Structure and creativity.
Friends of foes? I come down solidly on the side of friends, the kinds of friends who make one another better. Creative structures, when built and deployed correctly, give you the organized space to better utilize your creativity. For others, the structure feels confining. I contend that structure is the ultimate supportive framework that will foster your creativity and help you better utilize your freedom AND, with structure, your creativity can come alive with greater reliability and frequency.
The structure of going to an office, or a school, provides separation between work and home. This creates different spaces for different activities. And clearly, this is disrupted now.
Some people choose to blurr the lines themselves; high school students have papers due at midnight; that blurs the line between healthy work hours and deadlines (you can see how this easily smears into work expectations).
Healthy boundaries in place, and time help to create the structures that foster work time, and fun/play and repair time.
Often clients will come to me and say “I know I can’t leave my job until I have a job” (despite a strong savings accont), because they fear the gap in their resume. This “can’t leave” thing is a myth! If you are working 60 to 80 hours a week and can’t find the creative space to imagine a better alternative, you need to regain the balance in your live before you can imagine something better.
Instead of enduring something broken and depleting, manage it back to a reasonable amount of hours, so that you have the brain power to conceive of something better.
We need creative structures in our day-to-day life to work efficiently. We to stall without it. Even the regular pace of holidays and seasons help to move life along, open those windows for spring cleaning and snuggle in with “what matters” in the winter.
Those who don’t have creative structures but have an abundance of unstuctured time may be surprised by how little they accomplish (scroll, swipe, repeat). In contrast, others have structure and are productive can fit a great deal into their day while finding balance.
Often clients who go for coaching are looking for ways to improve their structure, discipline and time management. By learning to use these tools (yes, some are apps while others are very simple), their time is freed up, which reduces stress, anxiety and allows for more creativity.
One simple tool my clients love is called the Pomodoro technique.
The Pomodoro technique provides a simple creative structure for getting work done. And when I say simple, I mean it. The Pomodoro technique suggests that we work in 25 minute blocks punctuated with a 5 minute break, with no more than 4 blocks at a time.
After those 4 blocks, take a 30-minute break (at least).
During the block, completely focus on the task at hand. Shut off the phone, turn off notifications, put your head down and dig into your work. No distractions, just 25 minutes of focused work.
This is the successful structure of Pomodoro, and my clients love it, and find that this simple tool can completely shift their productivity. Working with this technique stops you from wasting time by floating from thing to thing while scrolling on your phone in between. Focus on work, then use your 5 minutes to relax.
Freelancers, along with those figuring out their employment path, can also struggle with a lack of structure and not using their time wisely. Setting an outline for the day means there are items that need to get done by their allotted time without interference. In the absence of clients or meetings, freelancers can set up what they are going to do the night before, and approach each day with a simple list (instead of having to organize the list).
Structure is critical for creativity. Creative structures will help you advance thinking and gain new insight because you’ll have the time to think. Insight leads to action (if you hold yourself accountable), which can help you attain your goals, which reinforces your desire to set new goals, and on and on and on.
While structure can sound restrictive, in reality, it is not uptight or confining. In fact, it’s just the opposite! Structure offers freedom and lets the creative juices flow. When you’re clear on the structure of the day, you know what has to be done, how it is going to be completedand in what time frame it will be finished.
Good creative structures can be supportive of your mental health by creating a path to freedom and reduced pressure.
Structure will not mean the same thing for everyone. It is important to discover what will work properly for your and your circumstances. Trying frameworks (start with pomodoro) and see what works for you, a combination of flexibility and structure. Structure gives freedom and emboldens creativity. Assess your day to see how structure can enhance your productivity and creativity.
You may need structure on some days more than others, and working towards a system that works fkor you will allow creativity to flourish.