The thing I probably struggle the most with in my business is fostering my own creativity. Given free time and some art supplies, I’ll make crazy, beautiful things until the cows come home. I’m a naturally creative person, so you wouldn’t think creativity would be a problem for my business. But it is. Creativity is the engine that drives my business - if I can’t design, I don’t have anything to sell. If I’m not producing exciting new jewelry on a regular basis my customers get bored, my sales decline, and my business stagnates.
Keeping my inner creative alive is essential to my business. The problem is, there are so many things about running a business that kill your creativity. For me, my number one creativity killer is stress. How can I relax and allow the time to be inventive when I’m thinking about emails, orders, marketing calendars, client management and accounting? It always feels like there is something more pressing to do. But if I let that little light go out, there will be no emails to answer, clients to see, or money to count. There’s definitely a bit of a paradox here. For me, this is a daily struggle, and it has been from the day I started my business. Here are my strategies for reducing stress and fostering my little creative flame.
1. Set boundaries
Your business is your baby, and there is never a time when you have nothing to do or work on. We live in a culture that glorifies work and stress, and makes you feel like a slacker for putting in an honest 9-5. I do my very best to ignore these pressures. I set hard work time frames - my workday ends at 6:30 pretty much no matter what. At the end of my workday, I sit on my couch with a glass of wine or juice and I just take a minute to relax and leave the workday behind. This helps me to avoid that paralyzing stress and burnout.
We all have tasks that drain our batteries. Finding a way to delegate at least a few of these tasks is a great way to reduce stress and clear up some space in your brain. I hired an assistant to take on a lot of my production duties, allowing me to free up time to work on custom projects and new designs. Too many errands? Maybe think about hiring a Task Rabbit or using a shopping delivery service. Figure out what you can take off your plate and take it off. You don't have to do everything yourself to be successful.
3. Use your downtime wisely
There are always moments in your day when you have downtime - you’re waiting for a call back from a client, you’re 5 minutes early to a meeting, or you are stuck on the bus. Most of us use this kind of downtime to cruise social media, go over our to-do lists, or answer one quick email. I make a conscious choice not to do these things. When I’ve got a little downtime, I try to use it to clear my head, reassure myself that things are on track, and just let my mind wander free. Instead of taking in information (like from my ever present phone) I give my brain a rest and let it wander, sort, and make sense of all the things it’s dealing with already. Maybe even create some space for a great idea to pop up.
4. Recharge without punishing yourself
We all have different ways of relaxing and turning off. Some people need to get out and be active, some need to call their best friend, and some need to snuggle up with a bunch of blankets on the couch in their PJs and drink a cocktail. I fall in camp #3. Whatever that thing is that allows you to recharge, do it. Because these activities don’t feel necessarily productive, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of punishing yourself mentally for doing them. Does your brain start to whisper, “Stop being lazy, you have work to do.” If so, try to catch these thoughts and stop them. If you punish yourself for doing the things that relax and recharge you, you’re not getting the benefits for doing them at all.
5. Make time for creative play
This is the one I struggle with the most. I can’t just sit down and say to myself, “Okay, design a best-selling ring in the next 25 minutes. GO!” That is a surefire way to go into creativity lockdown. Instead, I need to sketch something unrelated, play with some modeling wax, or just bang some metal around until an idea sparks. This feels so much like fun that I am constantly battling the “GET BACK TO WORK” demons. Though doing this can be the hardest part, try to reframe creative play as an essential part of your business and workday. You will generate more ideas and better designs. And as an added bonus, your creative experiments (even the failures) will make great content for your social media outlets.
6. Cross train your creativity
Your creativity is a muscle. It needs to be worked out. You wouldn’t go to the gym, do a couple of bicep curls, and call it total-body fitness. Same goes for creativity. If you try to do the same thing over and over you might work yourself into a creative rut. Cross train your creativity by working in another medium, taking a class in a new technique, or reading about something that inspires you.
These are the things that work for me, but I'm certainly no expert. You might have a system or just some other tips that work great for feeding your creative flame- if so please share!