Being consistent with action enough to produce habits is the single largest factor in becoming successful as a creative. And yet many of the tendencies that make creatives artistic – spontaneous thought, deep inspiration, the ability to acutely (and sometimes passively) observe – often run contrasted to producing reliable habits. Countless creatives flounder in the no-man’s-land between rigid productivity and vibrant artistry. Fortunately, with a few mindset hacks and the willingness to step outside your comfort zone, you can maximize the best of both worlds. This post provides three steps on how to redirect any propensity to be lazy when your work becomes daunting.
1. Create A Clear Action Plan
First, you must create a clear action plan. Even the best of intentions will die a cancerous death without it. When I began writing what is to date my longest book, I simply began writing without any plan in mind. I just wanted to get ideas out. While this method worked in the short-term, by the time the long-term rolled around, I had a 580-page book on my hands that was close to entirely disorganized. I had to cut down on tons of chapters and reorganize every chapter idea into a new subsection. This process took close to a month, at which point I realized I would never write a book again without proper organization! That proved to be an intelligent move, ha.
In order to think clearly as you’re creating and establish the best final product you can, a defined action plan is necessary. If you’re a writer of any kind, a basic outline is vital before you begin. For many of my books I use a standardized 10-chapter framework and add more chapters as need be. If you’re a visual artist, perhaps starting with a rough sketch is all you need to flesh out the final design. If you’re a musician, getting the core song structure (such as passages, chords and leads) mapped out ahead of time can help you decide what will stay in the song and what must go. Regardless of your medium, producing an outline prior to establishing the work will make your product shine that much brighter.
2. Don’t Rely On Inspiration
These are probably some of the most dreaded words for a creative… Yet also the most true. Constantly waiting for inspiration before you work means you will only strike when the iron is hot. Unfortunately, successful artists cannot afford themselves only working when they are in an optimal mood. Indeed, some of the greatest creatives to ever live mandated specific hours and rules of work for themselves.
Mozart was extremely precise in the hours he worked, ensuring he always had his most difficult work done early in the day. Da Vinci always kept a notebook on him, writing down every idea that came to mind, even if it seemed irrelevant at the time. There are countless more examples across history; these two are simply intended to get you started.
Inspiration is powerful enough to create some of the best momentum for work but elusive enough not to be relied upon. Instead of inspiration, rely on a schedule and a process. Here is what I use for my own schedule and process success:
- Write 500 words per day, regardless of the project, no matter how I feel
- Get the most difficult tasks of my projects done earliest in the day
- Keep a running notepad (whether smartphone or paper) of every idea that comes to mind and organize burgeoning ideas based on theme
3. Use Laziness And Procrastination To Your Advantage (Break Things Up Into Small Steps)
Yes, it’s true… Laziness and procrastination will strike, regardless of how pure your motives are (and I’m sure they are!). General life obligations and passions for other projects will indeed strike your heart and mind, and it’s okay to occasionally let them have some sway (in the moment). But the most productive, successful and fulfilled creatives are those who finish what they start. Momentum for your business and personal brand will not swell to anything significant if you have dozens of loose ends.
You may have heard it before, and you may think clichés don’t work, but breaking your project up into small steps is one of the longest-standing techniques for combating procrastination. Rather than looking at your goal as a solitary looming object that cannot be conquered, look at it as having multiple themes or stages.
For example, if you need to write a series of articles and you’re daunted by finishing them all, write the first section of each one, then finish all the consecutive sections. Or, write the last of the series and simply complete what comes naturally (until each individual component is done). Try not to be overwhelmed by the idea of needing to put in tons of effort and simply finish the section that is right in front of you. Take five to 15 minute breaks every 90 minutes or so, and allow this natural rest pattern to keep you fueled throughout the day.
Great advice from a prolific writer. I’m am impressed by your output, Brad. You’ve published more in the last year than anyone I know.
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