Being a professional creative requires an important and challenging balance. You’re expected to consistently create while also strategizing, coming up with new ideas, developing new business and doing administrative work — or managing the people who do it for you. This is all while ideally preventing yourself from burnout by doing the non-work related things that make you happy. In many instances, you’re also taking care of a family, working on a relationship or having a social life.

You’ve heard this before, as it’s the topic of most click-worthy headlines today: routines and streamlined schedules are crucial to striking this balance. Of course, no two daily schedules are the same, nor should they be. We can’t expect to copy and paste a successful person’s daily schedule into our own lives and expect it to work.

We can, however, look to those who’ve seemed to have figured it out for inspiration. We can take the tactics they use and test them out for ourselves, modifying them until they work for us. If they don’t work, we then learn what might. After all, you need to start somewhere.

Here are five approaches you can test to maximizing your daily schedule, taken from some of today’s greatest creatives.

Take a step back and prioritize

Scott Belsky increase productivity
Scott Belsky, founder of Behance. Photo source: creativebloq.com

“Prioritize” is always the obvious answer dangling in front of our faces, but when we’re super busy, everything seems important. Let’s be real, that’s just not the case. In the forward of 99u’s Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind, Behance founder Scott Belsky says:

“Only by taking charge of your day-to-day can you truly make an impact in what matters most to you. I urge you to build a better routine by stepping outside of it, find your focus by rising above the constant cacophony, and sharpen your creative prowess by analyzing what really matters most when it comes to making your ideas happen.”  

To analyze what really matters, spend a few hours one weekend making a list of everything on your plate — all the things that have been taking up mental space and thought time, Look at each item one-by-one and ask yourself: “what will happen if I don’t do this?”

If the results don’t directly impact the health of your business, fulfill a need or bring you joy, take it off the list. Continue this until you’ve prioritized the five things that should require your attention this month.

From there, break down the five things and assign them allotted times. You’ll eventually get to a point where you know what you need to work on to have the greatest impact.

Make a “work, play, fit, push” routine

Amber Rae. Photo source: nickonken.me
Amber Rae. Photo source: nickonken.me

In this Fast Company article, artist and writer Amber Rae outlines how she maximizes her daily schedule with a “work, play, fit, push” routine. For each day, she outlines her “Top 3,” meaning the three most important things she needs to accomplish by the end of the day.

She found that by doing something playful – i.e. making art or spending time in nature – enables her to reflect and creates space for her ideas. She found that movement keeps ideas moving forward, so she moves her body 30 minutes each day. And because learning is important, she does something challenging each day.

Amber also chooses to batch her days into themes in order to be laser-focused. She reserves the work portion of Monday, Wednesday and Friday to create, Tuesdays and Thursdays for calls and meetings, Saturdays for being spontaneous and Sundays for planning. This sounds like a pretty healthy routine to us!

Write down your dreams (or at least your thoughts)

Elle Luna. Photo source: MyMorningRoutine.com
Elle Luna. Photo source: MyMorningRoutine.com

Journaling has been proven to be incredibly therapeutic, offering mental and even physical health benefits. It’s also an effective way to unblock creativity. So is writing or drawing your dreams. Artist Elle Luna is known for recording and sketching her dreams as part of her morning routine. In this MY Morning Routine interview, she shares:

“Dreams seem to hold all these clues and insights about what’s really going on. And there have been all of these people throughout time who have learned from their dreams. Did you know Mary Shelly wrote Frankenstein because she dreamed it? And the tune for the song “Yesterday” by Paul McCartney was something he heard in a dream?”

According to Elle, “60% of people say they don’t dream at all, which isn’t actually true, and of the people who admit that they dream they forget 95-99% of those dreams within the first ten minutes of being awake.” That’s why she voice records her dreams into her phone when she’s still waking up, also explaining how they made her feel, then sketches them out later. She did this for 100 days as a part of the 100 Days Project:

“Moving forward” #The100DayProject #100DaysOfPaintingMyDreamsByLuna

A photo posted by elle luna (@elleluna) on

In everything Elle does in the morning, from recording her dreams to writing her morning pages; from making coffee to walking her dog – she does it with a certain level of thoughtfulness. She takes her time with each activity and puts all of her focus and energy into it. This allows her to make the most of each activity while creating mindfulness for the rest of the day.

Unmistakeable Media and Soulpancake also released this lovely video featuring designer and writer Sarah Peck explaining why writing each morning is so important for creativity:

Create a vision board and prioritize people 

Grace Bonney, founder of Design*Sponge. Photo source: Homepolish
Grace Bonney, founder of Design*Sponge. Photo source: Homepolish

In an interview with The Great Discontent, Grace Bonney, founder of Design*Sponge admits that although she was once skeptical of vision boards, she now uses them for everything. She said:

“I’m writing a second book right now, and I made a board for that because I couldn’t figure out what the goal and promise of the book was supposed to be. I sat down on the floor and spent hours cutting out pictures and words, and then pasting them to a board. Once I did that, it became incredibly clear what I actually wanted to write about versus what I wanted to say in theory. I swear by vision boards: they’re so helpful and are a great way to tap into your subconscious to find out what you truly want.”

In terms of her daily schedule, a vision board also helped her prioritize her personal life over her work life. She realized that having the balance made her better at and more passionate about her job. Now, she uses her dog and cat as an alarm clock, takes breaks to have breakfast with her wife, and has given herself strict phone and email cut-off times.

Getting a dog also helped Grace create a more optimized routine. In this My Morning Routine interview, she said “I’m so grateful for the way her daily needs force me to get outside of my own head and actually leave the house to move, get fresh air, and meet other people who have nothing to do with blogs, which I love.”

Keep moving, always

Tobias van Schneider. Photo source: hopesandfears.com
Tobias van Schneider. Photo source: hopesandfears.com

In his exclusive newsletter, designer and writer Tobias van Schneider shares that his strategy to getting so much done is to always stay busy to keep up the momentum. And he doesn’t mean “fake busy” (i.e. doing a bunch of things with little meaning at once), he means meaningful busy. He says:

“When working on side projects, or any projects for that matter, I always keep myself busy with lots of them. If I’m stuck on one project, I can continue on the next one. Constant momentum also makes it easier to start new tasks and ship faster.

If you haven’t shipped anything for one year, you will have a hard time doing it in the second year. If you ship something (even something small) every four weeks or less, you have the momentum. You’re in the mood of shipping.”

In other words, one way to maximize your day is just to keep going until you find the things that inspire you to focus on.

How do you maximize your daily schedule to tap your inner creative and get stuff done? Let us know in the comments below!

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