Recently a good friend of mine came to me asking for advice about how she could transition from her full time job into having a more creative day to day life. It gave me a lot to think about, because I think that especially online there is a lot out there about how much more wonderful everyone’s life would be if they quit their job and started working for themselves. Those stories are obviously extremely inspiring to hear about, and I’m not immune to that- in fact spent a lot of time over the past year daydreaming, planning and praying that I could make that leap myself- and when I did (part one, part two) I was ecstatic!
Here’s the thing: Being a freelancer or entrepreneur is not an option or even a good idea for lots of people, and I don’t believe that having a full time job in an office building means you’re disqualified from living an incredibly inspired creative life.
For Serious. No matter how high the air conditioning is cranked.
(It also doesn’t know where you work!)
I think that living a creative life is largely about attitude, balance, how you assign value and meaning to what you do, and making room for the unexpected. Even now, working for myself in my dream work environment I’m acutely aware that unless I make conscious decisions about how I structure my days and weeks, having a creative and fun life won’t just happen on it’s own. Can you imagine working in one of these creative workplaces if everyone worked through lunch and counted down the minutes until they barreled out the door?
It was fun to talk with my friend about if the content and hours of her work were standing between her and the type of life she wanted, or if there were choices in how she approached daily life that she could make to have more fun with the life she already has.
I thought it would be fun to share some of the things that have made my life a lot more fun and creative…
Take care of the boring stuff
This is everything that your mom nagged you about when you were growing up: get eight hours of sleep, eat simple healthy food that will give you fuel to run on during the day, and be active for at least 30 minutes a day. When I don’t have these things in place the likelihood of the wheels falling off and my week (and work!) taking a turn for the worse goes through the roof. Before you can go out there and consistently put your unique stamp on everything you touch or come up with your next big idea, you have to make sure you won’t have a sugar crash or nod off half way through your day.
Change your virtual hang outs
Virtual routines are just as impactful as offline routines, and if you check social media and read blogs it’s a good idea to make sure you’re not falling in with a “bad crowd”. If the news is dragging you down, listen to a TED talk instead of the news in the morning and just check the headlines at the end of the day. If it seems like everyone on facebook is complaining, hide those people from your feed. If some of the blogs you read are triggering jealousy or personal frustration for you? Opt out for a few days and see how you feel. Aside from just clearing negativity out, be active in exploring new and unexpected points of view. Try reading blogs in Swedish or French and translating them into English to see the world from a different cultural perspective- Google Reader will even do this for you automatically. Do you have an old Stumble Upon account you haven’t logged into in years? Go on an 20 minute adventure and see where you end up! Since we can tailor our experiences online to such an incredible extent, we might as well use that power for good & as a source of inspiration.
Book blocks of static-free down time into your week
For me static is any kind of communication or media that’s high volume, low quality content. That doesn’t mean that it’s good or bad, it just the background noise of life. You know can choose to leave it on and pay attention selectively or you can turn it off and enjoy the quiet for a while. My big “static” generators are twitter and e-mail, along with anything that has a noise notification on my phone. While I get important information through those sources, it’s in amongst a huge amount of other information, and when I’m working the tasks and leads that come from them never “finish”. The best thing about having time that’s free of static is that you can decide what qualifies and what doesn’t. For myself, knowing that in the evenings I’m going to be offline, without distractions, exploring unstructured time is a complete oasis that leaves me excited for work the next day. It’s exciting to discover that when you allow for time with no expectations, to do list or busy work you create room for playfulness, new ideas, and being spontaneous.
Separate dreaming up your ideas from analyzing them
Self doubt and fear of being wrong can be powerful roadblocks for working on any project that needs playful or inventive thinking to get off the ground, especially if you’re planning to share your end results. Evaluating and refining an idea is a natural part of any creative process, but whatever your passion is make sure you explore all parts of its biggest and craziest possibilities before you start picking it apart. Instead of brainstorming, think of it as dreamstorming. I do this about everything, from my friendships and marriage to web design projects and blog ideas. After all, what seems crazy to you this year might be the next natural step for you in a year.
Create pockets of the day where you’re immersed in what you love
It doesn’t matter if your calling is to travel the world as a volunteer or to stage your first play or be the best friend and partner you can be. To get to doing those things you still have to comparison shop for plane fares, apply for grants, and make sure your bus pass hasn’t expired, respectively. Basically, no matter how closely your work aligns to your calling in life, by necessity a lot of our time is spent on the periphery of the things we love. It’s important to make sure that you spent some focused time on what your passion is- and not just after you leave work. Why not wake up early or stay up late two days a week and spend two hours reading, researching or sketching? Could you trade taking a long lunch for working a little later in the day so you dive into a project you love in the middle of the day?
We each have so much control over our experience of life, but sometimes we get so caught up our routine that those choices become less visible. I hope that this gave you some new ideas on how you can make your life creative, no matter what you do for work!