When are you most creative?

Specifically, what time of day are you most creative?

Let’s think about this:

Part of being creative is making the time for creativity.

Another part of the process is knowing when you’re most creative, so you can make the most of that time. (And schedule it, if necessary.)

Sara Naumann blog on creativity

Think about your day in general and then ask yourself: What time feels like the most creatively energetic for me? There’s no right or wrong and the answer is different for everyone.

Creatively speaking, I’m super-productive from about 9am to noon, and in the early evening.

What does that mean? That I know it’s best for me to do the big, creative, experimental stuff first thing in the morning. Does it mean I can’t make something in the afternoon? No—but I do know that it’s better for me to spend my afternoon doing more routine activities, like prepping video segments or making a stash of backgrounds or writing instructions. Or doing techniques I’ve done often. But getting wild and crazy? That’s for the mornings.

This sounds like a magical solution of planning but the truth is that I struggled with this for quite awhile, trying to fit my creative productivity into a standard work day. (And expecting to maintain it all day long.) When I worked in an office, I used to experience the same afternoon slump I do now—sometimes  made worse by long business lunches. And when I was in school, I always learned more in my morning classes than afternoon sessions.

You can get a good sense of your creative time by keeping a little log or just sitting down to journal about it for a few minutes. When are you tired? When are you energetic? Do you need a long period of uninterrupted flow time? Or maybe you work best in short bursts.

One good key indicator: When do you lose track of time? That tends to be a good sign that you’re in your creative zone. When your energy dips and you find yourself looking at the clock or struggling to concentrate, that’s the perfect time to do other work.

But wait, there’s more!

We’ve been talking about output…but you also want to think about the other side of creativity, too: Input.

Output is where you create, make, try, do. Input is reading, watching, walking, collecting, sorting, absorbing. Both sides need to be present in order for creative results to happen.

If input is a hard one to schedule, remember it can often be done in short sessions: Read a magazine in the evening before bed, collect leaves on your way to the car in the morning, doodle while on the phone with a client at work. And if you have kids, you’ve got a great opportunity in playtime. One woman I know says she needs to play with her kids because that’s her playtime too. So absorb that energy as you make puzzles, tumble, tickle, chase, sing and read stories in a funny voice.

Input times generally tend to be the times when we’re feeling a bit more open and receptive—this might actually be the opposite of your output time, but not always.

Want to take it a step further? Time of day is one thing to consider but you might also think about time of the year. Cold winter days might inspire you to stay indoors and create (depending on the hemisphere you live in) or long, warm summer days might provide the creative boost. And if you live where there’s little change in the seasons, consider the effect that has on your creative energy.

So think about your best, most fruitful creative time of day (and/or of the year). I find it’s helpful to journal about it to break it down into specifics, and then set to making the most of the information. Schedule the time. Plan for it. Be ready for it. And then, make the most of it.

Happy Monday!