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Being a creative entrepreneur is a BLAST but it also comes with its own set of challenges. One of those challenges being the fact that I set my own schedule and determine my own success (yikes, that’s a big responsibility). To add to that challenge, I’m an Enneagram 7 and want to do ALL of the things.

According to the Enneagram Institute, Type Seven is The Busy, Variety Seeking Type. If you aren’t familiar with Enneagram Types, here are the characteristics of a healthy 7 vs. an unhealthy 7.

Healthy 7

  • Extroverted
  • Optimistic
  • Versatile
  • Spontaneous
  • High-spirited
  • Practical
  • Optimistic
  • Upbeat
  • Enthusiastic about life

Unhealthy 7

  • Over-extended
  • Scattered
  • Undisciplined
  • Impatient
  • Impulsive
  • Anxious
  • Panic-stricken
  • Unsatisfied

Over the past year I found myself really becoming an unhealthy 7 and it was not fun or enjoyable for anyone involved. So… I’ve had to do a major reevaluation of my work and processes. One of the things I’ve learned is that productivity doesn’t happen accidentally, it takes intention and discipline. While I’ve got a long way to go (don’t we all!?), here are some things I’ve learned about how to organize my creative business and be both productive and maintain both my physical and mental health.

 

LEARN FROM OTHERS

While there are no solutions that work for everyone, there is so much value in learning from others! The book, Manage Your Day-To-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind by 99u was SO helpful to me and where I got many of the ideas mentioned below. SUPER easy read and extremely practical advice, 100% recommend (and this is coming from someone who isn’t a huge reader). Also take time to ask other friends in the creative industry what they’ve found to help them organize their life, they’re bound to have some advice that you haven’t thought of yet!

 

KEEP A THOUGHT JOURNAL

Basically my mind is going a million miles an hour at every given moment. Keeping a small notebook with me in my backpack has allowed me put those thoughts on paper, not worry about forgetting it later, and review those thoughts later to evaluate whether I should move forward with any of those ideas. I used to always take notes on my phone but I’ve enjoyed having it in a notebook to both spend some time off a screen and I’m much more likely to look back on physical notes than my unorganized and random phone notes.

 

USE A PHYSICAL PLANNER

Over the years I’ve gone back and forth between digital calendars and physical planners. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that for my own sanity and organization (plus again, less screen time), physical planners are best for me. I have the Simplified Planner where I can manage my monthly schedule and daily schedule. I love how each day has a built in hourly schedule, checklist, and section for notes.

 

CREATE CHECKLISTS

I don’t know about y’all but I get distracted VERY easily. I’ve finally recognized how much responding to one text or a quick scroll through Instagram will completely derail what I’m working on. Checklists have helped me remember what I’m trying to accomplish for the day and make me feel good about completing them.

 

Here are some helpful tips when it comes to creating checklists:

  • Determine what kind of checklist works best for YOU! I keep a physical one inside my daily planner but there are also some great chrome plugins for checklist if you prefer a digital option.
  • Find ways to incorporate simple (30 min tasks) AND ongoing/long-term projects into a checklist
    • Spend 1 hour on _________.
    • Send 3 pitch emails
  • Keep your list at a reasonable length
    • If you consistently are not able to complete your to-do list, you will lose motivation. Set realistic expectations for yourself and don’t set yourself up to fail!
  • If it makes sense for your work, create a daily checklist of things that you do every single day. This might include things like spending a certain amount of time engaging on Instagram, spending 2 hours working on content, etc.

 

BE INTENTIONAL ABOUT BRAIN BREAKS

I’m not ashamed to admit the fact I have terrible mental stamina (something I’m working on haha). In order to do my best work and avoid overload, I have to be extremely intentional about giving myself intentional brain breaks. Like all of this advice, EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT so take it with a grain of salt. These are things that have helped me have productive brain breaks, but observe your own behavior and do what is best for YOU.

  • Avoid open ended breaks
    • I’ve learned to give myself breaks that have an ending in sight. Complete a task that can be done in a reasonable time frame like folding and put away laundry, taking the dog on a walk around the block, or eating a snack.
    • If you don’t have an obvious mark to end your brain break, set a timer for yourself. This is an extremely helpful and easy way to make sure you stay on track.
    • In general, avoid getting online or using social media for your brain break, especially without time restrictions!
  • Pay attention to what type of activities recharge you.
    • Maybe you really need a healthy snack to get your brain going or maybe you really just need to move and get your blood flowing. Take note of what specific activities help you recharge and get more productive.

 

GIVE YOUR BRAIN TIME TIME TO BREATHE

One of my biggest takeaways from Manage Your Day-To-Day was to preserve unstructured time and to prioritize being present. Rather than spending my 10 minutes of free time on my phone, train yourself to just THINK (what a novel idea, I know). A creative mind takes practice and we need to set aside times to allow for it. Here is an excerpt from that chapter in the book:

“You are the steward of your own potential. The resources within you – and around you – are only tapped when you recognize their value and develop ways to use them. Whatever the future of technology may hold, the greatest leaders will be those most capable of tuning in to themselves and harnessing the power of their own minds.”
Scott Belsky

Part of this concept is using free time throughout your day but it’s also important to consistently dedicate some time every day. Maybe this is your first 30 minutes at your daily coffeeshop run or maybe it’s your morning walk. Whenever it is, be consistent and intentional about it!

 

CREATE FOR YOURSELF

One of the downsides of being a creative for a profession is that you can burnout on what you love most. This is why it’s always important to take time to just create for YOU. Not for clients, not for a paid gig, just for yourself.

I love what Todd Henry has to say about what he calls, Unnecessary Creation:

  • Unnecessary Creation gives you the freedom to explore new possibilities and follow impractical curiosities.
  • Unnecessary Creation allows you to take risks and develop new skills that can later be applied to your on-demand creating.
  • Unnecessary Creation provides a forum for the pursuit of voice, and a reminder that you are not the sum of what you make.

 

While this blog is in no way comprehensive or unlocking all of the secrets to perfect productivity (hint: we will NEVER be perfect, but progress in attainable), I hope these points are all as beneficial to you as they were to me. For all my other creatives out there, what has helped you maintain productivity and growth in your creative business?