One of my favorite books from last year was Mason Curry’s Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. In the book he details the daily schedule of 161 artists, writers painters, thinkers, inventors, and all-around creative people. It features their quirks (Ben Franklin liked to be naked, Maya Angelou can only write in motels, and more). It’s a fascinating read, and will definitely impact your own daily creative schedule. While there’s a wealth of information in the book (I highly recommend it), here’s two critically important things I learned:
1. Seriously creative people don’t work at random. They’re slaves to routine. The vast majority of artists, writers, and other creatives featured in the book had a set schedule EVERY DAY and they kept to it. Some didn’t even deviate from the schedule on weekends or holidays. The routine was so important to their creative process, they rarely let anything interrupt.
2. These creative people don’t just do work, they do “deep work.” By contrast, “shallow work” is answering emails, doing interviews, making calls, or attending meetings. But these creatives immerse themselves in what Cal Newport calls “cognitively demanding activities that leverage our training to generate rare and valuable results, and that push our abilities to continually improve.” Newport studied these daily schedules and estimated the average number of “deep work” hours in a day to be 5.25. That means each of these artists and inventors did a deep dive into their work – five plus hours each day with no distractions, no disruptions – all focus and concentration.
How about you? Are you working on a schedule? Do you have a routine? I’m reminded of the great quote by artist Chuck Close: “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us show up and get to work.” Second question: Are you taking a deep dive? Are you setting up your work space and your schedule so you can work without interruptions or distractions for at least five hours per day?
These two keys are incredibly important if you’re serious about doing significant creative work. The question is: Would you give five hours a day to achieve greatness?