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As creatives, established or aspiring, interruptions in our work can show up as:
When I discovered what creative flow was I quickly realized that in order to experience more of it, I would have to extend my ability to focus. I would have to learn how to hold my attention on something for a long period of time.
Of course, if you’re an avid reader this may come easy. However reading is a receptive form of mental control.
Creative flow is not solely receptive but it is both receptive and expressive. It demands oscillation between the inward and outward experience.
It requires a focus on the forest but also the trees; the vision, but also the details.
It requires structure, order, and self-discipline, but also freedom, expansion, and non-judgement.
With all of this brain activity happening, a person’s mental, intellectual, and creative capacity can grow exponentially. This can lead to periods of peak productivity.
But what if the dog won’t stop barking?
Or you feel pressed to cook dinner in an hour?
Maybe the kids need help finding a book or your email notifications are unrelenting.
Interruptions are not exactly fun for those of us who learn to love a good creative flow state. They can also create a much longer work day as it is said that it can take up to 20 min to refocus after an interruption. If you have ever experienced a creative flow state, then you understand the depth of focus that can bring massive productivity. It needs no interruption.
Over the years of tuning into my creative centers while also raising three noisy boys, caring for pets, keeping up a home, and having (thankfully, but at times woefully) unending access to technology, I have learned a thing or two about managing the day to day interruptions as a multimodal creative, graduate student, and business owner.
Here are some things you can try if it feels right for you.
Try to Work With the Interruptions, Don’t Resist Them
For many of us the interruptions are a source of anxiety and frustration. However, the mind is resilient and, with practice, it does have the ability to pierce through the stimulation. Instead of resisting the experience of an interruption, work with it- receive it. Perhaps it is sharing new information with you for a reason. The creative flow state is, after all, allowing for an exchange of information inwardly and outwardly all at once. Lean in to that heightened awareness.
Turn Notifications Off
Turn off the phone / laptop / computer notifications when you have to fully commit to focusing! I use an app called “Forest” which turns off notifications and puts my phone in a do not disturb status for 25 minute intervals.
Find structure / Self-discipline
If you are looking for better focus, deeper creative flow states, and higher productivity in less time, find structure and stick to it. Make self-discipline a daily practice, not just for your work, but for life. When you have a routine, ritual, or what I like to call “entry points” that trigger you into inspiration or the right kind of mindset, imagine how much more you can accomplish.
Set Expectations Early
Communicating with household members, partners, and family that you have a plan is the best way to execute the said plan. In addition to keeping a full month’s calendar of the events and important dates lined up, I also set expectations at the beginning of each week with my husband. It can be as simple as I have a light week or I have a busy week. This is a boundary setting practice that protects your precious creative energy. When the deadline day arrives and you are pressed to complete a project, the people you share your life with have already been reminded that you have a commitment.
Body First / Home Environment
This can take some time unless you’re a naturally adept homemaking supermom. When running a home and craving creative time, you learn what interrupts you most. You learn what prevents you from getting into those creative projects. So many needs have to be met before our creative urges can be satiated. My #1 Rule: body first. This includes the environment you live in. If your basic needs are screaming at you, listen to them. Over time you will develop ways to be more efficient, but in order to keep coming back to those creative projects with full force and full expression, you have to make it sustainable.
As a homeschool mom of young children I understand that interruptions are part of my day, every day, without notice. What I have learned to do is work in bite sized intervals that I call “work sprints” which allow me 20-25 minutes of focused work. If I can get 2-3 of these sessions in during the homeschool day then I have a great start for work that needs to be wrapped up by the evening.
If You Have Kids, Create Independent Play
If you have children, especially young children, they require so much more attention and have much different needs than older children. Play dough, crafts, and sensory bins are great and allow for independent play, but often require close supervision as there can be smaller parts and messy materials. While I do my best to reduce the amount of screen time they have, I did find that Osmo learning kits for Kindle or iPad are incredibly intuitive for my kids ages 4-7. They love the Osmo Creative Genius!
Of course, there are things you can control, and things you can’t. If you are raising young children, they do require a lot of attention, eyes, and ears. This may just be the season of your life for the present time. Finding acceptance in that and not forcing your creative flow can help keep your energy from becoming blocked for when you do have the opportunity to tap into those sacred moments of creation.
As a mom of three, I have spent the last 8 years learning how to balance my highly active creative mind with the more nurturing aspects of motherhood. Here are some ways I support my creativity in the midst of busy-ness:
- Use a notepad or Google docs for quick note taking
- Use a voice recorder
- Give your kids workbooks & ask them to sit with you while you both work
- Listen to podcasts, coaching programs, and/or inspirational videos while you do housework
- REST! Sacred rest is so important to sustain yourself in this kind of work
Lastly, I saved this for the end.
One final way to work with interruptions to your creative flow is to do the inner work. When you sit down to face those big dreams, it requires you to get real honest as you develop this connection to your true self. There can often be emotions, traumas, and challenges that come with sitting in this space of asking “who am I and what am I doing? what do I have to give to the world?” Practice self-compassion and know that healing your inner wounds makes you resilient. In doing that inner work you find a warrior within you that has an incredible gift to share.