In Organizing for Creative People, Sheila Chandra guides you to nurture your creative well-being. Being well organized starts with knowing why it’s important to you. After all, if you don’t know why you’re doing it, your subconscious mind won’t help you prioritize it.
This article first appeared on Sheila Chandra’s website.
Why being well organized is essential when you have a creative career
Contrary to popular myth, being well organized actually helps you be creative. For instance what are you going to do if inspiration strikes and you don’t have your work materials easily to hand? Will you miss out on ideas while you search for a pen/brush? Secondly, how will you keep track of all your amazing ideas? Will you simply work on them haphazardly? And finally, how will you consistently steer your career, so that those great ideas get the exposure they deserve?
Being well organized is not about ‘looking good’
Too many of us creative people have mistaken ideas about what being well organized means. Take a minute the think about what it means for you. Is it about having a beautiful studio? One where things are displayed the way they are in those gorgeous high-end interior design shops you sometimes visit? Should that actually be your goal? Too often we’ve learned about what being well organized looks like, from people who are desperate to sell us storage solutions. These are not people who know anything about being a creative person, nor do they know anything about your own personal habits in your workspace.
Being well organized means making sure your workspace works around you
Shouldn’t being well organized mean that you work faster and more efficiently? Around your personal unique work patterns? And therefore does it matter what being well organized looks like to others? You may lay out your tools very idiosyncratically – in a way that looks almost random to others. If it helps you work well and easily, then it really doesn’t matter. But if you look in interior design magazines, you could almost believe that there’s a ‘correct’ one-size-fits-all way to be well organized. This is completely wrong.
Your workspace should act like an ‘exo-skeleton’
Think about what happens when a great idea strikes you. If you’re well trained in your discipline, chances are there’s nothing stopping that idea being expressed by your body perfectly e.g. what you ‘see in your head’ is what you draw, or what you sing, or play. And that usually happens first time. It’s ultra efficient because you’ve spent time making sure your body is under control. Well I want your workspace to do the same. I want there to be no interruption as that idea flows out of you onto paper, tape, canvas or hard drive.
What does that mean?
It means nothing tripping you up, no searching frantically for the right pen/brush/microphone/file. No tripping over cables or your cup of tea. Nothing stopping you or interrupting you. Why? Well you and I both know that the faster you get that fantastic idea down, the more ‘life’ it’s going to contain. It has to be an efficient process, because your career depends on it. Can you see why I’m saying your workspace should act like an extension of your body? It should enable you to work just as well as your well-trained muscles do.
How do I make sure I’m well organized to that degree?
List the frequent tasks you perform in your workspace – each on a separate index card. Now under each task list the things you need to achieve it. Each of these tasks should form the basis of a ‘workstation’ where everything you need to complete it is literally within an easy arm’s reach, with the most frequently used items to the front. Once you arrange all your frequent task workstations like this, you’ll find yourself getting things done much faster and more easily. Particularly if you get into the habit of replacing every item in its place each time as you go.
And the upside is less stress. Your workspace will feel far more welcoming, because it’s easy to work in – however chaotic it looks. Try it out! You’ll find it time well spent.
Sheila Chandra made some of the most beautiful and innovative recordings in the World Music category – beginning with her band Monsoon’s 1982, ground-breaking Asian Fusion, top ten hit around the world, ‘Ever So Lonely’ – until voice problems forced her to retire in 2010. Since then, in an unlikely twist, she’s become a best-selling author with ‘Banish Clutter Forever’ (2010) outlining her own system for home organizing which she says makes it possible to “pretty much, never tidy up again”.
Discover more in Sheila Chandra’s book Organising for Creative People.