Creativity Training Plan for Busy Business Owners
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:
- Austin Kleon – Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
- Steven Pressfield – The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
- Tom Kelley – Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All
- Elizabeth Gilbert – Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
- Jonah Lehrer – IImagine: How Creativity Works
- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
- Daniel H. Pink – A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future
And here are two practical books that will teach you methods of creative thinking:
- Tim Hurson – Think Better: An Innovator’s Guide to Productive Thinking
- Michael Michalko – Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques
♣ Your task: Read at least one theoretical and one practical book about creativity.
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
- 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.