Why a Consistent Schedule Is Important for Creative Work

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Manage Your Day-to-Day" by 99U and Jocelyn K. Glei. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you work on your creative pursuits only when inspiration strikes you? Do you tend to start more than you finish?

Often, creatives are thought of as free and unstructured. But, successful creative professionals know the importance of a consistent schedule. Not only can a routine help you follow through and get things done, but it also can spark creativity and confidence.

Read more to learn about the importance of a consistent schedule with insights from Gretchen Rubin and James Clear.

Keeping a Consistent Schedule

Many creatives suggest that the first step to becoming more creative is prioritizing creative work. The best way to do this is to build a routine around your creative projects. Without an intentional and consistent schedule, they argue, it’s unlikely you’ll ever make significant progress on your biggest and best ideas.

Once you establish a routine, be consistent. According to Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project and The Four Tendencies, creativity thrives on consistency. She explains that consistency works because it’s realistic, allowing you to work on your creative projects a little bit every day while also managing your other personal and professional responsibilities.

(Shortform note: As detailed in Daily Rituals, numerous creative professionals—from Pablo Picasso to Anne Rice—attribute their accomplishments to their consistent daily practice. However, a 2021 study revealed that 58% of people still believe that creative achievement is the result of spontaneous inspiration.)

Rubin adds that consistency isn’t only realistic, but it also fuels creativity. Working on a project a little bit every day keeps ideas fresh in your mind and makes it easier to start work every time. It also alleviates pressure and anxiety by ensuring steady progress and fosters a more playful mindset, increasing the likelihood of inspiration striking regularly. The beauty of consistency is that it’s self-reinforcing because consistently working on a project strengthens your belief in your ability to make progress on your creative work, instilling a sense of accomplishment and fueling your motivation to keep going.

(Shortform note: To help you stay consistent with your creative work, James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, recommends using what he calls “The Seinfeld Strategy.” Allegedly the secret to comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s consistent success is that he writes every day and uses a calendar to check off each day he’s written. His goal is to not “break the chain” of daily writing. The Seinfeld Strategy helps shift the focus from individual performance to producing consistently and making your consistency visible. Clear emphasizes that for the strategy to be effective, your daily creative task must be meaningful and manageable, for example writing three pages every morning or completing at least one sketch a day.)

Why a Consistent Schedule Is Important for Creative Work

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Here's what you'll find in our full Manage Your Day-to-Day summary:

  • That creativity is the result of disciplined work habits, not innate genius
  • Tips from experts on how to boost your creativity, focus, and productivity
  • Why you should never strive for creative perfection

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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