Friday, February 18, 2011

Creative Kickstart: 5 Ways to Creatively Organize Your Time, Mind, and Workspace

It's been a few weeks since the last post in the Creative Kickstart series, but it's back in action, and here to help inspire you and motivate your creative process with the best installment yet!
Through conversations with creative friends and associates, I've noticed a common "issue" we all seem to share: disorganization. As artistic people, we have constant ideas firing off in our brains, and when we're in the mood to create, we will passionately throw ourselves into a project.

For me, this often results in my studio looking like it was hit by a tornado. And the last thing I feel like doing after hours of immersing myself in a creative job is devoting energy to organizing my workspace.  Eventually, I'm left with a massive pile of madness, and the urge to put things in order falls even lower on the priority list.

'Ground Clutter' original painting by Michelle Daisley Moffitt
Creative people also tend to function better doing what feels the most interesting at the time, rather than working on things that may be necessary but aren't naturally appealing.  Focusing on the interesting tasks is important to the creative process, but not always practical.  Just like the mess in my workspace, I've found that putting off the less appealing (but mandatory) tasks causes them to snowball into bigger, more time-consuming jobs that leave me feeling rushed and overwhelmed.  Disorganization of time and environment can cause us to feel buried and our mind to feels scattered and exhausted, which can greatly hinder the ability to feel inspired.
But what if we simply don't feel like it???  How can we, as creative types, bring some of what we love about being creative into being organized?  How can we make organization fun, or at least utilize it to make our lives a little easier?

lovely + organized art space (source)
1. CREATE A PRETTY SPACE.  Creative people tend to prefer things to be in plain view, with easy access.  While left-brain people may do better with file cabinets and drawers, these things just don't work as well for us.  Try organizing your materials in clear containers or on shelves instead.  Use objects that you find visually appealing to organize your supplies and paperwork, like baskets or colorful bowls. Think of it as a design project rather than a means of putting things in order.

to do list notepad, boygirlparty
2. REWORK YOUR 'TO DO' LIST.  For years, my 'to do' list was a  file on my laptop that provoked instant stress when I opened it each day.  There was very little order to it, and if I had a big project, I'd list it everyday.  (Note: Even if you're aware that you have two months to complete it, seeing "Design Entire Fall Collection" on your list of things to accomplish on a particular day is going produce some subconscious anxiety!).  Try breaking down big projects into specific tasks that can be spread out over time, list things in order of importance, and be realistic about how much time you can devote to each thing.  If you don't finish something, move it to the top of your list for the next day.  Stick to concise daily lists with fair goals for yourself.

mini goal chalkboard, Mary Kate McDevitt
3. BEAUTIFY THAT 'TO DO' LIST.  Creative people are naturally drawn to beautiful things.  If you're like me and you discover one day that your 'to do' list looks just as visually unappealing as your disheveled workspace, try something different.  Make a pretty notebook or chalkboard, and use something colorful to cross off each task when it's done.  If you prefer to keep your list on your computer, use your favorite colors and fonts for the text, or design a graphic for the top that you'll enjoy seeing each morning. 

'Lullaby,' sandygrafik
4. FIND YOUR FLOW.  This is important.  Traditional techniques for organizing spaces and managing time just don't work well for the creative person, and forcing yourself to try to make them work for you will only create more challenges.  Creative people think outside the box, and this "different" way of thinking is one of the main things that makes you artistic, imaginative, and bright!  Instead of fighting against your natural tendencies when organizing, make use of the same unique methods that you use to contribute to your creative flow. Incorporate your personal style by utilizing colors and themes that appeal to you.  If there is certain music that inspires you when creating, listen to it while organizing.  If you like to drink a cup of tea while you create, drink one while organizing.  If you find that things feel a little too structured for you once you've decluttered your space or created a to do list, break up the monotony.  Decorating your to do list with doodles or place pretty objects in between containers in your studio. Make the process of organizing work with you rather than against you.

5. GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK.  Last week, I posted a graphic that I'd made (above), and titled the post "A Simple Reminder."  One of my biggest challenges is learning how to overcome my habit of feeling guilty about what I haven't accomplished instead of being proud of what I have accomplished.  We are our own harshest critics, and putting too much pressure on ourselves can end up stifling our creativity and cause a loss of focus, leading to disorganization.  Make time for yourself, breathe, and let it all go at the end of the day.  In the morning, you'll wake up more refreshed and inspired. A clear mind makes staying organized and productive much easier than a scattered one.
Do you have any tips for creative organization and time management?  I'd love to hear them!

P.S. That amazing shelving unit I used in the header graphic is Ikea's REK.

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  1. Ok, I officially have a favorite Bubby and Bean post of all time!!! I am printing this out right now. So many useful tips and important reminders! Thank you! (:


  2. This was really helpful--I'll soon be working from home and really looking forward to creating my work station from scratch. I'm going to bookmark this for all the tips and suggestions so that I can have the perfect workspace.

  3. great post. really a interesting pics.

  4. Amazing post and much needed! Thank you!

  5. So cute and so right...a workspace really needs to be creative and inspiring whether you are a crafter or writer or anything in between.

    My workspace is surround by lots of creative art, dozens of painted by my 3 year old daughter.

  6. Lots of good ideas...but what if I like my mess?

  7. Really great tips explained very well... And I love the images! I think surrounding yourself with some order is so important, but it is definitely hard when you have an artist's brain. Making the order pretty helps. I'm printing this out, thank you!


  8. Thanks everybody! I've actually had this post in mind for quite some time because I am notoriously disorganized! I realized I was getting frustrated with the chaos around me, feeling like I was always looking for things, and feeling like I just never had enough time in the day. I spent several weeks researching how the creative mind works in terms of organization, taking notes on things that worked for me, etc. I still have a long way to go, but feel much less stressed in general now that I'm on the path to organization nirvana. :) I'm so glad it's helping some of you as well!


  9. I just came upon your blog and after spending an hour reading posts am officially subscribed through Google Reader. :-) This post is my favorite, but I love all the pretty pictures too!

  10. thank you for your spot-on insights into how the creative brain works! one thing i'm learning to do is "allow" myself to leave a project until i actually feel inspired to work on it even if i start many others in the meantime. it's ok to let something sit and simmer on the backburner until i really feel the inspiration to keep going with it.

  11. You guys are wonderful!

    YES - I think allowing yourself to leave a project until you're inspired to work on it is absolutely the best way to manage time (and get the best outcome!). I've learned over the years that forcing myself to work through something rarely results in anything positive. I have to remind myself of this all the time though, as I really like to cross things off the to do list and get them off my mind. It takes a lot of trial and error to see what works best for you.


  12. SO thankful to have run across this! I've spent a lot of time researching how to be organized (haha) and yet, it never seems to click for me. NOw I know why. Do you mind sharing the resources you found researching the way the creative mind organizes? Seriously, I am so thankful you posted this message!!!

  13. You are very welcome! Much of the ideas presented in this list are results of research via my own personal discoveries and talking with friends who also work in creative fields about their own experiences (and challenges with organization!). My sister is a psychology teacher and also gave me some insight to the way the creative mind works (in terms of creative people preferring their things in plain view vs. being filed away, etc.). I also googled things like "organization psychology" and most of what I found was pretty on par with this. And it makes sense! For me, I tend to leave things out in front of me, but in disarray. I'm slowly getting better though. Just putting together this list was a way to organize my thoughts, which is also helpful for me. I'm so glad it was helpful for you as well. :)


  14. Del Marie RileyJune 24, 2012 2:46 AM

    First time reader and I really enjoyed your post. Being a creative person myself, I often find myself with my studio in a tizzy of a mess. I organize and it still gets insane. Thank you for some very clever ways to defeat the mess.

  15. This is revolutionary. I feel like I know myself better after reading this piece and I feel even a little excited about finding my desk again and putting my heart into the space like I do the creative projects that I endeavor here. My creative space is already halfway there, but this inspires me to go that last bit to get it to its full potential. Thank you!!!

  16. This is revolutionary. I feel like I know myself better after reading this piece and I feel even a little excited about finding my desk again and putting my heart into the space like I do the creative projects that I endeavor here. My creative space is already halfway there, but this inspires me to go that last bit to get it to its full potential. Thank you!!!

  17. Glad to see this old is getting so many views again! This was written back when I first started the blog, but remains one of my favorites. :)


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