Use Your Natural Rhythms: Freedom to Work Creatively and Productively

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MexicoI’ve been thinking a lot about music lately – I even have a notepad in my car to record the artists and titles of songs that I love.  Maybe it is because my 30th birthday is coming up in August and I am partially planning my party… trying to figure out the guest list, and whether they would go along with me and come over for an evening of games with some serious Latin flare. 

I wish I had been born a Latina.

So all this thinking about music begins to mix with the rhythm of working I find myself in lately. 

Painting and drawing obsessively for a couple of weeks and then spending a couple of days doing nothing but writing (promotional stuff, blog stuff, updating my records, remembering or rediscovering the other places where I’ve left online finger prints) with a few days of doing nothing art related sandwiched in between.

To you,  this may seem like manic behaviour but I’d like to argue that it is part of my natural working rhythm.  There are times I push the pedal into the floor and other times it feels like I take my foot completely off of it. Finding the balance, finding the rhythm is what keeps my engine moving in the right direction and helps me avoid burn out.

Odd? Perhaps but then again how many artsy types do you know that conform to strict standards of normalcy in all their affairs?

Your body has its own rhythms, some notes it shares with groups of others while other notes are uniquely yours. Think of it like the way you would take breaths for swimming underwater. There are manic times where you suck in as much air into your lungs as you can possibly fit. Days like this might be extremely busy, full of information, inspiration and activity. They transition into days where you hold your breath and try to get as much done as possible before coming up for air. These might be days working under deadline. And finally the swimmer breaks the surface with a gasp, exhalling all that spent, pent up air. Days like this may take the formof vacation, watching lots of t.v. or for some a mild bout with project post-partum.

So what does your rhythm sound like?

Perhaps you find yourself identifying with the writings of time management experts, you are able to work because you work at certain pre-planned times and places.

Maybe you just “work your way” through your creative tasks, doing each task as it presents itself.

Maybe you work in time to the waxing and waning of the moon.

Maybe you like to have a deadline, so that you know which 3 days you really need to focus.

Or perhaps you like deadlines so that you can ration the number of hours required to complete your project into the number of days you are given.

It is perfectly ok if you don’t identify with any given working style.

Let’s make this whole metaphor thing a little more complex.

I’ve also discovered that I have my own sense of time as well. I don’t mean time you can track on a clock, but periods of  hours, days, weeks, whatever where I am ready to learn something. Have you ever had the solution to a difficult problem just seemingly appear out of nowhere? Perhaps it is because you have finally reached a place where you can see things just a little differently than you did 5 minutes before. So when you are faced with a tough problem you are faced with a choice, struggle through it or find something else to do and come back to it later.  Each of the options has merrit, and there are times and places for both. I think that figuring out which option is right for your situation has a lot to do with knowing and understanding your own natural rhythm.

Working against the grain.

What you are likely to find is that working completely against your “working grain”  is like discovering that you are the only one in your group clapping the “off beat”.  You may be hitting the beat exactly, but something doesn’t feel right. It is awkward. It may even force you to stop to analyze what isn’t working.

 The combination of rhythm and timing is something that belongs uniquely to you. 

So how do you know when to push and when to give yourself a break?  

Consider cutting yourself some slack if you see yourself in these questions.

  1. Have you been beating your head up against this project and getting no where?
  2. Do you feel like you’ve been running, and running but not really keeping pace?
  3. Do you dread getting down to work? Why do you think that is?
  4. Are you avoiding work because you are too exhausted to even think about it?
  5. Have you lost interest in a lot of your normal activities? 

Seriously consider pushing through if you identify more with these questions.

  • Are you avoiding your project because you don’t know where to start or where to go next?
  • Do you have a deadline to consider? How near is it?
  • Are you avoiding work because you just “don’t feel like it”?

Of course these aren’t hard and fast rules, just some guidelines that I use. If you have other thoughts please post them in the comments!

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