A few tips for creatives suffering from disorder syndrome

How do we measure success? Depending on the day that will change dramatically for me. Some days it means I have enough work flow to keep me busy for the next month at a time, for other days it’s more directly about how much am I making after expenses and all of life takes it’s piece, and yet others it boils down to whether or not I’m thriving as a creative. Us creatives are challenged in so many ways. If you’re one, you know what I’m talking about. We can be emotional, passionate, moody, euphoric, contemplative and borderline catatonic all in the span of five minutes. We are a litmus test for what’s happening around us daily. We’re the dipsticks for social currents. In short, we don’t stay focused long enough to see two weeks ahead of ourselves much less the distant future where you could utter the word retirement. Creatives truly live in the moment. Isn’t that a good thing?

I read a lot. I read just about anything, and lately I see quite a bit more about the challenge of staying in the moment! Stay present. Live in the moment. Embrace all that’s around you now. Which makes me wonder what it must be like to be ping-ponging back and forth between today, next year and last year. That sounds exhausting. This always cracks me up as I can’t seem to really get out of the moment. I can brood and dwell on the past no problem, and I can dig out an idea I might have had ten years ago and find the right fit for a current client, but my day is my day. I can also worry with the best of them about my future because as I get older that reality becomes more relevant, and it scares the crap out of me. So, what’s the takeaway here? Am I successful because I live in the moment?

Creatives already live in the moment. We need to figure out how to tackle the future.

I’ve worked for myself for the past twenty years, and one might think that by now I’d have made a pile of money. Here’s the thing, working for yourself means that you get to be every person in the agency, including the person that is supposed to be working on “biz dev”, as it’s affectionately referred to these days, and be the person actually doing the work, the stuff that pays the bills, which also takes time. This is something I have really never figured out. How to do both well, and I wish someone would tell me. Hey, it’s easy. Here’s how to keep consistent workflow going. I also recognize, however painful it is, that when I started working solo, and how we went about “biz dev” is not how it happens today. While I was busy working hard to develop the best creative I could for each and every client, I somehow failed to learn the new rules of how to get more work. I believe this is something many suffer from as well.

Should we be building Google Ad campaigns, a consistent Instagram following, attend every social gathering for your niche possible, tradeshows, lunches, ask for referrals, mailers, public speaking, guest interviews. I don’t know. It seems impossible to do it all and more than a bit daunting. Personally, I still remain an unflappable believer that your work speaks for itself. Perhaps this is naïve, but I’d like to think it’s not. I know for a fact that once I can get past the wall and break through to a new potential client, the response to what I do for them is positive through and through. I have honed my craft and am confident in what I do, because I do actually care about each client I work with. In the moment, I am all theirs. I am simply not capable of thinking about another project while I am working on something else. I’ve got this piece dialed.

What’s a creative to do? Get organized. Period. If you are also this person I have described, what has been most successful for me is to get organized and get in a consistent flow. I may not have the answers for better business development, but I can truthfully say that organizing my day helps me get closer to doing all I need to, including a little bit of new outreach. There needs to be a time set aside, each day, to work on different tasks. It’s the best solution I have come up with to date, yet I’m open to other opinions and suggestions. If this is helpful for you, this is what my workday looks like.

Get up at the same time every day.
I know this seems dumb. If you think it is, this list isn’t for you. If you’re the “creative” you know exactly what I’m saying. Building routine is hard. We actually don’t thrive on routine, we thrive on change. So creatives, get your butt up every day, at least during the work week, and act like you are a regular worker bee. Whatever you need to do in the morning to wake up, do it. I like to run in the warmer months, and stretch in the colder ones. Make coffee, drink your lemon water, shower! This is routine and it is good for you! And please put on nice clothes, or at a minimum, just put on clothes. Show the universe you are serious about your career and invested in yourself. I have never had a great idea in my sweat pants.

Go to work.
Do you work from home? My boyfriend does, and he’s good at it. I tried it once and became so distracted that I never seemed to get work done. Oh I got laundry done, soup made, did a longer than usual run, walked the dog, played with the dog, napped and maybe made cookies, and online shopped, but no work that pays bills. I have an office, that I drive to, that is not super close to my home. It’s a daily commitment. And I like it. Church and state. This is mission critical for me, my state of mind and my creative flow.

Task list.
So, you’re sitting at your desk staring at your computer. What needs to happen today? When are you at your best, when are you a slug? Figure out your own rhythm, and build your day around that. I have the most attention for emails and chatting earlier in the day, by midmorning I want to be deep in my flow until I notice I’m hungry around 1:00. Then I’ll take a breather, take a class, move around for an hour and tackle the second half of my day. Remember we are building a routine. I know. I know It’s weird. After lunch/workout/break I can go back to my list I made first thing, and either smugly cross things off or panic that I’m off track. Then get serious about getting it done. By the end of the “work day” you will be pleased at what you have accomplished.

Review for tomorrow.
Before I leave my designated work space, it’s important that I do a quick review on what I did, and what needs to happen tomorrow. I do this because I have found that my retention for things is better if I mentally review it a few times. It’s that frequency thing. For example, if an idea pops into your head while you’re driving, do you find that if you noodle it over and over again it sticks with you. If it pops in and flows right out the other side, it might be gone forever. Capture those ideas, and you’re golden. Capture your to-do list and you’ll get it done. Anything that didn’t happen today, needs to happen tomorrow. Review, re-write the list and rest the evening knowing it will be there tomorrow.

That’s it. Seems easy doesn’t it? For those that are actually still reading and wondering what the fuss is about, clearly you don’t struggle from this affliction. For those who relate to what I’ve said, I hope this helps you a little. Please share in the comments anything I’ve missed, because if I know nothing else, I do know we are better for constantly learning new tricks! Never stop learning.

Author: poolcreative

I’m a graphic designer by trade and a creative type, travel craving, mother of two, nature worshipping, cocktail enthusiast and perfume fanatic by life.

2 thoughts on “A few tips for creatives suffering from disorder syndrome”

  1. “we don’t thrive on routine, we thrive on change” – I could not agree more! As someone who everyone assumes is an incredibly organised person, I hate being told what to do everyday and having to do exactly the same thing.
    One small element I would add is getting up and moving. I set a timer for 45 minutes, in which I have to focus completely on work, and then have a small 10 to 15 minute pause. I often make tea, have a crazy dance break, or just stretch. It means that when I sit down I don’t get sore and also know that a small break is always headed my way.


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