3 Tips to Maximize Your Creative Time over the Weekend
I've written before on the power of personal projects - it's no secret that side projects have been some of the most successful, talked-about projects in the world. The beauty of personal projects is that you're not answering to anyone except yourself, allowing you to infuse that project with your passion, your craft and your personality.
When you're excited about a personal project, you'll know. You might get started, intending only to spend thirty minutes on it, but when you look up at your clock and hours have past without you knowing... that's when you're on to something. You become engrossed in it, even to the point of skipping meals and forgetting to go to the bathroom until it's almost too late.
The problem? It's a side project - it's not our real job. We can't spend eight hours a day on this project. We have to resort to filling in the cracks of our schedule, in between work and the kid's soccer practice, after date night, or on the weekends.
When time is scarce, we're forced to get really intentional and really creative with how our time is spent.
Here are a few helpful tips to leveraging your weekends so your project won't fall through the cracks to be forgotten =(
1. Optimizing for Flow
Flow state is the creative person's high. It's when the metaphorical stars are aligned, synapses are firing at an unnatural pace and your mind is two or three steps ahead of your hands. You can anticipate the next move, and act almost without thinking. If you're going to make the most of your weekend, the more you can find flow, the more productive you'll be.
Optimizing flow, though it may seem like some illusive dream state, is actually not as hard as it sounds. Here are a few tips that are outlined in greater detail over in this post: Finding Your Flow: 6 Triggers that Enhance Creativity & Productivity
a. Visual, Auditory, Hands-On Engagement
Figure out a way to engage your project on all of these levels and you'll be more inclined to get lost in the project. Try using things like index cards, blank paper, ink pens, markers, scissors, tape and other craft supplies for brainstorming or outlining. The act of using your hands to visually represent what's in your mind will help enhance creative thinking.
b. Create a Rich Environment
Studies have shown that simply being in a new environment can have the effect of dousing your head in a bucket of cold water. It rouses your mind out of a lethargic, routine-based stupor and primes it for out-of-the-box thinking. It doesn't have to be a drastic change, it could simply be going to a new coffee shop, renting out time in a co-working space or heading to a friend's house.
2. Objectives + Challenges
If you're going to get a lot done over the weekend, you'll want to give yourself some direction before hand. It doesn't have to be specific, though for some personality types, the more specific the better. How loose or strict these objects are also depends on how far along into the project you are. The purpose is to help you not waste time figuring out what to do next but to transition from one task to the next without a hiccup, allowing your mind to maintain its flow.
Challenges are also a good way to push yourself to get a lot done. By giving yourself a challenge that isn't impossible but is just out of your comfort zone, you're mind will automatically kick into overdrive in the anticipation of the challenge. Don't challenge yourself to the point of exhaustion but just to that point between boredom and anxiety where your mind has to enter flow to keep up the pace or anticipate the next move.
3. Leveraging Minds
If you're like me, I'll squirrel myself away for a weekend and never come out and interact with civilization. While you might find yourself getting a lot done, at some point in the process, it's best to get some other eyes/minds on your work. There are several advantages to this:
a. A Mind-Meld
Group brainstorms can be one of the most fun, exhilarating creative processes. As ideas are flowing, there's a synergy between them allowing one to build off of another to create a stronger, more ambitious and (often) more realistic version of the original idea.
Sometimes you don't need other big thinkers to think big with you. Sometimes you need someone with a good head on their shoulders and a grasp on reality to give you a swift kick in the rear. I'm sure your ideas are the best thing since sliced bread, but after you've been in flow for a few hours, even the most ridiculous ideas have this sense of possibility. It's a great practice to have one or two people give you some point blank "how are you going to..." questions just bring you back down to earth.
c. Devils Advocate
When you're by yourself, your mind can subconsciously skip over obstacles or negative aspects of your project through some sort of survival instinct. Until you have someone on the other end of the spectrum challenging you on specific parts of your project, you'll often forget to address them. Make sure whoever you get to play D.A. is someone who genuinely cares about you and your idea or there's a chance for feelings to get hurt and confidence to be lost. You're not trying to destroy your idea, just push it around a little.
d. Different Perspectives
We're just one person and we've just lived one life. Our project might work for us, but for everyone else it falls flat. Or maybe all it needs is a little tweaking for it to reach an entirely new audience! Either way, it's important that people from different backgrounds and with different experiences are vetting your project with you.
I hope that some of this will be practical for you. I just came off of a weekend where I put all of this into practice and it was one of the most satisfying, productive weekends I've had in a while. Personal projects are hard, I know. Especially after a tiring week at work. But they're so very rewarding. Don't give up! Let me know what you're working on in the comments below - I'd love to get inspired!