Structure is what allows creativity to flow. It makes space for it. Because here’s the thing:
You might have a genius idea out of the blue some day.
It’s just very unlikely.
Your killer idea more likely will follow boring idea No. 107, or No. 1007.
James Clear, the best-selling author and blogger about all things ‘habit creation’, tells his readers about a conversation that got him to up his own game as a blogger and become a bestselling writer. Clear once asked a successful colleague when he created his best writing, because his own writing flowed some days, but did not on others. His colleague responded that his creative flow also had ups and downs. His writing just happened to be best every morning between 9 and 10 am, when his alarm went off to prompt his writing. With this comment, he pointed out how structures are a must-have for sustained creativity. And how sticking to them, even on a bad day, makes space for good days.
Likewise, we can prime ourselves and our teams for creative flow by setting the same time for creativity every day. But there’s more to successful habit creation:
Even on a day of low output, we allow ourselves to tick a box for sticking to our habit.
All we care about is that ticked box for faithfully sticking with the habit. When we tick the box, our brain receives a reward for having achieved our goal. That reward creates the motivation to do it again the next day. And doing something faithfully creates a new identity.
Boom, we have just shifted from “I have to create something great” to “I am creative.”
Ultimately this simple habit loop of primer (alarm), action (habit), and reward (ticking the box on our habit tracker) leads to the desire to do it again. And it will raise the overall quality and quantity of our output.
A tiny habit can have great effect, so a lack of time is no reason for not doing it.
Jerry Seinfeld, a prolific producer of funny jokes, has a big calendar on his wall. On that calendar he tracks his habit of writing one joke a day. His simple goal is to “never break the chain” on the calendar. Not interrupting that streak of crosses is really important, because it creates an ever growing motivation to keep at it. Note that Seinfeld neither tracks the quality nor the quantity of his jokes. He has used this simple structure of just one joke a day to sustain an incredibly successful career.