Sunday, January 9, 2011


Relaxation Tips for Over-Worked Creatives
Todd Henry Accidental Creative

There are few things that I can say to my fellow create-on-demand pros that broadly applies, but of this statement I feel pretty confident: we are busy. We’re not busy in the sense that we have a lot to do, but we’re busy in the sense that we have a lot on our minds. We are typically conceptually mulling over several projects even while we’re executing others. We can get used to the adrenaline rush that accompanies this kind of lifestyle and then when a time of relative calm appears we don’t know what to do with ourselves.

Some artists I know seize those moments as a time to crank out personal work at a blinding rate. And if that’s your speed, go for it. I find that working like that without pause causes me to burn out in short order.

Instead, I like to take advantage of those relatively quiet moments to organize, prioritize and systemize.

1. Organize. I create a lot of mess when I’m working feverishly. Things get out of order and are strewn about. This causes a lot of latent stress and it’s cumulative over time. Take advantage of your down time to get things back in place, clear stuff out of your head and so a little mind sweeping and dreaming.

2. Prioritize. In the “heat of battle” it can be difficult to discern what our priorities should be. We’re caught up in the tyranny of the urgent and it can be difficult to look at ideas and potential future projects with the same level of interest. When things slow down, take advantage of the newly found clarity to prioritize your “gee, I’d love to…” projects. Then…

3. Systemize. What we care about gets put into a system. When you have some downtime, develop a plan (and system) for how you’re going to attack your next projects. Get a little ahead. Do some scouting. Empty your initial thoughts into a project notebook. Go crazy while you can afford to. So often we live hand-to-mouth creatively and refuse ourselves the luxury of extravagant and unnecessary thought. Do this thinking in advance so that when the busyness returns you’ve got a head start. This will create space for you and eliminate the potential sources of dissonance.

There are a million (at least) different ways to attack this, but I’ve found that gaining clarity in moments of pause helps me gain traction when I get moving again. And those first few spins of the tire can make all the difference when time and attention are our most scarce resources.

I threw out the question on Twitter, “what do you do in between busy times” and got these responses:

@peninasharon says: in between: update portfolio, revise/renew personal sites, queue up blog entries.
@macwriter says: Develop strategies for new biz opportunities. Network. Rest. Pray for more new biz.
@thatsoftwareguy says: Getting new stimulus from exposing yourself to new experiences.
@ericheinzman says: I like to go fishing. It resets my brain.
@soluzioni says: A deep realistic SWOT analysis may help.
@tina_m says: My list incls getting ahead on the predictable monthly ‘regular’ jobs to ease the load ltr.

How about you? Any strategies you use “in between” busy times to stay fresh?

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