Creativity Training Plan for Busy Business Owners

May 23, 2017 | 18 comments

Updated June 30, 2021

Duties first, fun later.

That’s what my mom used to say when I came home from school and wanted to play, read, or draw: “After you finish your math homework.” Argh.

In school, it was the same. The teachers acted as if the art classes were just for fun, something you do on the margins of the real things (like math). It’s funny because whereas I forgot most of the “real and important” things I learned back then, I wouldn’t be able to survive without creativity.

And I’m sure it’s also true for you.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a creative entrepreneur, you need creativity to run your business and serve your clients in the best way you can.

The right-brain skills that seemed so unimportant in school turned out to be the #1 advantage in this century.

 

So, if you’re a victim of the “duties first” mindset and you have a hard time giving yourself permission to take a break from your work and create things you won’t monetize, you need to know one thing: Creativity is your duty now.

I’ve put together a creativity training plan for you to help you invite creativity back into your life in case you lost it while growing up or being too busy running your business. (And even if you never lost it, I’m sure you can use some of the ideas – who doesn’t need more creativity?)

 

“The creative adult is the child who has survived.”

 

Ursula K. Le Guin

 

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. 

 

1. Opt out of thinking you aren’t creative

This is for you if you keep saying things like “I’m not creative, I can hardly draw a stick figure.” It may surprise you, but creative doesn’t mean artistic.

The world doesn’t consist of creative and non-creative people. Even if you prefer spreadsheets to sketchbooks and math to art classes, you are creative.

If you aren’t convinced yet, watch this TED talk: How to build your creative confidence

 

Your task: Do you remember any moment in your life when you used creativity to solve a problem or come up with an original idea? You need a concrete example.

If you already consider yourself creative, this is easy. But if you think you aren’t creative, it may take some time to remember. But I’m 100% sure you will remember – even if it’s something that happened when you were a kid.

What happened? How did you feel? What did other people say?

Write it down, so you have a “physical” proof that you are creative.

 

2. Stretch your creative muscles

Contrary to what many people believe, you weren’t born (non-)creative. According to researchers, genes determine only about 10% of how creative you are.

You can build your creative muscles the same way you can build your physical muscles.

 

Your task: Every day, before you get into the “real” work, do a short creative exercise.

If you think you don’t have time, note that creativity leads to productivity. By spending a few minutes on a creative exercise, your level of stress will drop, and when you get to work, you will come up with better solutions, faster.

 

Here are some of my favorite resources for creative exercises:

  • Language is a Virus – writing prompts, exercises, and other resources to cure writer’s block. I love this website.
  • The Write-Brain Workbook – an amazing book of writing prompts.
  • The Steal Like an Artist Journal – this notebook is an extension of one of my favorite books on creativity – Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. I highly recommend both.
  • James Altucher recommends writing down ten ideas a day. It’s free and it works.

 

3. Learn more about how creativity works

Here are some essential books about creativity:

 

And here are two practical books that will teach you methods of creative thinking:

 

♣ Your task: Read at least one theoretical and one practical book about creativity.

 

4. Create!

Okay, here’s the thing: You won’t get more creative just by reading up on creativity. You have to get your hands dirty. I mean, literally.

In the Internet age, we no longer touch things. If you want to unleash your creativity, you need to find time to turn off your devices so you can feel real things and create something with your hands.

It may be gardening, cooking, or sewing. And it may also be art.

Drawing, painting, sketching, and doodling is the best cure for your long-neglected creative muscles. And I’ll say it again – you don’t have to be an artist.

 

Here are some ideas how to get started:

  • Get yourself an adult coloring book (I’m in love with this one). Zero drawing skills needed, and you won’t believe the effects it will have on your creativity and mental health.
  • Get yourself a doodle workbook. I suspect you’ll like this one: Doodling for Bookworms
  • Teach yourself how to draw. Here are the best books to get started:
  • Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book: Make a World – this book was made for kids, and that’s why it’s so amazing. If you can draw a stick figure, this book will show you that you can draw anything – no matter your age.
  • Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain – this one is for adults. This bestseller has changed many lives, and it will change yours. It doesn’t only teach you how to draw; it changes the way you see things.
  • Take an online class on Skillshare – you can learn anything from photography to doodling, calligraphy, children book illustration, or watercolor techniques.

♣ Your task: Choose one creative activity that makes you feel excited, find a course or buy a book, and get your hands dirty. Choose something you’ve never tried before. The beginner mindset will help you build creative confidence.

Bonus points if the activity involves other people (see the next point).

 

5. Surround yourself with creative minds

If you want to be smart, you need to hang out with people who are smarter than you. The same is true for creativity.

In fact, once you invite creativity into your life, you’ll meet creative people, online and offline. It’s just bound to happen. But you can accelerate it:

  • To meet more creatives in real life, go to places where creative people hang out. It’s a good idea to join a class – and it doesn’t have to be an art class. Depending on what energizes you, it may be a cooking class, a reading club, or on a yoga retreat.
  • Joining classes and communities online is even easier. Find a community, membership program, class, or a mastermind and make some new creative friends.
  • If you don’t feel like getting social, you can always listen to podcasts, watch documentaries, watch TED talks, and read blogs and books.

 

♣ Your task: Plan how you’re going to spend time around creative people every single day – online or offline, in person or through reading/listening/watching videos. Don’t focus on why it’s impossible. Find a way to make it possible.

 

6. Adopt creative habits

…and if you want to be more creative, you need to do what creative people do. I’ve noticed that many creative people I know:

  • Keep a journal
  • Carry a notebook everywhere they go
  • Read fiction, go to the movies, visit galleries
  • Travel
  • Create art, even when they suck at it and don’t monetize it any way
  • Speak multiple languages
  • Love their work
  • Try new things
  • Are involved in some kind of a religious or spiritual practice
  • Never complain they don’t have time/money

 

Your task: Observe creative people and make a list of things they do. Choose one of the habits and do it for 30 days.

 

7. Unplug from your business

I hear you: Hey, I work for a living. I don’t have the time to do all those things!

Well, I don’t have an easy solution for you. The only thing I know is that by keeping yourself busy all the time, you’re doing your business – and yourself – a huge disservice.

The thing is, busy-ness is an enemy of creativity, and therefore also an enemy of business – but that’s not the worst thing.

 

How often do you say things like…

  • As soon as I figure this email marketing/blogging/podcasting thing out, I’ll make more time for myself.
  • As soon as the business is working, I’ll start hanging out with my friends/reading real books/doing yoga again.
  • As soon as I sell enough products, I’ll have enough money and time to travel.
  • Let me just finish this one thing, and I’ll…

Okay. If that sounds familiar, I want you to know that you are not alone. And I also want you to know that you – me – and everyone else don’t have time not to have time to hang out with our friends, play with our kids (or dogs, in my case), talk to our loved ones, read, travel, sleep, dance, draw, and — live.

Because this is what really matters. Thing is, these are the things you’ll regret not doing before you die.

 

Your task: Stop waiting until later. There’s only now. Replace the business book next to your bed with a novel. Ask your husband if he wants to go out with you tonight, no matter how busy you are.

Replace some of the business blogs and podcasts in your RSS feeds with blogs and podcasts about traveling, yoga, cooking, poetry, or something else you “don’t have time to do.” Plan a vacation. Take a class that has nothing to do with business.

In case the guilty feeling that you should be working creeps in, remind yourself that (a) you’re going to die, and (b) anything that is good for you is also good for your business, anyway.

 

Here is what to do now:

Draw up a creativity action plan: What concrete things can you do this week, this month? Write it down and set reminders.

Write content that effortlessly and consistently attracts your dream clients

Writing for Dream Clients is a workbook of writing prompts designed to help you exercise your business writing skills so that you’re ready to create unique, smart, and creative blog posts, newsletters, Instagram captions, social media posts, YouTube scripts, or podcast scripts.

It’s written specifically for people who want to market their educational or coaching services and products by building trust and empathy with their audience through writing. 

✯ If you found the tips helpful, would you mind sharing the article on your favorite social media? It helps more people find it. Thank you, I appreciate it!

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18 Comments

  1. Elena Mutonono

    Veronika, fantastic resources! I’d add Twyla Tharp’s “The Creative Habit” and Jonah Lehrer’s “Imagine: How Creativity Works” to the list of books.

    Thank you for the wonderful doodling and drawing journal suggestions, I’ve just added them to my shopping list on amazon >> had to twist my arm LOL 😀

    Another valid point is when we say we don’t have time to be creative. It’s like saying we don’t have the time to enjoy life. We need to re-think why we say and do these things.

    I also liked your comment about creativity and busy-ness. We can’t be creative when we drive ourselves into the work-all-the-time rut. Hence is my personal mission and message to the world >> design your business in a way that allows you to work less!

    Reply
    • Veronika

      Hey Lena,

      That’s why your brand message resonates with me so much – you can work better by working less.

      Thank you for the suggestions! And I can’t wait to see what you’ll create with the new resources 🙂

      Reply
  2. Abigail

    Yet another great post Veronika!

    I feel creative enough but I still liked looking through your suggestions and especially liked what you said about replacing part of our “business learning resources” with courses and outings that have nothing to do with our business.

    Sometimes as a creative we really need to get out of our little “business bubble” to start feeling creative and inspired once again.

    Reply
    • Veronika

      Hey Abigail!

      I know, right? Even people who refer to themselves as “creative” entrepreneurs don’t have time to be creative anymore. (No judgments – I’m talking about myself, too.) It’s time to change it!

      Thank you so much for the comment, I appreciate you!

      Reply
  3. Elfin

    Veronika, great read !

    I’m also relieved to see I am doing something right, after all. Creativity has been my goal in the last 3-4 months. I bought Steal like an artist- awesome book- and I can’t wait to buy the journal as well.

    I’m also a big fan of doodling. So, to make myself feel less guilty, I have started making my own weekly work planners, with my doodles and markers. And it’s lovely for me even if it’s not beautiful in any way.

    I haven’t opted out of the rat race to start another one.

    I would also add to the list Everyday Adventures Journal: Tiny Quests to Spark Your Creative Life. It has activities to find adventure and creativity in your daily routine.

    I don’t think my creative activities are enough yet. Thing is, they require even more planning than work because you have to overcome the busyness mindset.

    I also intend to set a time of the day to listen to new music- why is music the first thing to go out the window when you grow older ? I love music!

    I have a hard time considering language learning me time and creative because it reminds me of my work and I want to do stuff that has absolutely no direct connection with my work.

    Reply
    • Veronika

      Hey Elfin,

      Wow, thank you for the suggestions! I’ll have to update the post!

      Yes, music – I forgot about music. You’re so right about it. When we grow up, we stop listening to music, dancing, drawing, and… I mean, why? These are the things that make the life worth living, right?

      I also love your point about planning creativity. This way, it doesn’t turn into something you’ll do when you have more time (aka never). I’ll definitely need to start doing that.

      And thinking about it, I’ll sacrifice some of the biz podcasts I listen to so I can listen to music.

      Thank you for your inspiring comments!

      Reply
  4. Elfin

    I’m so absentminded ! Forgot to write that Everyday Adventures Journal: Tiny Quests to Spark Your Creative Life is by Tammy Strobel who has an amazing blog, Rowdy Kittens. 😀

    Reply
    • Veronika

      I didn’t know the blog, but I love it. Thank you again!

      Reply
    • Veronika

      Yes! Great talk. Thank you! We should create a playlist!

      Reply
  5. trisha traughber

    I love this article! I love the part about ‘getting your hands dirty’ since two creative activities I enjoy are pottery. . .and ‘gardening’ which in our yard takes on a crazy form. For me the most difficult thing these days is finding ‘down time’ or just time to do nothing and think of nothing. Because this is sometimes when the real ideas come. . .

    Reply
    • Veronika

      Hey Trisha,

      You’re so right. Doing nothing is so important – but it’s also so hard to give yourself permission to do nothing after you’ve been told to DO SOMETHING your whole life and the culture you live in honors busyness so much.

      Thank you!

      Reply
  6. Elena Mutonono

    Yes! Doing nothing… As Brene Brown wrote, “We’ve got so much to do and so little time that the idea of spending time doing anything unrelated to the to-do list actually creates stress. … We even convince ourselves that sleep is a terrible use of our time.”

    This creativity thing is getting me in trouble, but I remembered one creative activity I’ve done for years, and then I read Philippe Petit talking about the same things, “I find that surprising myself is a powerful creative motor.”

    One thing I do is surprise myself: break my routine, go to the library, pick up a random book and check it out, order something different at a coffee shop, check out a new place, NOT do what I usually do at a specific time. We’re such creatures of routines that creativity can’t get to us because we’re always focusing on what’s ahead. But breaking a routine has done wonders for me. And we of all people, entrepreneurs working from home, CAN do it! So we should.

    Reply
    • Veronika

      That’s a great hack! Hmmm… I’ll have to think about how to break my routines.

      And that quote by Brene is so true, as always! We’re living in the “sleeping is for losers” culture…

      Reply
  7. Cara Leopold

    I dug deep into this article the other day and now:

    I’m finally doing your E-muse challenge which has been sitting in my inbox since February!
    Hung out with a friend who’s a painter last night – it was her birthday
    Realised how many creatives I have in my family (who create for a living), including my own mum (who does watercolours for herself, but has also managed to sell her work – go mum!)
    Bookmarked language is a virus – it looks like so much fun
    The books you’ve recommended are all lined up in Blinklist (well, the ones I could find at least)
    The origami kit is coming back out
    I’ll have to book some kind of holiday for myself, or at least make plans to hop over to Switzerland to see a friend
    Going to find some non-business podcasts to listen to on my morning walk
    Do something I’ve been meaning to do for ages which is take photos of the park every morning

    The guilt factor is of course there because I’m still not where I want to be financially with my business. I need to find another way to look at things other than, if I just work more, I’ll get there. So a post on dealing with guilt would be good!

    But looking at it, none of these creative habits are really going to intrude that much on work time. And if what you say is true, they can only enhance it because I’ll be feeling better anyway and no doubt that will feed into the work – as an offshoot, not as the main benefit.

    Reply
    • Veronika

      Wow, Cara, great job!

      Your mum is a watercolor artist? That’s so cool.

      I haven’t done watercolors since I’ve been away from school, and I don’t know why; I used to love it. I have a Photoshop watercolor set and sometimes experiment with that, but nothing is like the smell of watercolors! I have to order a REAL watercolor set.

      Now that I see you all taking (creative) action, it forces me to get my hands dirty as well!

      I’m curious what effects will that have on you and your business. You are already so creative, so I can’t wait what comes next 🙂

      Thank you for the topic suggestion. I think I have a lot to say about guilt since I struggle with it, too. That’s why I wrote this…

      Reply
      • Cara

        I went a bit mad and a bit left-brained – I need a list! I need a plan! But I feel like I’m seeing the world through new eyes since I gave myself permission to do what sparks my curiosity and creativity.

        Oh yeah, real watercolours are where it’s at. My mum goes to classes and they organise exhibitions which is how she’s sold some pieces. She’s upset at the demise of ‘titanium white”(it was toxic apparently), but otherwise the other colours are safe to sniff!

        My partner is also thrilled that we’re going on holiday – I just needed to give myself permission and not feel bad about it. Well, at least try not to. Life’s too short not to do the things that enegise and inspire you.

        Reply
        • Veronika

          Haha, I didn’t know that about the titanium white!

          Yes, life is too short, and besides, when you do nothing but work, you become boring and uninspired and you can’t help anyone, anyway. So, going on holiday is good for your business 🙂 (That’s what I tell myself to stop feeling guilty.)

          Reply

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