Creativity. For some, it’s a struggle. For others, a calling. For most of us, it’s both.
But, when deadlines are looming, it’s the ability to maintain a state of flow, working productively and continuously despite external pressures, that separates the creative pros from the wannabes. Fortunately, anyone can learn to achieve flow.
Flow is a state of mind characterized by enhanced, unfettered focus. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi popularized the concept in his 1990 book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, and since then it’s caught on in nearly every avenue of creative and professional life, from education to art to professional productivity. In a state of flow, work becomes easier. You’re focused, energetic, and engaged. Work feels more like play. Stress and external pressures fade away, and you feel free to explore, connect new ideas in novel ways, and just, well, create.
It’s not always easy to get into a state of flow, and it’s a state that is easily broken. But with good habits and some helpful tools, you can get there, stay there, and work brilliantly. You can achieve this by taking steps to simplify your workspace and workflow, clearing the course so your creativity can run free.
Simplify Your Creative Workspace
While a recent study indicates that clutter can boost creative thinking a bit, stopping what you’re doing to search for something you need in a pile of unnecessary stuff is a surefire way to disrupt your flow. Every time you take your mind off the task at hand, it takes time to get back into what you were doing before. Psychologists call this “context switching,” and it has a measurable impact on your creative output. The more time you spend doing something else – like looking for the stylus that went missing under a pile of papers on your desk – the harder it will be for you to get back into a state of flow and start working productively again.
For creative workers, the tools of the trade can produce their own form of clutter. Extra displays, drawing pads, and tablets can quickly accumulate to take up precious workspace. So do what you can to tame tech clutter by choosing gear that works with all your devices. Choose devices that you can access from any computer or tablet, because you can set them up out of the way while still accessing them instantly when you need to.
At the same time, be sure to keep essential tools right at hand at all times. That particularly includes capture devices, like scanners, cameras, voice recorders, and notepads. Place these within easy reach, so you can grab them the moment inspiration strikes, before your brilliant ideas slip away. Then immediately store those ideas in a central, trusted spot that you can always get to.
A networked hard drive is a perfect choice, because it not only connects to all the devices in your home or office, but also lets you access your data over the cloud when you travel.
Reduce Drag In Your Workflow
Even more than your workspace, the systems and apps you use have a massive impact on your creative workflow. The better your apps work together, the easier it will be to maintain your flow and let your best work happen.
Thanks to the cloud, it’s now easier than ever to share files between devices and apps. But online cloud services typically charge dearly for storage, and creative materials like photos, music files, and videos take up a tremendous amount of space. Creative pros need terabytes – not gigabytes – of storage.
Rather than pay $500 a year for a few hundred gigabytes of storage on a cloud service someone else controls, look for a network-attached storage device that connects to a private cloud, like the WD My Cloud. It acts as your own personal cloud with several terabytes of storage, securely serving up all your most important stuff, just for you, accessible anywhere, from any device. And because it’s all in one safe place on your own network, you have complete control. These drives also connect to cloud services like Dropbox, so you can share your data and collaborate with others when and how you want to.
Centralizing your storage makes it effortless to capture and save your ideas, inspirations, and work files from any device, and that reduces drag in your workflow. It also makes it easy to share your work, including streaming music and video to connected tablets, TVs, and media players.
With your data conveniently centralized for optimal flow, it’s important to choose apps that work the way you want to. In addition to whatever core production software you use – be it Photoshop, InDesign, Final Cut, Premier, or whatever – have some handy idea-catchers accessible at all times, so you can capture your best thoughts before they have a chance to get away.
Here are a few awesome apps for capturing your brilliance without disrupting your flow.
- Evernote. Still the king of note-taking, Evernote makes it easy to capture voice recordings, photos, and text for instant retrieval. It works on the web, desktop, and mobile devices.
- Distraction-free text editors are great for hammering out raw ideas without worrying over the niceties of formatting and structure. They can also suppress notifications from your other apps to keep you from fluttering away to Facebook in the middle of a brainstorm. There’s no single best choice, but OmmWriter, which works on Windows, Mac, and iOS, is a good option. Microsoft Word now includes this feature, too.
- Sketching apps, especially on tablets, are simply awesome for rendering any rough idea into the world. On iPad, Evernote’s Penultimate is tough to beat. Jut grab a stylus and start drawing, then export your ideas to other apps when you’re ready.
- Diagramming apps make it easier to convey complex ideas to others. And, perhaps more importantly, they can help you understand your own ideas better. For maximum shareability and collaboration, cloud-based apps like Gliffy and LucidChart are great. On the iPad, Grafio is an excellent choice, as it turns hand-drawn shapes into clean, detailed charts.
- Cloud Storage apps are essential for accessing all of your files from anywhere. Use them to save and backup files directly from your computer, smartphone, or tablet, and keep your data handy at all times. WD’s MyCloud drives, for instance, come with desktop and mobile apps that work with all your devices.
Less Housekeeping, More Creativity
Once you’ve experience a real current of flow in your creative work, you’ll never want to let that feeling go. You certainly won’t want to disrupt it to manage some menial drudgery like backing up your hard drive. To maximize peace of mind, take the time to set up automated backups for all your devices with software like WD Smartware, so you never have to worry about losing your work. Also, look for a device that protects your data automatically with a feature like WD’s Safepoint, which makes secondary copies of files for you, so you can always revert to a good copy of any file.
This story, "Spark Your Creativity By Simplifying Everything" was originally published by BrandPost.