. Many of us know that we could be managing our time more effectively; but it can be difficult to identify the mistakes that we’re making, and to know how we could improve.

    When we do manage our time well, however, we’re exceptionally productive at work. I use Replicon time recording software ( http://www.replicon.com/olp/online-time-recording-software.aspx ) to manage my time and tasks more perfectly.