Yesterday, while talking to a friend, I was sharing all my goals and everything I want to accomplish this year. And immediately she asked me, “how’s your daily routine for creativity? What do you do every day to get in the flow?”
I thought about it for a second and started listing small habits that combined form my daily routine and serve my mind to create consistently.
It also made me realize it took me an absurd amount of time to get to this, not because it is difficult; you are about to see how simple it is. But mainly because I was not guarding my attention correctly, or wasn’t priming my mind for creative work like I should.
Those were some of the most important takeaways I got from Deep Work, by Cal Newport. In the book, he describes deep work as:
Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.
What that means for me is sitting down in front of my computer, with no phone visible, no distractions, getting 100% focused on my creative routine, which means writing.
Why am I telling you all this? Well, because my system has “deep work” at its core. Everything I do, especially in the morning, is as I like to call it input-free routine for creativity.
So here are three core ideas I use every day to architect my routine and achieve my goals:
# 1 Get an early start
There’s something special about the early hours of the day, and power in being awake when everybody else is sleeping (except my husband. He is always up before I am haha). Getting a head start on the day is an advantage, and it’s the main reason I decided to wake up at 5 am every day.
By doing so, I have time to prepare my mind via breathing exercises, moving my body, and meditating. As Steven Covey says in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:
Take the time to renew. Sharpen your saw.
So when the Sun is starting to rise, I’m already sharpening my saw!
# 2 A time to be with my thoughts
I once participated in a masterclass with Cal Newport about Digital Minimalism, and he talked about solitude, specifically how solitude is vital. And no, that does not mean you have to go to a cabin somewhere, all by yourself.
It has nothing do do with being physically alone, but being:
Free from the inputs of other minds.
Wow! How powerful is that?
Being an introvert, I immediately related to this idea and quickly realized how deprived I was from it, at the time. How anxious comparing my life to everything I saw on social media made me feel, how burnt out my mind was.
So I committed to having absolutely no inputs in the first hours of my day. And I’m very serious about it. There are zero distractions from the moment I wake up until my first block of creative work is finished. Minimum!
More importantly, it is crucial knowing how different and chaotic my day gets if I violate that commitment. And that reinforces my 100% commitment of being focused on doing this day in and day out.
My journaling time is the action to contemplate solitude in my daily routine. And it’s divided into two parts: Carpe Diem plus Freewriting (I’ll go into detail on the first one soon).
Freewriting means I write whatever is on my mind, with no structure, no spell check, and always by hand. There’s something great about being with yourself, in silence, with pen and paper. Or in my case with my iPad and Apple Pencil (and wifi turned off).
This exercise, associated with my daily writing habit, has consistently brought me some of the most insightful bursts of creativity and awareness.
# 3 Deep work time block
Another compelling idea from Cal Newport. Here are the four rules of Deep Work:
Rule #1: Work Deeply
Rule #2: Embrace Boredom
Rule #3: Quit Social Media
Rule #4: Drain the Shallows
That means you will find me doing my first deep work block of the day wearing my noise-canceling headphones, no phone around (out of sight and out of touch), with absolutely no distractions. Going deep into writing, and organizing my thoughts.
Also reflecting on or prompting myself with questions, and getting to the answers is an excellent exercise. To then later start transcribing it all into an organized article.
By “drain the shallows,” Cal suggests time-blocking our whole day and setting specific times for our in-depth work. As a very dynamic woman, I have a hard time doing this for my entire day. But as a compromise, I do it to all my mornings.
Mainly so I can focus on creating before I enter the world of inputs, plus it helps me integrate movement throughout the day and take regular breaks to recover after each session of focused creative work.
# Bonus: Where I am at
That’s me with my super simple system of time blocking plus task management
All those three key points I talked about are just examples of how I started implementing and putting a routine for creativity into action.
I don’t have the words to describe the feeling of not needing to wait for a burst of inspiration, because I am doing everything to bring it closer to me every day.
I never thought I’d be one of those people who wake up excited to work and love doing it. But by implementing these ideas, I realized this was the right strategy for me, the right way to guard my attention, and use the first hours of the day to create.
And guess what happened? I started loving it!
This is my wish for you too. Let’s go deep and create something meaningful for the world. Prioritize a few minutes of solitude and get a deep work time block today (and tomorrow, and so on).
Liked it? I would love to know your impressions. Share them with me in the comments
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