Structure for Creative Nomads

Structure for Creative Nomads

Working in Your PJs

The flexibility of being self employed is both a blessing and a bane. We talk about how we can make our own schedules and take time when we need it. But then, it seems as though the day gets eaten up by minutiae and distractions, and we finally get to work much later than we had promised ourselves and we’re still in our pjs. This seems to be especially true for creatives, and even more true for nomads, as we tend to have fewer ties to the communities where we live.

I’m not perfect at it by any means, but I have developed a framework that helps to keep me on track.

Anchoring as Nomads

Mostly, I anchor one activity to another. I have a difficult time getting up and out of bed. So, now, when I wake up I sit up, drink the water I put by the bed the night before, and listen to a podcast for 10-20 minutes. Then I get out of bed and grab another water and work out. After that it’s my morning pages and green tea, followed by breakfast. At which point I’m ready for my chocolate flake black tea with milk and my productive writing for the day. Each one of those activities is tied to something I would do anyway, mostly drinking tea or water. One by one, I’ve tied a ‘need to’ to a ‘want to; so that when I do the ‘want to’, I feel weird not doing the ‘need to’.

This way, I’ve gotten my writing done at my most creative time of day and have some momentum going as well. If you’ve never done productivity heat mapping, I strongly recommend it. It really helps in figuring out how to plan your day, or at least set up a framework, which is the closest to scheduling many creatives get.

The Power of Lists

After a shower and lunch, I plan my design work and make another tea. (Tea figures heavily into my day, so I use it to my advantage.) In between designs, I take a 5-15 minute break, usually making another tea and if there’s time, pulling something from my 5-10 Minute List. I’m awful at seeing a small window of time and utilizing it. So, I made a list, sort of like a cheese platter, where I can pluck one item that works for the space of time that I have. In addition to getting a mental reset between designs, I get the bonus of knocking some small thing off of my list. These small steps add up, sometimes to completing a project, sometimes to climbing a volcano.

These small steps add up, sometimes to completing a project, sometimes to climbing a volcano. Click To Tweet

As it turns out, I’m a list person, which I think everyone but me already knew. In addition to my 5-10 Minute List, I also have a Fallow List. Towards the end of the day, when my energy is drained I just want to veg. This is when I previously would have binge watched Leverage. Well, have binge watched Leverage. And if you’re watching something because you love it, that’s one thing. But when you’re watching something because you just can’t think of anything better to do, that’s something else entirely. I’m looking at you Fuller House. This is where having a Fallow List comes into play. My Fallow List has several pretty mellow nonthinking activities on it. Some are productive and some aren’t, but none suck me into spending 3 hours on Netflix.


My business-crush Jen says that if it’s not immensely pleasurable nor immensely productive, she’s not interested. I love this, but I’m not quite there yet and I don’t know if I ever will be. Or even if I want to be, really. However, I do take a strong look at what my friend Leela calls Cotton Candy Pleasures, the things that you think you enjoy, until you’re done and you don’t feel any better. It could be eating twizlers or watching the show you always watch, even though the storyline has gone so far off track that you feel disappointed in it. For this, I strongly recommend planning out something enjoyable every day. For me, that’s a long (1-2 hours) walk, while listening to a podcast. And once a week or so I watch a movie either in a theater or online.

Of course, outlining your day is very much specific to you and as a nomad, sometimes your location, but if you find yourself losing hours of your day and want them back, it’s worth the attempt. And at first, that’s probably all it will be. Finding a flow that works for you is a process, in that it takes a while to get there, and once you do, it will inevitably change.

So, tell us, what do you do to keep your day on track?

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