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Small Changes = Big Impact for Creatives

June is usually one of my favourite months of the year. I enjoy taking my laptop outside to work from my deck when I’m not in sessions with clients. Admin tasks or writing is more enjoyable and feels easier when I’m surrounded by the greenery of my garden. Unfortunately as I’m writing this from home in Toronto, we have experienced days of hazardous air from an unprecedented number of forest fires burning across the country. The smoke from these fires is affecting the environment, lives and work of millions of Canadians and Americans. I appreciate that this includes many creatives. Some of whom have been severely impacted. It’s not easy to create a sustainable career and life as a creative and climate change is making it harder.

I know that many creative professionals gear up in June for summer festivals or tours. They are preparing to perform, get out there in front of audiences and generate income. Other creatives, like myself, have intentions to gear down. We are looking forward to a more relaxed pace of work or more time for creative endeavours over the summer. In either case, we’ve thought about and designed plans. We’re being intentional to create these summer experiences for ourselves.

Last month, I wrote about the importance of building the capacity to be intentional. Specifically, becoming more thoughtful and deliberate about what you prioritize day-to-day. And how you make decisions about your creative practice - like those summer plans!

This month I want to focus on building intentionality at a more micro level. This has been a trending topic of coaching conversation with a number of my clients recently.

Here’s six things that my clients and I have been exploring and discovering about being intentional at a more micro level:

Being intentional about WHEN to begin matters. I”m talking about what time you “begin” your work day as creative. In other words not leaving it to “when we feel like it”, when we “have more time” or when we get the laundry folded. It can be especially challenging and important to be intentional about this when working from home.

How intentional are you about WHEN you begin your work day?

Being intentional about HOW you begin matters. I’ve noticed that clients who have rituals or specific activities they do to “warm up” tend to struggle less with getting started. For example, musicians and dancers seldom begin creating or rehearsing without warming up!

A client of mine was struggling with starting work once in her painting studio. She experimented with spending her first 15 minutes sitting with her paintings. This 15 minute ritual helped her ease into getting to work. She discovered that she was more focused and productive when she began with this ritual. She called it “listening” to her paintings.

Another client had a practice of putting on a lab coat before she began. It focused her on what she was there for. For her, putting on the coat was the first step of getting to work.

Maybe you have your own ritual or way of beginning that works for you. If you don’t…

What ritual or action might help you

be more intentional in HOW you begin?

How you TRANSITION from one thing to the next matters. Do you jump from one thing to the next with no space to breathe or reset? I am someone who used to pride myself on being able to do this! Over time, I have learned to be more thoughtful and intentional about how I transition from one task to the next. For me this often means moving my body. Doing something physical to clear my head and making sure I’m set up with what I need at hand. For example a cup of tea or notes I need to review before I jump into the next thing. I draw inspiration from Adriene Mishler (Yoga with Adriene). She encourages her yogi followers to “move like you love yourself”. I now aim to take Adriene’s philosophy off the mat and work like I love myself. Even/especially on my busiest days! I invite my clients and you to do the same.

What could you do that would rejuvenate you between tasks

or help you TRANSITION with more thought and care?

(like you love yourself!)

Being intentional about WHERE you do certain tasks or types of tasks matters. I shared that I set up my office on my deck (weather and climate conditions permitting) when I’m writing or doing admin tasks. Is it better for you to write at home or in a chill coffee shop? Can you be more focused on admin if you work from somewhere like the library? What parts of your house, apartment, studio or office work best for you for certain tasks? What tasks are better done somewhere else?

Being intentional about the PACE we work at matters. Many of my clients recognize that they set unrealistic expectations about how quickly they can get things done. They beat themselves up about how many hours or days they “should” be working. Or they believe that if they don’t keep working at a constant intense pace that their practice won’t be sustainable. For sure, sometimes we do need to put in long hours and long stretches of days to meet deadlines or realize big projects. But sometimes less is more.

A recent client started off thinking that she needed to put in a bare minimum of three hours work everyday. This was challenging for her to realize as a mom with two very young children. In thinking through what might be more realistic for her, she set a goal of working for 30 minutes a day. In practice her 30 minutes often stretched into an hour and a half or more. Instead of feeling like she was failing, she was surprising herself by working “more” than she set out to. More importantly, she got work done! She finished off a short film and submitted it to a number of festivals. She got accepted into four of them.

Another one of my clients was working on a book and also wanting to make her personal creative projects more of a priority in her life in general. She learned through experimenting that she needed to “touch” or work on it in some small way daily. Even if it was just fifteen minutes. This helped her to feel she was taking small steps everyday. She also discovered that she needed to schedule blocks of time to bring more focused creativity and thought to developing the story and characters . Her deep dives as she called them gave her a deeper feeling of immersion in the project. Being intentional about varying her pace and intensity worked best for her.

Where might you benefit from intentionally changing

or varying your pace?

Being intentional about when and how you END matters. Without being intentional about WHEN you end your day, your work day encroaches on the rest of your life. I’m not suggesting that you stop always at the same time. That might not work with other things you are balancing or commitments you have. But deciding what time to end work (even day-to-day) and holding yourself accountable to your decision sets clear boundaries. It can also help to motivate you to finish tasks if you know you are stopping work at a specific time!

Equally impactful is being intentional about HOW you end. Personally I put my laptop away out of sight and most days I go for a walk. I call it my commute home. It’s an intentional way to end my day and transition out of my work day.

When and how do you usually end your work day?

These are just a few ways to think about being intentional at a micro level in your work or practice. It’s not easy to create a sustainable career and life as a creative. But we CAN make it easier for ourselves by being intentional in even the smallest ways.

Photo Credit: Cylla Von Tiedemann

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