BUILDING A ROCK-SOLID ROUTINE
GREAT WORK BEFORE EVERYTHING ELSE Do your most meaningful creative work at the beginning of your day, and leave "reactive work"--like responding to e-mail or other messages--for later.
JUMP-START YOUR CREATIVITY Establish "associative triggers"--such as listening to the same music or arranging your desk in a certain way--that tell your mind it's time to get down to work.
FEEL THE FREQUENCY Commit to working on your project at consistent intervals--ideally every day--to build creative muscle and momentum over time.
PULSE AND PAUSE Move rhythmically between spending and renewing your energy by working in ninety-minute bursts and then taking a break.
GET LONELY Make a point of spending some time alone each day. It's a way to observe unproductive habits and thought processes, and to calm your mind.
DON'T WAIT FOR MOODS Show up, whether you feel inspired or not.
FINDING FOCUS IN A DISTRACTED WORLD
DEFEND YOUR CREATIVE TIME Book time on your calendar for uninterrupted, focused work--and respect those blocks of time as you would any client meeting.
FOCUS WHEN YOU'RE FRESH Tackle the projects that require "hard focus" early in your day. Self-control--and our ability to resist distractions--declines as the day goes on.
KILL THE BACKGROUND NOISE Turn off your phone, e-mail, and any apps unrelated to your task. Even the presence of background activity (and temptation) can drain your focus.
MAKE PROGRESS VISIBLE Marking progress is a huge motivator for long-term projects. Make your daily achievements visible by saving iterations, posting milestones, or keeping a daily journal.
GIVE YOUR BRAIN A BREAK Alternate challenging creative work with more "mindless" tasks to give your brain time to rest and refuel.
TAP INTO TRANSITIONAL MOMENTS Take a break from checking your smartphone during transitional moments, and open yourself up to opportunity and serendipity.
TAMING YOUR TOOLS
KEEP THE LONG VIEW IN VIEW Post your complex, long-term goals by your workstation to keep them top of mind when prioritizing your tasks.
BE CONSCIOUS OF YOUR BANDWIDTH Practice letting go of certain e-mail and social media conversations. There will always be more opportunities than you actually can take on.
CHECK YOURSELF, OR WRECK YOURSELF Distinguish between compulsive and conscious behaviors. Are you acting out of boredom or blind habit when you could be serving a higher goal?
HIT THE RESET BUTTON Make a ritual of unplugging on a regular basis. Turning everything off is like hitting the "reset" button on your mind--it gives you a fresh start.
DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH Be conscious of your body. Breathing deeply and regularly can decrease your stress levels and help you make better decisions.
IN IMAGINATION WE TRUST Don't trust technology over your own instincts and imagination. Doing busywork is easy; doing your best work is hard.
SHARPENING YOUR CREATIVE MIND
PRACTICE UNNECESSARY CREATION Use personal creative projects to explore new obsessions, skills, or ways of working in a low-pressure environment.
WANDER LONELY AS A CLOUD Make time for your mind--and body--to wander when you're stuck. Disengaging from the problem allows your subconscious to do its work.
DEFINE "FINISHED" FROM THE START Keep your inner perfectionist in check by defining what finished looks like at the beginning of a project. And when you get there, stop!
DON'T GO ON AUTOPILOT Repetition is the enemy of insight. Take unorthodox--even wacky--approaches to solving your stickiest problems and see what happens.
SEARCH FOR THE SOURCE When the well runs dry, don't blame a lack of talent. Creative blocks frequently piggyback on other problems. See if you can identify them.
LOVE YOUR LIMITATIONS Look at constraints as a benefit, rather than an impediment. They activate our creative thinking by upping the ante.