How many hours a day can you be creative?

For the first time in my professional career*, I’m not being paid a flat salary regardless of how many hours I work. As a consultant and business owner, my time is much more directly related to how much money I make. And so for the first time in my life, I am (begrudgingly) tracking my hours and tasks. (Apologies to my husband who’s had to listen to me drag my feet and complain about it.)

Already it’s been enlightening. For instance, I’ve realized that I prefer to work on one project/task for 1-1.5 hour chunks and then switch to something else. And interestingly, I’ve realized that I only have about 2-3 hours a day of really good creative work in me; after that, creating anything starts to feel really forced and draining.

This actually matches up with AJ&Smart ‘s Workshopper Master program, which teaches that people only have about 3 hours of creative focused energy in them (and to plan accordingly in the context of workshops).

Being a curious person, I decided to do some of my own research. 🤓 I found LOTS of anecdotal references to famous writers and inventors – especially to Charles Darwin, who apparently worked for only a few 60-90 minute blocks in the day and filled the rest of his day with walks, reading, and spending time with his family (sounds lovely). I also found lots of references to a book called “Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less” (has anyone read it?), which in turn apparently references a 1951 study.

Part of the reason why I started my own business was to have the freedom to create a schedule that allows for creative time and doesn’t leave me feeling burned out. My experience of burnout has always been more connected with the type or quality of work I’m doing than the quantity of hours, and this data I’m finding from my own life and others’ backs that up.

So all of that to say: I guess I should plan on 2-3 creative hours each day, and fill the rest of my working hours with things that compliment my creative energy — like reading or learning, sharing my work and getting feedback, talking with others about their work, or administrative tasks (and let’s not forget the good old fashioned walk).

And of course, I’m adding that book to my ever-growing list. 📚

*ok I waitressed in high school and college, but it’s not super relevant to the discussion.

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