6 Ways Structure Can Help You Achieve Peak Creative Performance

As a business coach for freelancers and creative professionals, I specialize in working with people who are in a place of transition in their career or creative business. While their unique circumstances vary, more often than not they share one key challenge; they’re not fulfilling their creative and commercial potential.I’ve come to believe that a successful creative business is a blend of four things: (1) a great product or service (2) good strategy (3) hard work and (4) a willingness to be out of our comfort zone more often that not. Hey, if it were easy, everyone would do it, right?But the creative business is a unique and sensitive animal. If it’s all about strategy and objectives, we lose the creative magic and if it’s all about creativity, nothing gets done. So, how can we find and maintain balance?After working with creative professionals for 15 years, being business owner myself for eight and benefitting from the wisdom of mentors and coaches, I’ve come to the conclusion that success comes down to one thing:Creating a solid structure, within which there is a lot of freedom.If you’re in that place of transition and don’t know how to balance structure and freedom, I’d like to share 6 strategies that have worked for me:1) Know what you want from your business
If we don’t know where we want to go, we can’t create a plan to get there. Set aside some uninterrupted time to really think about what you want from your business. When we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is sometimes very different from what we think we want. For example:- Are you starting a business and want to build a roster of ideal clients?
– Are you happy with your business and clients, but would like a few more?
– Do you want to build a business that is flexible enough to work around your family’s schedule?
– Do you want to be known as a thought-leader in your industry?You can see how the strategy would be vastly different for each of these businesses, so it’s important to get clear from the outset.2) Write down everything you need to do to achieve your goal
Doing a brain dump is a great way to get all of your ideas out of your head and into one place. I love the mind-map method. It’s simple, effective and perfect for visual types. Here’s how you do it:Take a piece of paper and put your main topic, e.g. your business name, at the center. As thoughts come to mind, draw branches from the main topic and write down that thought or objective (use as few words as possible). You can create sub-branches for additional thoughts or action steps.I love Coggle for creating mind maps that look pretty too!3) Prioritize and calendarize (I know it’s not a word, but it should be!)
Take your mind map and number your goals by priority. Start with number one, let’s use Networking as the example, and list action steps you need to take. They night be:(a) Research BNI and visit one chapter this month
(b) Become a member of Freelancer’s Union and attend one event this month
(c) Research local AIGA chapterNow enter those action steps into your calendar. Once it’s in the calendar it moves from a “should” to a done deal. Now you’re free to do something else.4) Bundle your to-do’s
Have you ever ended your day feeling exhausted and frustrated because you ran around like a headless chicken, without much to show for it? I have and it sucks.
I now bundle similar tasks together and take care of them in one sitting. I set Friday aside for book keeping and general admin. Monday is dedicated to content development and marketing and I cluster my coaching sessions on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday so that I can stay in the zone and be as present as I can. Clustering your efforts also helps you balance “doing” and “creating”.5) Work with your natural rhythms
It’s no coincidence that my writing/content work is slated for Monday when I’m fresh and my boring admin is on Friday, when I’m spent. I go for an early morning run on one of my coaching days, knowing that I will benefit the most from the boost of energy and clarity it provides.6) Make time to play and create
Do you deny yourself downtime because you feel guilty that you’re not being “productive?” I struggle with this and, while we may think of it as a noble trait, it’s really not. The fact is, we need time to dream, play and create. It’s what gives us the magic, the inspiration and energy we need to do all of the above steps. Down time should be as much of a priority as everything else. So put THAT in your calendar and stick to it!