by Naomi Kinsman
1. Make Space: Even though it’s counterintuitive, sometimes it’s more productive to stop doing things and to start organizing instead. If you’re anything like me, as your desk fills with piles, your brain also fills with clutter that clogs up the works. Clear thinking and creativity become difficult, if not impossible. For the past five or so years, I’ve used the tools suggested by David Allen in Getting Things Done to help me clear my mind and desk. I find that an hour spent listing, organizing and getting the big-picture view changes everything. With my new optimism and clarity, I can move forward on all of my projects: work, creative, and personal.
2. Exercise: Research shows that physical activity, especially playful activity, helps spark creative thinking. When time is short, don’t cut out your running or hiking or swimming or biking sessions. Try turning off the iPod at some point during your session, too, and pose any creative questions to your subconscious. In many cases, answers will arrive.
3. Be Consistent: Fifteen minutes of drafting a day may not take you very deep into a story, but even fifteen minutes will keep your mind engaged with the story so that your mind continues to process the next steps while you’re cooking, grocery shopping, or driving to the next appointment.
4. Rely on Routine: One of the best ways to make room in a busy day is to have already decided ahead of time how your time will be spent. If you know you will only spend an hour around lunchtime to check email and reply, you don’t have to waste precious mental energy trying to figure out what to do with your hour. You also know that you don’t have forever to answer, so those more difficult emails to write will often be handled much more efficiently.
5. Go Easy: Do a quick thinking experiment. Mentally list what you ideally expect yourself to have finished by the end of today. Now, assign a time-estimate to each item. Most people find, after making such a list, that they expect themselves to complete about three days worth of tasks in each day. The sense of failure that comes along with not meeting our own expectations day in and day out saps our energy and makes getting things done in the time we have very challenging. Give yourself the extra energy and positive energy that you need by rethinking your expectations. In the end, you’ll get more done and be much more satisfied, too!