Sunday, March 21, 2010

Creative Time Management

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Dealing with the issues of a mind tormented by creativity often boils down to the fact that the guy has issues with managing his time.

Creative people generally tend to hate organisation, seeing it as souless and a big hassle. Actually, it is rather important for a creative person to manage his time well, in order for his creative juices to flow more effectively. In fact, a creative person must handle his time better than other people, because while 'normal' people can take the usual stressors of life, creative people are likely to be worn out by it and develop all sorts of psychiatric disorders.

Here are some things I have learnt in my exploration of creative time management, and yes indeed, such things do contribute in managing the often turbulant emotions of high creativity. This is more for people like me, who are often faced with the challenge of exploiting 'extraordinary creativity' amidst a sea of what we do not consider creative processes.

In truth, creativity is present everywhere. And it doesn't mean that just because we are not in the arts or design, we do not have creativity. Scientific research and enterpreneur activities demand a lot of creativity. The main thing is that creativity is used in finding solutions to problems when other, more conventional solutions, have failed, or there is no solution in the first place.

So here are my tips, essentially, it is about seeing time as a dimension, just like length, breadth and height. To organise a table, we place things here and there, with respect to each other in terms of position such that we know where everything is. Creative spatial organisation often appeals to creative people such as poets and writers because it serves them inspiration and facilitates their thought processes. Likewise, we can do it for the dimension of time as well.

The main problem with time as a dimension is that it is ever flowing, it does not stop for us, and we cannot see all of time at once, unless you are Nikola Tesla. So 4th dimension management demands quite a bit of discipline and resolution. Fortunately, if you are creative, it means you'll be able to think of a fun way to do this. So here are some ways I have found.

1) Creative space management is strongly recommended. I like to arrange my table in hall in a way which balances organisation and disorder. This actually promotes a sense of creative expression yet it does not throw you off from the demands of work. I've also learnt that light management is essential. It is important for a creative person to work with sufficient light. I believe this is a sort of adaptory result from our times as hunters and gatherers, where we usually hunt in the day time. And yes, another thing, air, it is important for a creative person to open the windows in his room, and allow the fresh air to come in. If it is hot outside, I suggest turning on the air con, or better still, stop doing work and grab a cold drink, and just relax.

2) Exploit the weather. We cannot see all of time at once, so that implies the future often brings along surprises. For me, I try to exploit pleasant surprises as much as possible, and one of such examples include the rain. You can always count on the rain to come, but you are never sure when it would come. I love the rain, because the air is cooler and fresher, and it makes me feel more refreshed. When it begins to rain, I like to run out of my room and just walk around in the rain, until it becomes too heavy. Yeah, it makes me wet, but it also makes me happy. I like to wait in anticipation of a rain, and right now, it is raining outside my room, and yes, I am slightly wet.

3) Fix some time regime. You must try to block out certain times of the day for certain activities. For a person with a varied schedule such as myself, I do not block out a specific time, like 5pm to 6pm, what I do is I block out periods after certain activities. Like for instance, after I finish school, I do not usually jump into work immediately. I spend about an hour or so handling important but not urgent work (more on this later), or writing stuff on my blog, or just chatting with friends on msn. If my day is relatively free, I will spend the morning doing the same thing. It usually gives you a better sense of satisfaction knowing that you are clearing up stuff in advance.

Now I know that you are likely to have the mindset that you should settle the most pressing matters first, and leave everything else till later. With so little time on my hands, I also find this very understandable. But I feel it is better to raise your own morale first, before settling in to tackle the challenges of urgent tasks, you are likely to be more productive this way, instead of feeling frustrated and tired when you get stuck with an assignment.

I also like to block out certain times where I do absolutely nothing. After doing some work, or after a run, I like to sit outside the kerb near my hall and just drink some ice lemon tea from the vending machine nearby. but more on this later.

4) Have some regular habits with which you do everyday, like an obsession. Now I know this sounds anything but creative, but I find that having certain regular habits are good for simulating the creative mind. I would say this is because creative people are humans after all, we need to have some sense of order to keep us sane. And having these regular habits gives us a sense of expectation and certainty amidst the chaos we like to immerse ourselves in.

For me, I like to keep regular habits in the morning just after waking up. After waking up, I brush my teeth, eat breakfast, and bathe, always in this order. And for breakfast, I always eat the same thing, kaya toast and soft-boiled eggs, with teh-o. I'm so regular, until the store owner need not ask me what I want, she just prepares it for me straight away.

Then at night, as what I've mentioned above, I sit on the kerb side drinking canned drinks.

5) Make sure you exercise everyday. I tend to have this problem, whenever I am stressed or feeling depressed, I tend to avoid exercise,and instead go binging. Not healthy. Make sure you at least force yourself to don your exercise wear, go outside, and start to trot. If you really don't feel like exercising, just tell yourself that you are just going for a slow, leisurely stroll, and in the end, you are likely to end up doing a serious run. I find that occassionally 'charging' during my runs help me expend the unused creative energy for the day, and relieve the stress and frustrations as well. Remember the important thing is not to exercise as what experts tell you (20-30 min non-stop), the important thing is that you are exposing yourself to physical exertion, and even if it's just 10 minutes, as long as it can keep you sane, it is fine.

6) Give yourself something to look forward to. This is especially good if you need to spend a night doing some work. For me, if I have to complete a lab report and I need to work till about 4am in the morning, I think of the sleep I will have after my report is done and I am motivated to carry on. If it is a busy week, you must imagine the end of the week and think of how happy you would feel.

7) Live for the present. This does sound a little contradictory to the above point, but well, it is up to your creative mind to see how you are going to balance between the two. Living for the present generally takes your mind away from anxiety and worry which comes from thoughts of the future. Try not to become a master of the flow of time, and instead, let the flow of time carry you wherever and whenever, and just do what is necessary. You just need to remember one thing, the present is always ok, hence, you should try to live in it. If you have trouble with this, I suggest trying out meditation.

8) Important but not urgent work. As I've said, always try to find some time to do this throughout the day. It boosts your morale and also takes away the task before it becomes urgent and important, which is likely to lead to stress. If you keep doing this, you will eventually find that you have more control over your time, and your stress is likely to be allieviated.

9) Learn to ask for help. If you are really stuck in a difficult situation, I suggest you quickly attempt to seek help or talk to people before the situation becomes dire. If the problem is a difficult tutorial, I suggest you find some time to attempt it first, before discussing with friends.

10) Keep happy. This is very important, because only with mastery of emotions can you master your time. Try to remain happy, and smile at people you know, even if it may seem mad. I've recently adopted this strategy of putting motivational messages and advices in my phone and set them to sound at certain times of the day, every day. This way, no matter how lousy I feel, I will be reminded to be happy.

Of course, I would not completely suppress my frustrations, you don't have to be a person with bipolar disorder to have frustrations, so it would be good to find some time throughout the day to allow yourself to feel lousy and evaluate those feelings. For me, whenever I go to the kerb side for a drink, I allow myself to feel lousy or depressed, and during that period of time, while relaxing, I think over my feelings and attempt to see rational causes for them. Also, whenever I feel depressed, it is usually when creative thoughts start rushing in, so I sometimes try to exploit this period of time as well.

Ok, I just spent about an hour in total writing this post, but I feel it is time well-spent, because as I write, I reflect upon the strategies I have adopted in the past week and realise their potential. I hope you would benefit from this as well.

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