How To Schedule Your Day for Peak Creative Performance
Set your priorities, segment tasks, and have daily themes
My journey into digital marketing was actually quite a strange one.
I’ll go into detail about that another time, but while most people work their way up the career ladder in an agency before going their own way, I actually worked for myself in order to get myself on the ladder in an agency. I still sometimes take on freelance work, but agency work is my main focus.
Working for myself gave me the chance to take control of my schedule and let my ideas come to life.
On the flip side, the biggest challenge was managing my own diary to structure my time. There were deadlines to meet, and as the cleaner said in Toy Story 2:
“You can’t rush art.”
I was very hesitant about the idea of planning and systems at first. It just made me cringe and worry about the creativity of my work.
In the end, something had to change and I decided that I should give structure a try.
My First Attempts
When starting to develop my systems and structures, I asked myself three questions:
- How can I achieve a balance between delivering to a client on time and meeting my own creative expectations?
- How can I avoid interruptions and distractions that get in the way of creativity?
- How can I stop putting off the important, but less enjoyable stuff?
To start, I tried mapping out my day. Everything was planned, hour-by-hour, to give me a to-do list and structure for each day.
In less than one month, I started to feel as if I were a robot. The sameness didn’t inspire me. I felt like I was churning out work and not being creative.
To do something about this, I thought about grouping tasks and activities into categories. Whilst I had achieved a good structure for meeting deadlines with ease, I hoped this would up the enjoyment factor.
I thought of it like this:
Whilst all of this stuff needs to get done, I also need to take care of myself. I need to make time for fun and let myself push my own comfort boundaries.
That’s when I discovered the “Work, Fun, Fit, Push” framework.
I will give you a disclaimer now that while I have developed this myself, I’m sure there are a plethora of similar frameworks out there. I am presenting to you what I discovered and what works for me. I hope it will work for you, too.
Here’s what it looks like for me. You’re very welcome to use this grid, but I highly encourage you to find an approach to this system that works for you.
It works like this:
1. Set your priorities
All good plans start with an end goal in sight. That’s what the “priorities” section is for and I will work on this every Sunday.
Rather than planning each hour of each day, write down your priorities and what you’d like to accomplish before the next Sunday.
2. Segment tasks into ‘Work’, ‘Fun’, ‘Fit’ and ‘Push’
Start with ‘Work’. In a perfect world, you should list the top 3 most important things that you need to have accomplished by the end of each day. Sometimes it’s not possible to do this, and you will need to choose your top 3 ‘Work’ tasks day-by-day.
Your ‘Fun’ tasks should let you express yourself and recharge the batteries. It has a positive impact on your work. Making time to write music, play guitar, and play video games (on my very outdated PS2) puts me in a state of peace and helps my mind to think laterally.
‘Fit’ is possibly the most important part of the schedule, as it keeps your brain active and helps you to work efficiently. While you may not be a running fanatic like me, you should still aim to exercise for at least 30–60 minutes per day. The benefits include better sleep, faster work pace, happier state-of-mind, and clearer thinking.
The ‘Push’ activities are all about self-development. In digital marketing, the industry is constantly changing, so you need to keep up-to-date on the latest trends. This is useful, but to really push yourself, try getting ahead of the curve and push yourself to think laterally. Come up with something original for your next piece of work.
3. Keep related tasks assigned to specific days
Grouping tasks into specific categories and assigning them to specific days was a revelation for me.
This is how I break down my schedule:
Content creation — Monday, Wednesday and Friday
This takes up the most time for me, so I have to set three days aside for it.
I deliberately don’t have these tasks on consecutive days, as it gives me time to think and recharge. That’s just what works for me.
On these days, I will listen to my body and take breaks when they are needed. This can be as quick as making a drink so that when I look at my work again, I’ve got fresh eyes.
Calls and meetings — Tuesday and Thursday
Personally, I prefer communicating via email, as it’s almost always faster, often more productive and gives you a trail to refer back to.
Whilst there are exceptions from time-to-time, I will put three hours aside for calls and meetings on each of those days. Once that time is filled, that’s it, unless there’s a very good reason.
‘Don’t want to, but have to’ — Wednesday
This is the stuff where the enjoyment factor is low, but the importance is high.
These are mostly administration tasks, like invoicing, paying bills and sorting out my email inbox.
Random — Saturday
To help keep myself sane, I have one day per week with less structure.
Saturday is my day for spontaneity, where I let the day leads me, instead of me leading the day. I put a lot of value on balancing structure with freedom.
Planning — Sunday
As a family man, I keep my weekends free from work.
Sunday is free-flowing for me, similar to Saturday. The only difference is that I need to plan for the next week.
I don’t know a single person who enjoys having structure in their life. At the same time, I don’t know a single person who enjoys getting stressed about deadlines or experiencing burnout.
Choosing the lesser of two evils can be hard, but I hope this will help you to lower your stress levels and raise your creativity.
Just remember — when it comes to achieving your peak creativity and maintaining it, you need to experiment with this structure and find out what works best for you.
Good luck, and may you find great creativity.