Weekly Unstructured Creative Time

Here is something I want you to try that will basically change your life as far as creativity goes. It is really simple, and when I describe it you might think “oh, that’s no big deal” and so not even bother to actually do it. But I promise you, really give this a whirl and I think you will be very happy with the results. This practice has obvious benefits for creative types; artists, writers, film makers etc. but I truly believe that anyone can benefit from adding more creative insight to their life, which is why I have designed this activity to be adaptable to any sort of creativity.

What am I talking about? I call it Weekly, Unstructured, Creative Time. WUCT. Yeah, dorky sounding acronym. Oh well. Here is the deal; simply spend one hour a week not working on anything in particular, just allowing yourself to think, to ponder, to muse, to daydream . . . to be creative.

This is so important because so many of us are always working on something, we never let our brains have the downtime to just amble and wander, and this is often the best time for truly new and original ideas! (I won’t bore you with all the studies that have recently come out backing up this claim, but I could.)

Yes, it is kind of an oxymoron. I am talking about scheduling time to space-out. Making this a part of your weekly routine. But once you try it, it will likely become a corner-stone of your whole week. Let’s take a closer look at what I mean.

W — Weekly. You don’t have to do this the same time and place and day each week, although I recommend it.  The main thing is simply to make this a regular feature of your schedule. Try it at least 3 weeks in a row. Some sessions are going to be more fruitful than others. Just spend 1 hour and you will probably get enough new ideas to keep you busy all week.

U —Unstructured. There aren’t any rules. You aren’t trying to do anything in particular. This is important. Don’t go into the hour thinking you are going to focus on this or that project or task. Let your mind wander. Here is how I do it, I sit down somewhere (outside if the weather is nice) with a notebook and a pencil, and I daydream and write down whatever comes to mind. You are still being receptive to ideas, but it is a playful sort of concentration. You can doodle, journal, make lists, whatever. The trick here is a simple one, that people have long been aware of, but rarely attempt to directly harness: We get our best ideas when we are just playing around.

C— Creative. The key here is don’t censor anything. Just take note of whatever comes to mind. What I mean by don’t censor anything is don’t ask yourself “is this idea worth having”? Just have it. To often we try to asses inchoate ideas, we ask what is this idea worth, is it cool, is it smart, etc. We try to monetize and evaluate our ideas before they are even born, nothing could be less playful, nothing could be more lethal to the creative process. During this hour allow yourself to just play and not judge.

T— Time. I recommend trying this for an hour a week. And although it might sound weird, I recommend to pick a repeating time, one day a week and schedule that to be your hour when you do this. Simply because then you will be sure to remember, and  rituals that we repeat at the same time and day regularly are more likely to stay with us.


A few recommendations:

  • Get away from the computer, don’t use the internet, and turn off your phone. Those things will distract you.
  • If you can, sit somewhere else. Somewhere quiet. Get away from your normal workspace, try a cafe, or your backyard, or a quiet place in your house away from distraction. Experiment until you find the best spot for you.
  • If you get stuck take a short walk.
  • It’s ok to feel bored. (Although it is just as likely to feel relaxing, exciting, and to be a stress reliever.)
  • You can of course think about projects that you are working on, nothing is off limits, just don’t force yourself to work on anything in particular, let it come to you naturally.

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