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How to stick to a creative routine during the lockdown

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It's not uncommon for us writers to hear advice along the lines of "you should build your daily writing routine" or "make sure to write N amount of words per day". Writing is like a muscle – it needs exercise to stay sharp and fit at all times.

The same concept can be extended to creativity. Creative thinking needs constant stimulation, inspiration, ideas that must to be fed into the creative machine and re-elaborated to host your personal fingerprint.

It is far too easy to slip into bad habits now that we are in lockdown. Keeping a creative routine matters these days more than ever. Some agencies have already shared their insights with us on how to stay motivated during the COVID-19 outbreak – we will now try and give you some hard-and-fast tips on how to stick to your creative routine. And most importantly, why that matters for your mental health.

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Photo by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash

Make a daily/evening plan

What do you want to achieve today with your creativity? Whether that is finishing up a new drawing, one small step towards learning a skill or completing that short story you started three months ago, anything can work to give you a goal.

Make a plan for when you will have some free time and dedicate it to your creative projects. It doesn't have to be an overarching general plan – it can be as little or as much detailed as you like. Different things work for different individuals, but I found that giving myself hourly goals and rewards has considerably increased my productivity. All that matters is to avoid falling into a spiral of sleep-work-eat-repeat.

Don't fall into a spiral of sleep-work-eat-repeat

If you are a writer, that may mean getting back to work on that novel of yours (spoiler: I haven't). If you are a musician, perhaps this is the right time to polish that track you've always wanted to release. And if you are an illustrator, just grab some kind of reference and start drawing!

The lockdown is letting us save some 2–4 hours of commute every day, and even entire days if you've been furloughed. It is perfectly understandable for your priorities to be all over the place, but do remember to take care of your personal self.

Create and enter a cycle of rewards

Gamers will know that rewards are addicting. You get one, you instantly want the next one. We are programmed to seek instant gratification.

One way to fight this is by introducing gamification in your daily routine. There are plenty of examples of productity apps out there that make use of gamification to keep end users motivated, if you need a little nudge.

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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

If you like games or role-playing, Habitica (formerly known as HabitRPG) is a great one. It employs RPG game mechanics to keep you creatively motivated, giving you rewards for sticking to daily goals and penalties for slipping into bad habits.

And if you don't like using apps, try and come up with rewards for yourself. In my case, I like to get some time on video games for every 1000 words I write on my personal projects, during a writing session. Any little thing can help, but don't forget that we are creatives – we can certainly be creative with our rewards as well.

Make an effort to stay disciplined

Long-term goals scare us, whether that is seeing a smaller number on a scale or focusing on just one project for entire days. With boredom lurking behind the corner, it is hard to keep yourself motivated when slacking off is clearly a more pleasant option.

But do it once and you are certain to do it the day after, and then the day after too. Don't listen to your inner sloth – be disciplined.

Gamification techniques can help with that, but it still requires strong will to stick to those good habits, even within a cycle of rewards. If you can trick your brain into believing the best is yet to come, you're already faring pretty well.

Why having a routine matters

You might be wondering why it matters to get through all of this hassle in the first place. Again, this is probably your brain telling you to look for some instant gratification.

Look at the long-term goals instead: sticking to a routine increases focus. You will instantly become more productive with your own creative projects, and you will not waste as much time procrastinating to get stuff done.

Ultimately, starting a routine now may help you keep it when the lockdown is over. You are likely to see long-term results for creating and sticking to a creative routine now, such as becoming more disciplined with your personal projects outside of your work life.

It is much harder to separate work and personal life while we're all home

We are creatives stuck in lockdown. There is virtually no limit to what we can do to keep ourselves busy. Some have even shot entire car adverts from home, which means we not only have the means to do anything, we also have more ways to think outside of the box.

It is much harder to separate work and personal life now that we all work from home. The temptation to look at that one email and type a fast reply is too strong to ignore, which means our mental health and our levels of stress are constantly at risk, perhaps more than it's ever been.

Keep a creative mindset and try to approach your daily routine with the same creative energy you put into your work. Perhaps this will help you better cope with the lockdown even through hard times.
 

Header image: Miguel Palomar.
 

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