How to create in a world of distraction
Everyone in the world is creative. I don't care if your drawings look like vomit, if you drew it yourself then you are creative.
We repress our creativity. Some of the reason is because we dwell too much on what we can't create instead of what we can. Some of the reason is because we don't have the time.
Talking to people, especially parents, I hear that so often.
I'd love to start painting again, I just don't have the time.
I'd love to finish that novel, I just don't have the time.
And on and on until all of our precious time is spent eating cheesepuffs and watching reruns of The Office for the 60th time.
The truth is, creating is hard. It takes discipline. It takes failing over and over until you draw something that doesn't look like vomit. And yes, it takes time.
Here's the truth: not having the time is a shitty excuse. Creators find the time. Creators have an intense desire to put something special into the world. They don't wait for their kids to go to move out to college or motivation to hit them like a lightning bolt. They protect their time and attention and create.
If you still feel like you'll never have the time (and you're okay with that), stop reading. Have a nice day.
But if you have any interest at all on how to find the time to create, then let's proceed.
The first thing you need to do is take a hard look at where your time is going and protect your time.
Whether you have a day job, work from home, or take care of your kids all day, it's important to understand where that time is going.
If you have an iPhone, download the app moment which tells you how much time you're spending on each app. You'll learn very quickly where a lot of your time is going. If you have time to scroll on Instagram, you have time to jot down ideas on what you can create.
I replaced where the Instagram app was on my phone with Notepad, to remind me to be creating instead of consuming. So now when I'm waiting in line somewhere or on the subway, my subconscious thumb leads me to a place to create instead of scrolling through pictures of butts and food.
The second part of this is to see other ways you're spending your day that you can either eliminate, outsource or increase the efficiency.
Anything that you spend your time consuming and not creating can be eliminated (watching The Office, playing Candy Crush, browsing Reddit) and used as rewards for yourself only after you've finished creating. This way you're not missing out on the things you enjoy but instead using them as a tool to motivate you.
Anything that doesn't need your expertise or affection can be outsourced. Creators protect their time. If your art or your business is important to you, you need to treat it with the respect it deserves. This means acting like the CEO of the operation. No good CEO does everything. Anything that requires time-consuming work that anyone can do, find anyone to do it. Stuff like research for a blog, liking and commenting on Instagram or finding emails of prospects, go to Upwork or TaskRabbit and find someone to offload that busy work onto. For less than $50 a month you can get started with your own virtual assistant and start feeling like Bruce Wayne.
Lastly, if you cannot eliminate the task or outsource it to someone, you must find ways to make the task more efficient. I believe in the 80/20 rule which means that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Think about it. In pretty much every sales organization, the top 20% of performers drive revenue for 80% of the company. The top 20% of athletes change the outcome of 80% of the games. The top 20% of your time impacts 80% of the outcome, for any task. Figure out what that 20% is. If you have an online business, which part of your marketing strategy is in the top 20%? Triple down on that and eliminate the rest. Incorporate it into each aspect of your life and use that remaining time to create.
The second part, once your time is protected, is to eliminate distraction, and yes, create.
So now you've found the time, right? You've eliminated the unproductive, you've outsourced the monotonous and you've become incredibly efficient on all the others. You've found an extra few hours a day to sit down and create.
Set-up clear boundaries that this is your creative time.
Now you need to make sure this time is sacred and everyone around you knows it. Communicate with the people around you that this is your time. Take it very seriously and make sure they do too. Hide your phone. If you're writing, turn the wi-fi off of your laptop. If you're at a coffee shop, put in headphones and pretend your listening to music so nobody speaks to you. Pretend you can't speak English. Whatever you must do, your attention must be on creating.
Work in two-hour sprints.
Realistically, you probably can't focus on one task for more than two hours at a time. Even if you're in a state of flow. I prefer to work in two-hour spurts, give everything I have to the task and then intentionally distract. This means purposely taking my attention away from what I'm creating so I can come back to it with a fresh mind. I find this is a good time to connect with my family, maybe go for a walk, or for you, it might mean watching an episode of The Office or scrolling on Facebook. The idea is to do it mindfully and allow your attention to break away from your project.
Creating is hard and messy.
It's not supposed to be clean.
It's not supposed to make sense. Anything in the world that's ever been created has started with a shitty blueprint, a shitty first draft, a vomit drawing on a napkin. It takes time. It takes failure. It takes relentlessness and not giving up. It takes sacrificing time away from your family and friends and Michael Scott.
It doesn't take the things we think it does: a stroke of brilliance, motivation, talent, gift, being chosen. All of these things are myths. Creators create because they create. That's it. Not because they were born with a paintbrush in their hand or they were summoned by a higher power. Gift comes from putting in the work, consistently.
In order to put in the work you must protect your time.