Are You Using Your Creative Hot Spots?

We all have times of day when we’re ready to rock the world – and times when we can’t summon up the energy to do much more than watch television.

Last week, I had a firm reminder of how important it is to do my creative work during my best hours. I was helping out with a kids’ holiday club at my church each morning – and having a fantastic time. But I also had some work to get done.

I thought I’d have plenty of time to write in the afternoons, but I could barely face opening up a document. Instead, I found myself working first thing in the morning – usually from around 7.15 to 8.15 – and getting a surprising amount written before heading out to church. Like Thursday, I can write fast for short, focused periods.

The moral of the story? An hour of uninterrupted time when you’re at your creative best is worth more than a whole afternoon when you’re in a slump. By working in your hot spots (and kicking back at other times), you’re maximising your creative productivity and your energy levels.

You might have a good idea of when your hot spots are. But are you using them?

Excuse #1: I’ve Got Other Commitments

This is the biggie – and on the face of it, it looks like a perfectly reasonable excuse. Maybe you have a great creative hot spot from 9am – 12 noon, when you find yourself working effortlessly. The problem is, your boss isn’t going to be happy if you don’t come in until noon because you were busy painting.

Even if you don’t have a full-time job, you’re going to have a bunch of other commitments. Perhaps you’re in school, and classes take up your whole afternoon – when you’d love to sit and focus on your term paper. Maybe your kids come home at 3pm – just at the time when you’d be at your creative best.

You might need to apply some of your creativity in thinking up a solution. Maybe:

  • Ask if you can shift your hours at work slightly – maybe starting an hour earlier or later
  • Experiment with being creative at different times, and see if you find another hot spot
  • Use your hot spots on Saturdays and Sundays – don’t pack your best hours with chores
  • Swap childcare with a friend, so that you can have a day or two each week with uninterrupted creative time

Excuse #2: It’s Hard to Get Started

You know that 9am – 11am is a great time for you to head to your  desk and focus. But just getting there seems like a struggle. Perhaps you’re working on something which is a challenge: it’s stretching your abilities, or it’s a bigger project than anything you’ve tackled before. Maybe you’ve got distractions going on – housemates, the television, computer games…

Many creative folks find that simply getting started is half the battle won. Once you’ve got out your paints or opened up that document or picked up your notebook, you’re almost certainly going to make some progress.

If you find yourself frittering away your creative time without even making a start, try:

  • Telling yourself “I’ll just look over my notes” or “I’ll just get out the paints” or similar
  • Setting a timer for ten minutes. You can manage ten minutes on anything – and once you’ve got going, you’ll probably find yourself carrying on.
  • Telling other people that you’re working. Announce it on Twitter, or tell your family. Public accountability can be a surprisingly strong motivator.

Excuse #3: I Only Have an Hour

Perhaps you’ve managed to shift your commitments around a bit, but you’re left with just an hour (or even less) during your best creative time. An hour doesn’t feel like very long – and each day, you convince yourself that it’s not really worth bothering.

The truth is, an hour is plenty of time to dig in and get some valuable work done. In an hour of focused, uninterrupted writing, you could easily produce a thousand words – do that on two days a week, and you’ll have written enough for a novel after a year.

If you feel that an hour is too short, try:

  • Set yourself a very specific task, especially if you’re working on a huge project. “Write a blog post” or “sketch five rough designs”.
  • Get straight down to work. Make your coffee or tidy your desk outside your creative hot spot.
  • Developing ideas at other times. You might jot down notes while you’re on the bus to work, or plan out a scene of your short story while you’re doing the dishes. Then you’ll be ready to dig straight in during your hour-long hot spot.

When are your own creative hot spots? Are you using them? If not, why not?

(Image by Flickr user bibendum84)

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2 Responses to “ Are You Using Your Creative Hot Spots? ”

  1. I just recently discovered the same lesson! I had been trying to write my blog posts and work on my book after lunch when I finished with other work. I just seemed to be struggling with focus and interruptions, so I decided to set aside an hour first thing in the morning while the house is quiet and my mind is fresh with ideas. I set a timer and decide what I’m writing about and see how much I can get done. So far, it’s working much better and I am getting my posts done in probably half the time.

    • Ali Hale says:

      I often go to bed early rather than struggling on with something, because I know I’ll be better in the morning. Great to hear you’ve found your own hot spots. :-)

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