Getting Creative Things Done

Getting Creative Things Done

It’s hard for creatives to get things done. With constant deadlines, and being bombarded from all directions, being creative for extended periods of time is difficult.

Cal Newport on recently wrote about this. The following are some excerpts – consider it the ‘Cliff Notes’ of the article.

What Is Needed for Good Creative Work?

In his oft-cited essay– Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule, Paul Graham highlights the unique demands of creative work (the type of work produced by a “maker,” in Graham’s lexicon).

The maker’s schedule, he explains, is defined by long, open stretches of uninterrupted work. For a maker, “a single meeting can blow a whole afternoon.” Graham describes his own schedule, from his time working in a software start-up, as starting after dinner and lasting until 3am, explaining: “At night no one could interrupt me.”

In Graham’s construction, Newport identified two justifications for the importance of long stretches of uninterrupted work:

Shifting Mental Modes: When the mind knows it has no interruptions looming, it can shift into the flow state required to produce high-quality output.

Providing Freedom to Explore: Real creative work is non-linear, often requiring long, unexpected detours to uncover the contours of the problem at hand. Long stretches of time provide the freedom needed to feel comfortable indulging in these detours.

As Newport states, the problem faced by to-do list creatives is that we cannot afford to integrate Graham’s long stretches of uninterrupted work into our schedules. With this in mind, Newport came up with the ‘GCTD system’ which attempts to replicate the two benefits of uninterrupted work, as described above, in a more realistic, logistics-respecting workday structure.

Getting Creative Things Done: The System

These are the basics of the system”

• At the beginning of each week, decide on the one (or, at most, two) big creative projects that will receive your attention over the next five days.

• Block out time for these projects on your calendar. The increments should be at least 1 hour long, and preferably 2 to 3.

• Set rules for your creative blocks. The rules should describe what is NOT allowed during creative work.

• Focus on process, not goals.

Check out the complete details of Newport’s GCTD concept online. It’s an interesting read!

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