Creativity doesn’t happen in the five minutes between meetings or between reading our emails. If we want to get in the right mood to be creative, we need to create a specific time and identify a specific place where we will focus only on being creative. John Cleese, the famous British actor, of Monty Python fame, refers to this as creating a “boundary of time” and a “boundary of space”.
A boundary of time is a dedicated slot on our calendar where we will avoid distractions and focus only on being creative. A boundary of space can be our office, a conference room, the library, the park or even our home where we can be alone, or with others, as we focus only on whatever creative pursuit we are working on.
Here’s an example. When I was writing my book, The Fit Leader’s Companion: A Down-to-Earth Guide for Sustainable Leadership Success, I spent every weekday morning for several months in my office from 5:30 – 7:00 a.m. My boundary of space was my home office, and my boundary of time was the 90 minutes I committed to spending focused on my book. When I entered my office each morning, the only application I opened on my computer was Microsoft Word. My email remained turned off. Some mornings I wrote nothing, other mornings a wrote a few sentences and if I was lucky on occasion I wrote a whole chapter. It didn’t matter. By setting up the right environment, and dedicating a specific amount of time each weekday morning, I was able to focus entirely on my book. Within 4-5 months, I had a book. If I hadn’t set up these boundaries, and honored them each morning, it would have taken me a lot longer to complete this project.
Each of us has the opportunity to carve out some time each week or each month to focus only on creative pursuits. To begin, we may set aside 30 minutes a week to remove all other distractions to think creatively. Over time, we may find that this time is so productive that we expand it. Most of us probably waste more than 30 minutes a week, so it is an illusion that we don’t have enough time to set aside for this activity.
In the end, we need to choose importance over urgency, as the late Stephen Covey encouraged us to do. Many of us are addicted to urgency, and neglect spending time on creating what’s next or what’s better. While we may not have total control over our calendar, many of us give up control over how we spend our time, day in and day out.