EDIT: Giveaway closed. Congrats to Lorien, Alexa and Melanie for winning the random drawing.
The idea of routines has been on my mind lately. Actually, for a while. Having a good routine seems to be key for living a creative life. And personally I think any life is a creative one.
A routine keeps you from spending too much time spinning your wheels, trying to figure out what to do. I already know when I get up Monday morning what I'm going to do: I don't have to think about it, it's already on the schedule. And when I say I know what I'm going to do, I actually mean my to do list knows what I'm going to do (an important distinction I think.) Planning ahead keeps me from wasting too much time trying to figure out what I'm doing. I already figured that out at some point when my brain was working well, so then Monday morning when I'm either not in the mood or wishing there was more tea in the teapot, it doesn't really matter, I just go through the routine.
The fact that I rely on a to do list, rather than my brain to remember what I do on Mondays is also important. This releases my brain from having to remember any of these things. I don't have to spend energy worrying about what I'm going to do and if I'm going to remember to do it. It's all written down in a safe place. This leaves my mind free to think about other things.
While routine is necessary, we also need some free time to keep on our toes. A routine is just as helpful to have so you can break it, as it is to follow it closely. A break in routine can create a new situation and give your brain a chance to experience something new, which is often just what you need if you're experiencing a creative slump or blank wall. You have to make your routine work for you. And sometimes it works best when you decide to ignore it.
So while I try to stick to my schedule, I'm not too rigorous. If I have a strong feeling to do something not on the schedule, I follow the feeling. I keep my routine as a guideline, so I can coast if I need to, but also if something calls my name I can follow it. I should note that I'm the kind of person who likes to keep a schedule. I think this means it's important for me to step outside of the the schedule when I can. If you're the opposite of me, you may want to indulge yourself a bit less. :)
Let's get practical...
My routine, and I'm sure I'm not alone in this, needs to take into account two main chunks of things. One is repeating tasks that I need to do regularly and that don't necessarily require a lot of creative output, things like email and keeping up with the forums. Then, on the other side is the time I spend designing and making stuff.
A while ago I sorted out all the little tasks that I need to keep on top of (email, reading the forums, posting to Facebook, writing blog posts). I made a list of these in Todoist and set them to repeat every day.**
I also schedule other things that occur weekly, or monthly, things like posting the blog train sign up thread, or a new layout challenge, or writing the newsletter. So instead of needing to remember on Wednesday I have to write the newsletter, I just look at my to do list for the day and see that it's there. Then I realize it must be Wednesday.
I actually made a tweak to my routine back in the fall. I used to have tasks that repeated every day, but it was starting to be a drag. I enjoy reading the forums here, but checking them every single day was starting to become just a little too much repetition for me. Also, I realized I was spending my most productive and creative time, which for me is right when I wake up, doing less creative things. I used to do all my tasky things first thing, and then design in the afternoon. But this was a waste of my best creative time, and I also needed a little more variety in my routine. So I decided to pile up all my tasky things on Monday/Wednesday/Fridays and then leave Tuesday/Thursdays free for designing. I have nothing on my to do list on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and when I wake up to take a look at my Todoist it's so freeing to think I have the day free to create whatever I want.
Currently I find I don't need too much structure for my actual designing time. The openness I have scheduled now is working well for me. But if you're struggling to get things done in this area, you may want to try breaking things down into actionable tasks and then just follow your list. I have a rough routine I pretty much always follow when designing, and at this point I've worked through it enough that I don't need to write it down or keep a checklist. I can move through it automatically. But, if I'm struggling to get something done, or I'm feeling overwhelmed, I just stop and write down all the things I need to do. Then it's as easy as going through each step until I'm done.
I'm also very intentional about doing my todos at their appointed times, and not at other times. The time I've set aside for designing wouldn't work as well if I was sneaking into my email or onto Facebook. I'm most strict on my email which I read during my appointed time on Monday/Wednesday/Fridays, and never again! The only time this causes problems for me is when my Dad sends an email on Friday afternoon and then is upset on Saturday when I talk to him and haven't read it. I don't think he believes I'm keeping this strict schedule. But hopefully now he'll believe it's not just his emails I'm ignoring ;)
▲ My weekends are for not checking email.
The truth is I'm a super introvert, so I have no desire to be available all the time. It's not really hard for me to ignore my email or Facebook. Setting these kinds of boundaries is easy for me because I don't even really want to be doing them in the first place. I'm not someone who is easy to get a hold of instantly. I'll definitely respond to you at some point, but I don't drop everything if I'm interrupted. I'll respond when it's the right time. So if you're one of those people who struggles a bit more with setting boundaries, I'll tell you this: because of these boundaries I've set up I get a lot done and people still like me. I promise.
What sorts of routines do you have set up that work well for you? Let me know in the comments below. I'll be picking three random people to win a year of Todoist Premium, so you can really get serious about your to do lists. Drawing will close on February 22, 2015. Thanks to Todoist for sponsoring this giveaway.
** Repeating an event in Todoist is as easy as typing "every mon, wed, fri" in the date field.
Pixel Scrapper Blog
Hi There! I’m Marisa Lerin and you’ll see me around at Pixel Scrapper a lot. I started this site in 2010 soon after I discovered a new love in digital scrapbooking. Pixel Scrapper has gone through some significant changes since that time and it’s grown into this lovely community site you are seeing now. I am daily surprised by the turn of life’s events that has led me down this path. If you're new to the site, welcome! Here are a few tidbits about me that I hope will help you get to know me better!
I’m originally from Minnesota, USA, but spent a good chunk of my childhood living abroad (in Bolivia and Hong Kong). I returned to Minnesota to attend university, got married and then moved overseas again (Korea, then Jordan and 1 year of traveling). My designs are heavily influenced by these many nomadic years. I am currently back in the USA, now living in the great state of Oregon!
I have no official training for what I’m doing, since I decided very wisely (haha) to study physics in university. I am always learning new things about digital scrapbooking, and this community has been immensely helpful for that!
If I manage to stop digital scrapbooking you will probably find me watching TV, reading or baking. I also enjoy writing for the blog here at Pixel Scrapper where I talk about whatever happens to be catching my fancy at the moment.
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