Stop wasting your peak creative time on chores

Published by Nela Dunato on at 13:04 in Tips for creatives, Productivity

Stop wasting your peak creative time on chores

Did you ever wake up one day feeling super motivated and excited, with your fingers itching to make something today, only to get lost in menial work that isn't really what you had in mind? And then the evening came, and you realized you didn't get to do a single thing today that you were so excited about. You said to yourself "Oh well, tomorrow is a new day".

But tomorrow morning you aren't really that motivated or excited. You don't really feel like doing any of the stuff you wanted a day earlier, even though you have time to do it.

The magic is gone. Yesterday was your super awesome day, and today isn't. That's just the way things are sometimes.

Some days you aren't feeling as motivated or inspired, and the best way to make use of those dull days is for tasks that are essential for your creative work, but are not your favorite part. We might even consider them chores, because they tend to be repetitive and boring.

Here are some of the things in my creative work that fall under that category:

  • Cutting photos for digital collages
  • Tracing sketches from scrap paper onto fancy paper
  • Scanning and typing my notes so I can put them into my idea storage
  • Finding reference photos on the internet
  • Gathering all the materials for my crafts projects
  • Cleaning up and organizing my desk
  • Cleaning up and organizing my computer files
  • Updating software to the latest version
  • Backing up my files to the external hard drive
  • Finding all the resources I'll need for a project, and putting them in my "resources" folder inside the corresponding project folder

If I've done all the preparations earlier, when I get super inspired to work on something really creative, I can just dive into the good stuff right away.

Peak creative times are like the perfect waves for the surfer. You don't wait for such a wave for days, and then turn your back on it. You need to ride that wave as soon as it appears.

So many times I made the mistake of wasting my creative waves, and then I had to wait a long time for the next one to come along.

Creative peaks are like that. They don't last long, and they're hard to predict.
They're precious – so treat them with the care and respect they deserve.

Often people procrastinate on a project because the preparatory work is boring. Sadly, almost everything worth doing will have some boring elements that are necessary. Without those boring parts, no real creative work can happen! (For tips on how to make this type of work less tedious, read my post 15 ways to infuse creativity into your boring business tasks.)

On days when you're on fire, it's much easier to get yourself to work on those boring things – but the downside is you'll waste so much creative energy on those tasks, and have less for the work you really enjoy.

Dedicating an hour a day for preparatory work can help a lot. Or if you can't spare an hour, make it 30 minutes – that shouldn't be too hard.

If procrastination is your problem, go read my articles Productivity Tips from a Hopeless Procrastinator and My Top 5 Tips For Preventing Time Suck & Increasing Productivity to learn how I deal with this issue.

Prepare for your next peak

Even if today is not one of those days, do something that will make it easier for you to dive in.

Clean up that desk.
Go out and buy what you need for that project so you have it handy.
Transcribe those notes from paper.
Scan that pile of paraphernalia.

Take stock of everything that needs to happen in order to do that dream project of yours. (If you filled out your worksheets in my free ebook Be A Creative Powerhouse, you should have that list already).
Examine what's the most boring thing you need to do in order to begin your work on this project. Is this the reason you're procrastinating?
Put those tasks in your calendar and do them just so you can start making some progress.

So when you get up and realize today is one of those days when you're on top of the world, you can just enjoy the ride.

Nela

Nela Dunato

About Nela Dunato

Artist, brand designer, teacher, and writer. Author of the book “The Human Centered Brand”. Owner of a boutique branding & design consultancy that helps experienced service-based businesses impress their dream clients.

On this blog I write about art, design, creativity, business, productivity and marketing, and share my creative process and tips. Read more about me...


Your comments

  • Thea

    Thea
    2014-04-03 at 13:30

    I just discovered you in a Facebook group. Thanks for writing this! I've been so guilty of this quite often as of late. This is such great advice. I've been putting off certain projects I must do myself because I often use the moments I have my creative bursts to complete my boring "chores". But the next time this wave hits me - I'll be certain to apply this advice. In the meantime - my goal is to get the boring chores out of the way over this week so I don't have as many distractions.

    Thanks again for this great article! :)

  • Lina

    Lina
    2014-04-03 at 15:32

    Oh like the new perspective Nela! I haven't thought of it that way before. For me, what happens so easily is that I get caught up in email and Responding to things happening (instead of creating and driving the project forward)

    I even have awesome inspired creative weeks (now's one of them) where I have a hard time to go to bed - because I'm just eager to work, create and get a project going. I'm going to take your advice from today on and use this boost of energy to creation (and "ignore" email)

  • Farideh

    Farideh
    2014-04-03 at 15:46

    Such a great reminder! I used to be great at remembering to catch that wave. I could feel a song coming on and I would leave a party.
    I've recently noticed I have a habit of "pacing" myself instead of just diving in while I'm exciting and inspired and really going for it. No more!
    I loved the analogy of a wave and you have to ride it. Very helpful! I've also never given thought of preparing for a wave - such a great idea.

  • Leanne Chesser

    Leanne Chesser
    2014-04-03 at 16:13

    Awesome tip, Nela. Getting the boring prep and chore stuff done on a regular basis does make it easier to focus on the fun, creative stuff. I tend to do those sorts of things on days when I feel like I need a break or some "down time." That way, I'm freed up on days when my energy is "normal."

  • Leah

    Leah
    2014-04-03 at 16:20

    Wow! Such a great tip. Honestly, I find myself in this predicament often. You know that feeling, waking up so motivated- and ending the day realizing that motivation was wasted on things that really don't matter. I need to take your advice and make sure I get that administrative stuff done when the creative wave hasn't arrived yet- to make space for when it does!

  • Megan

    Megan
    2014-04-03 at 18:59

    This is such a great perspective! It's so simple, yet I know I do what you've described time and time again- using that precious motivation on little things that don't matter just to scratch them off my to do list and make me feel better about getting to the stuff I really wanted to do. I for sure need to work on "preparing for the wave"- great advice!

  • Anna

    Anna
    2014-04-03 at 19:05

    Oh my lord I LOVE this concept. There are weeks when I'm riding on this wave and weeks where I'm clearly not! I need to think about this more so that I can schedule the menial things (or plan to do them), when I'm not "peaking"!

  • Doug Pitchers

    Doug Pitchers
    2014-04-03 at 19:26

    I'm so familair with those feelings. Some days I am super motivated and have found my self sidetracked on something that I thought would take a few miuntes and suddently the day has gone. Great tips, thanks

  • Diana Ecker

    Diana Ecker
    2014-04-03 at 20:41

    Love the concept of preparing for your next peak. And "What's the most boring thing you need to do in order to begin your work on this project?" is brilliant!

  • Nela

    Nela
    2014-04-03 at 21:18

    I'm so thrilled with your responses, guys! Thank you very much for your lovely words!

    I guess a lot of us share this problem so I struck a cord with this topic.
    In any case, I'm so glad this was helpful.

    @Thea: Welcome! It's awesome you decided to do some chores in the upcoming week, I bet you'll be thanking yourself later! :)

    @Lina: Yeah I know what you mean! E-mail and responding in general is such a time sucker, not to mention energy sucker.
    Yay for having a super inspired week, and I totally get you - when I'm on fire, I don't reply to anything that's not urgent, and all the household work is just ignored... It will be there waiting for you when you're done! ;)

    @Farideh: What you describe sounds so familiar! I suppose when we're younger, we're not inhibited by the "shoulds" and "have tos" so it's easy to just jump in headfirst and let the world wait.
    I've found that I have to re-learn things that I forgot, and this is one of them.
    Glad you liked the analogy! I wondered "is it too tacky?" but as long as it drives the point across....

    @Leanne: Excellent! That is exactly what I had in mind. I too like to use those days for "low-level" work just to make some progress. And I've found it also helps improve my mood when I've done something productive!

    @Leah: Yep definitely know the feeling! Having "one of those days" actually inspired this post... I hope this will serve you well!

    @Megan: I totally empathize with you. That "busy work" can surely eat up a lot of the time and it's so sad when it happens at the expense of the real creative work! Glad you found it helpful!

    @Anna: Thanks! Yeah, the trick is it's difficult to plan in advance, but at least when you're aware of it, you can act according to your current state. And if your peaks and valleys last for a whole week, that's sooo awesome, because on the first day you know you have a lot to look forward to! :)

    @Doug: Oh yeah, don't you hate when that happens? I'm so guilty of that too.

    @Diana: Glad you love it! Haha yeah it's sounds like a terrible thing to ask yourself, but getting that thing out of the way first is like opening a bottle of champagne! :)

  • Becky

    Becky
    2014-04-04 at 00:08

    Great reminder! I've recently gotten obsessed with scheduling every part of my day in Google cal, but I think it's starting to backfire. The creativity waves come but I have admin stuff scheduled!

  • Rebecca Merrifield

    Rebecca Merrifield
    2014-04-04 at 01:45

    Great advice Nela! Those peaks and troughs can be so difficult to get a handle on in the moment. I guess that's when self-awareness becomes really important - being able to notice in the moment when it's just not working and change up what you're doing rather than soldiering on. I'm definitely going to try to work with the waves from now on. Thanks!

  • Nela

    Nela
    2014-04-10 at 19:26

    @Becky: I found the same thing happen to me - that's why I have to be very flexible when it comes to scheduling. Fixed schedules simply don't work for such cases! :)

    @Rebecca: Thank you! Yes, it's really important to stop and thing for a minute if what we're doing is really working. Someone may think it's flaky, but I think that life is too short to waste our inspiration.

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