5 Simple Steps to Unlocking Your Creativity With Focus
Many people often respond with, “I’m not creative, but…” when I share with them that I am a coach for creative entrepreneurs. Maybe you, too, have had doubts about how creative you are in your work. You might look at a designer or artist and wish you were just as creative.
I’m here to tell you we are all creative, and we just need to practice focusing our energy and attention to unlock our creativity.
As a young designer, I was often frustrated when I sat down to create something for a client, and something magical didn’t happen immediately. I would spend a short amount of time going between multiple things, getting frustrated, and finally proclaiming, “I’m no good at this!”
Now, people often assume that creativity comes to me with ease. And while I do fantasize about a reality in which I sit down to create and magic just flows through my fingertips with little to no effort, the truth is that I owe it to my creative self to respect the process. I know that I am responsible for creating the time and space in which I can do my best work for clients and solve the biggest problems with creativity.
Imagine how you could level-up your work with unique creative solutions. Allow me to take you through my process and give you some tips for how you can unlock your creativity using focused sessions.
Step 1: Get It Out of Your Head
In David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done, he explains, “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” You may have noticed when you sit down to complete a task that your brain doesn’t cooperate sometimes. It brings up all the random thoughts, worries, and to-do items you may have overlooked or that may be overdue.
The best way to overcome this is to do a mind sweep in advance of your focused session. Taking the time to get all the to-dos out of your head and onto paper will free up your mind for the hard work of creating. You may be tempted to use your productivity app of choice, but for this exercise, I recommend good ol’ pen and paper. That way, you can keep this list out of sight, but within reach so if something comes up during creative exploration that you can’t silence, you have paper and pen nearby so you can quickly add it to the list and move on without falling into the trap of being distracted by your device.
“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” – David Allen
Step 2: Be Prepared to Focus
Once you have that initial flurry of thoughts out of your head, please take a moment to take care of any needs, be it a trip to the bathroom, getting a glass of water, or collecting the things you will need to do deep work. Addressing your needs will prevent you from needing to get up during your focused time. Maybe there is a little bit of research you need to do before diving into the creative process. But I urge you to keep this brief; it’s far too easy to use the excuse of needing to research more as a form of procrastination or distraction.
Step 3: Turn Off the Notifications
When getting ready to dive into creating meaningful work, I recommend you turn off all notifications on your devices and put them out of sight. There are a variety of ways you can eliminate or minimize distractions. For me, that means turning off all notifications on my phone and putting it in my bag or another room if possible. If your creative work requires a computer, I recommend finding a way to turn off all notifications on your computer and working in full-screen mode.
Do Not Disturb for iOS (iPhone and iPad)
Do Not Disturb for MacOS
Full-Screen Mode for macOS
Step 4: Forget About Time - It’s Relative
Have you ever found yourself saying things like, “Where did the time go?” or “I don’t have time for that”? In Gay Hendricks’ book, The Big Leap, he explains the difference between Newtonian time and Einstein time. According to Hendricks, Newtonian time is scarce and on a linear path, while Einstein time is fluid and relative.
I have found the theory of time as a malleable thing to be true. When I became a new mother, time breastfeeding my daughter seemed to be endless. And when I got my first postpartum mommy massage, the time seemed to disappear in the blink of an eye. When I made the decision that I had all the time I needed, things changed for me. It changed my relationship with time when I began repeating the mantra of “I have all the time I need” when getting ready to go somewhere, instead of the hurried thought of “I am going to be late.” I do what needs to be done and still arrive on time, if not a little early.
“I have all the time I need.”
So, how do you take advantage of Einstein time during these sessions when you want to accomplish deep focus? I recommend covering up any clocks in your line of sight. The urge to check the time will take you out of the mindset of time abundance and into a state where time feels scarce.
I also recommend setting an alarm to alert you to when it is time to move on to your next commitment. If your brain is focused on minding the time, you won’t free your attention to solve that complex problem. When I sit down to write, my brain is going to try to trick me and say, “But what about that 10 o’clock call? If you don’t check the clock now, you might miss it.” When an alarm is set to signal the end of your creative session, you can squash those distracting “This is urgent!” thoughts and get deeper into the search for that seemingly elusive creative solution. When you make time instead of taking time, you can create a space where your mind can do the most amazing things. It can do the work for which you are uniquely equipped.
Step 5: Mono Over Multi
During this exercise, I want to emphasize the importance of mono-tasking. We’ve all heard of multi-tasking and the mixed theories regarding its usefulness. According to David Rock in Your Brain at Work, multi-tasking, or doing more than one task that requires attention, reduces our mental capability and accuracy. So how do you focus on just one thing during your focused session? Decide in advance which one thing you will focus on during the session and commit to mono-tasking. Every time your mind starts to wander to your laundry list of tasks, gently return your mind to the work at hand. Think of it as creative and productive meditation, but instead of “ommm,” your mantra is the complex problem that you are qualified to solve using your creativity.
“Mindfulness is a habit; it’s something the more one does, the more likely one is to be in that mode with less and less effort …it’s a skill that can be learned.” – David Rock
Be kind to yourself during this process – accessing your focused creative genius doesn’t come easily. It can even be uncomfortable at times. But the more you commit to this practice, the better results you will see. Creative results that are beautifully, uniquely you.
Anna Bitters is a creative business coach who helps innovative entrepreneurs grow their businesses with focus and clarity. Anna’s unique experience as a designer, educator, connector, and technologist allows her to help her clients reach their business growth goals using a dynamic approach with laser focus. Anna is a multi-passionate entrepreneur who lives with her husband and rambunctious toddler in Columbus, OH, and enjoys the beauty and simplicity of stargazing.
Stay Motivated! 3 Simple Steps...
As busy women entrepreneurs, it can often be difficult to stay motivated in our businesses with all of the distractions of life, such as kids, significant others, home duties, meals, meetings, etc. It’s so easy to become preoccupied with all of those other aspects of life.
As for me, I’m trying to get most of my work done at home when my girls are at school, which means that I need to somehow keep my focus on the task at hand without distraction. Does this always happen perfectly? Do I always ignore the critter hair piled up in the corner or the requests for belly rubs from my little mutt?
Of course not.
Obviously, no one is perfect and we are all works in progress. We are all striving to do our best in this crazy world, right? That means that it’s more important to focus on progress, NOT perfection.
I would like to share some simple (which doesn’t always mean easy) tips to stay motivated in your business (and in your life).
Tips to stay motivated:
1) Get up and MOVE!
Seriously. This doesn’t mean you have to spend an hour breaking a sweat lifting massive amounts of weight or running 5 miles every day. I’m talking about just getting up and walking around either inside or out (bonus points for getting fresh air at the same time). Or doing 10 jumping jacks. Or maybe a minute of squats.
Take multiple small breaks throughout the day and move around to get the blood flowing through your body and brain. Even just 1-2 minutes can make a massive difference in how you function the rest of the day. Movement doesn’t always mean a formal workout. We were created to move all day, but not necessarily with just strenuous activity.
Think of it as incorporating mini circuits throughout your day. As an example, I set a timer for one hour while I’m working. After that hour, I step away from my desk and do some sort of movement for about a minute or so and then go back to my work for another hour. That way, I have programmed breaks and am much more effective and efficient in what I’m doing. Plus, those mini breaks also act as self care breaks, an extra bonus.
2) Know your big WHY!
This one is KEY! Think about it. If you aren’t laser clear on why you’re doing something, how are you going to stay motivated to do it when times get tough? When you feel like quitting. When you’re questioning if you’re qualified enough to do this. When you say “Who am I to think I can do this?” (the classic imposter syndrome).
When thinking of your big “why,” be sure to keep it strong, clear and oriented toward the future. Be super specific about what results you want to achieve and how that will benefit you later on. Maybe you want financial freedom, so that you can take 2-3 months off during the year to travel. Perhaps you want to buy a house with cash. Or reach a hundred thousand women with your message (a dream of mine).
Do you see how specific and powerful those “why’s” are? That is what is needed to keep you moving forward, instead of driving you backward.
3) WRITE it down!
Did you know that you are at least 40% more likely to accomplish something if you write it down? It’s true. The simple act of just writing them down, rather than thinking about them, creates a visual motivator of what it is that you want to accomplish. By doing that, your conscious brain and subconscious brain begin to work together on getting it DONE. That’s why it’s so important to write down your goals.
You might do this annually or quarterly or monthly, whatever works best for you. I have started writing down larger annual goals and then smaller monthly goals. That way, I know what I’m working towards both in the short term and long term.
When writing goals, once again, it’s important to be specific. Don’t just say you want to get more clients in the next few months. Say that you want to get ten more clients in the next two months. That’s a specific goal that can actually be measured and attained.
You can write your goals down on paper, note cards, in a binder, in your notes on your phone, in a digital document, on a tattoo (just seeing if you’re still paying attention, LOL), etc. I would suggest having them written in multiple places, so that you can see them on a daily basis wherever you are. Maybe have them written/printed out by your desk and also have a reminder on your phone to view them when you’re out. The more you see your goals, the more likely you are to achieve them.
Once you decide on a system that you’re most comfortable with, be consistent about it! That’s the only way you’re going to stay motivated. Review those goals you wrote down and decide if they need to be adjusted every so many months or so. Obviously, they aren’t set in stone and will likely evolve over time, as your business grows and changes. And that’s okay.
There you have it! Your simple tips to stay motivated in business. I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment and let me know how you plan to implement these tips, along with any others you have to keep yourself on track.
Heidi Ball, The Mom Coach, is a transformational coach who supports
overwhelmed moms to rock their life by taking back control of their time
and creating a plan that works for them and their families. She has been
married for 19 years and has two fierce, independent girls. She enjoys
traveling the world, curling up with a great novel and trying to
outsmart her escape artist chickens.
She can be found at: