How to Plan for Creativity Not Just Productivity
Have you ever wondered why batching your tasks to save time doesn’t always work for you?
I’m a big fan of batch days and organizing your work in a way that’ll help you get a lot of results quickly. (Who isn’t, right?)
I had my first planner when I was about 11 years old and I used it to organize my summer vacation and come up with the perfect day of activities.
The first item on my timetable was “go to bakery to pick bread for granny”. This adventure was supposed to happen at 5 am. Yep, I was a productivity nerd long before it was a thing.
I also had my much younger cousin and sister around, who were of course required to come along. Poor kids! Thankfully for them, we didn’t stick to this plan for too long.
For one, summer vacations are not meant to be that structured and the whole schedule was just forgotten pretty quickly.
And second, we got in the habit of eating half the bread on our way back from the bakery, so granny kept “forgetting” to wake us up and got the bread herself instead. Smart woman!
Despite these early disappointments, I still love timetables and I use them daily. Planning and scheduling comes as naturally to me as breathing, and I literally can’t remember a time when I lived without a calendar. So when I say “I love batching tasks and optimizing my time” I really mean it.
And this is why the realization that you cannot batch everything was so shocking to me. It turns out, there are things you can’t batch, or at least not the way you batch answering emails or running errands. And yes, you’ve guessed it, creativity is one of them. However, there’s a catch here. Not all creative activities are the same.
Here’s what I mean. You can hatch the perfect plan to batch all your photo shooting for Monday, your video script writing for Tuesday, filming for Wednesday, graphic creation for Thursday and your admin tasks for Friday.
This seems like a good plan — you won’t waste 20 minutes every day to set up your camera or to get in the flow of writing good content. You’ll be efficient and you’ll get so much more results in just one week! Accept it isn’t always more efficient and you probably won’t get the results you hope for because you’ve only planned to be productive and no time at all to be creative.
And don’t get me wrong — I don’t believe at all in waiting for creativity to strike to get work done. No, no! But suffocating creativity by not giving yourself time to learn, structure and enjoy your creative process first isn’t the smartest idea either.
What do I mean by not all creative activities are the same?
Well, I don’t know about you, but I have things I know how to do pretty well. Like say, creating a bunch of graphics for Pinterest or editing photos for Instagram. And then there are things I’m brand new at, like filming videos.
You see where this is going right?
Batching creative tasks you’re good at is great — you know the steps, you know how to quickly learn new ones, you follow your process, adjust as needed and end up with beautiful results quickly, while still having fun, experimenting, and flexing your creative muscles at every step.
Trying to batch things you’re still figuring out how to do is how you end up doing something once in a blue moon and hating yourself for not being able to stick with a simple plan. And this is no way to treat yourself. Or to exercise your creative powers, for that matter.
So what should you do instead of batching?
We’ll I’m glad you asked!
You should hone.
Yes, new creative activities are just like new habits - you should do them every day until they feel like a second nature to you. You need to hone a skill daily or at least a couple of times a week, until you have your own process figured out. Then you can batch as much as you want.
But until then - hone, baby, hone!
If you still have doubts, go ahead and try a batch day doing something you’re not particularly good at yet. Say, you want to film 4 videos for your YouTube Channel.
Yes, you’ll learn a lot, but you’ll end up without the results you were hoping for. And as a solopreneur you also have to work with your clients, deal with admin stuff, write, create products, update your website, schedule social media, and so much more!
Knowing that you have one day out of 30 to get something ready and done, will put an enormous pressure on you. And if you don’t have a basic creative process to fall back to, the pressure to create your process AND get results at the same time will kill your creativity in no time.
But is there something you can do to help you hone your skills AND save time?
Yes, there is!
The goal of honing is to find a basic process that works for you. And to get there quicker, here are a couple of things you can try:
Look at other people’s processes. Research excessively, take notes and journal about what you like, what you don’t like and how you can make your own process. For example, I started creating a filming workflow and I found out that I cannot film in the evening, because my boyfriend is a music lover and this is his time to listen to his Chopin and Liszt records. So this is something I have to keep in mind when creating my process.
Have a clear, realistic goal for your daily efforts. A filming goal could be: I want to have a 5 minute video ready for publishing by the end of October (on top of creating my filming process of course).
Make a project in Asana and have a running list of tasks. And schedule them all, of course.
Use every opportunity to hone your skills. For example, I take tiny 10-15 seconds videos every time I see something that I’d like to share with you (I call them mood videos). A steaming cup of coffee — filmed! Sun spots on my white bed cover — filmed! Rain drops on my window — filmed! Then I analyze the footage and make notes how to do it better the next time.
Have weekly classes. Once a week, watch videos, read tutorials, learn new things. Make a list in your Asana project of things you want and need to learn and schedule an hour or so to improve your skills.
Have fun and be kind to yourself. You skipped a day? It’s not the end of the world. Do the best you can and do your best to show up every day.
When to start batching?
You can try your first batch day when you have a creative process you can repeat. It doesn’t have to be the perfect process (and there’s no such thing) — you’ll be changing it and improving it forever and that’s OK. But once you have a basic workflow, you can schedule a batch day and test it.
If you can’t come up with good results and your focus is still mainly on the process, you might need to hone your skills a little bit longer. If you get great results while adjusting your process, then repeat your batch day weekly until you feel comfortable enough to have monthly and then yearly batch days.
If you’ve ever wondered how people can create one year of blog posts in a week, this might be your answer. But if you try to do the same when you’re just starting your blog writing efforts don’t feel bad if you don’t come up with stellar results.
Figuring out your creative process takes time. So do the work, be patient with yourself, and keep honing until you can start batching!
So how to plan for creativity not just productivity?
I think you know the answer of this question by now, but here’s one more time, if you just skipped to the end of this post.
If your creative activity is something you’ve been doing for a while, go ahead and schedule a batch day for it. You’ll have the time to get in the flow of things and you’ll be able to play, have fun and focus on coming up with great results.
If it’s something you just started doing and you don’t have your own process for it, schedule time to do it daily. Write for 20 minutes, film for an hour, open Canva and design your graphics for 30 minutes. Whatever it is, do it every day and focus on creating a process you can repeat.
And then, if you so wish, go ahead and batch your work!
Do you have batch days?
Do they work for you? How do you decide what to batch and what not? Let me know in the comments below.