I, for most of my life, have had a love-love relationship with routine. It keeps me focused, tracking progress toward goals, and able to feel pride and accomplishment at the end of each week.
I love a good to-do list and a calendared week, with time planned to maximize ALL I need to get done. This approach is productive, yes, but not always in flow. I can power through simple tasks, but when it comes to the truly deep work of creating, writing, and strategizing, I find I often get stuck or run out of steam just when I need to be at my best.
Leaning more into the making of art and design in my days, as I work to launch a wallpaper line this fall, I needed a fresh approach to routine. I’d been craving more freedom and play to keep connected to my creative energy while also tackling other tasks throughout the week—developing patterns, redesigning my website, and continuing the strategy and business development side of my work.
Using a bit of design thinking, I revamped my routine to blend the productivity and comfort of a schedule with the play and intuition of an art practice. This new routine allows each week to look a bit different, with an intentional mix of creative time, work time, and even some rest time to recharge.
This new routine allows each week to look a bit different, with an intentional mix of creative time, work time, and even some rest time to recharge.
Always a reading and research nerd at heart, I borrowed some tips I’d learned from a few of my favorite reads on productivity, art, and life.
At the start of the week, I list out all the things I want to explore and accomplish in the days ahead. Everything from work to art to writing to family tasks to personal projects all works their way onto my list. From there, I take this list, super edit it, and then block my calendar in two-hour “bursts”—bursts for painting, for writing, for phone calls, and on and on.
In each burst, I make note of what I want to accomplish as I start my work, whether it’s working on one large painting or roughing out a few small ideas; writing two articles or pitching three new publications. Having the time blocked allows me to mono-task; it also allows me the freedom to choose my focus in each burst and gives me the variety I need to stay engaged.
The beauty of this routine is that it’s a bit more free-form than following the same schedule each week. It means I can work around my energy, putting most of my creative bursts earlier in the day and returning phone calls or emails later in the day, when I’m more primed for lower energy work.
Once you know where to focus your efforts, I’d invite you to start with a few small tweaks that you are drawn to, whether it’s incorporating bursts, creating a smaller to-do list, or aligning your schedule to your energy. Start small, keep what works, and keep tweaking until you find your optimal routine.
For me, this approach to routine is keeping my work fresh, my energy light, and my days filled with a varied mix of design, thinking, building, and planning. By blending my love of routine with the approach of learning to intuitively follow my energy, I’m tweaking my days and weeks to match my mindset and focus on the right type of work, at the right time. And, likely, it will continue to be a work in progress as my days and work evolve in the coming years.
Jill Elliott is an artist, wallpaper designer and writer constantly seeking inspiration and balance. You can find Jill’s wallpaper and original art at Color Kind Studio. She can often be found making art and messes alongside her daughter and puppy.
BY Jill Elliott - June 17, 2021
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