Manage Your Monday: Building a Creative Routine (and Freeing Yourself from Facebook)

Most Monday mornings, I sit in the window table at Church Street, drinking my coffee, responding to email and talking with the baristas and customers. And most Monday afternoons, I lament about how little I’ve gotten done, which quickly devolves into thinking my entire week is going to be unproductive. This morning, I’m doing things differently. I’m still at Church Street, but I’m upstairs in our quiet Reading Room. My coffee is in still here, but all my social media and email are shut down. And I’m writing instead of checking Facebook. It feels weird.

I’m doing this because of a new book, Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus and Sharpen Your Creative Mind. The title kind of says it all: This book is good for anyone trying to build a productive routine (especially anyone who’s distracted by social media, i.e., all of us), even better for creative people, and best for creative people who make a living off their creative talents.

Instead of the typical self-help pattern of “5 Ways to Success in 5 Seconds,” or, “A 10 Step Plan to Your Best Life Ever,” this book is set up as a collection of essays by successful, creative people who share what worked for them. It feels more like an exchange of ideas than a “get productive quick” scheme. And that’s part of what I liked about it. I could take what worked for me (set complex goals) and ditch what didn’t (breathing exercises). And this advice isn’t coming from just anyone. It boasts heavy hitters like Seth Godin, Steven Pressfield and Dan Ariely. Everyone included has a proven track record on what they’re writing about.

The book spends a lot of time addressing how we approach social media — and it should. Whether or not we’re in a creative field, email, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (and more) eat up a lot of our time. They also bring a lot of positive things to our lives and our careers, so, in most cases, the answer is not to ditch them, but to learn to use them productively. Manage Your Day-to-Day gives us lots of ideas on how to do that.

It also does a great job at accessing the difficulties of leading a life in which you’re professionally creative. For most of my working life, I’ve been a writer, and a lot of that time was spent freelancing. The things that sound the best about freelancing are the things that turn out to be the worst. “Set your own hours!” quickly becomes, “Work all of the hours, and use most of them procrastinating.” “Be your own boss!” means you have to actually be a boss, billing clients, doing your own taxes, holding yourself to deadlines and facing criticism and miscommunication. And, while you’re doing all these tasks (that are especially difficult for most creative people), you’re supposed to be full of inspiration and producing good work. There are a lot of things I love about freelancing (which is why, even at Church Street, I haven’t stopped picking up writing work), but a guide like this book can really help balance your responsibility to your clients and your responsibility to your art (and your responsibility to things like eating and sleeping).

I didn’t use all the ideas in Manage Your Day-to-Day (I can’t imagine cutting my to-do list down so short that it fits on a Post-It), but the ones I’ve incorporated have worked remarkably well. Not only are they effective in that I’m producing good work (and very long blogs, apparently), but they’re helping me feel better. More creative. Less stressed. More like my life is lived by me, not my Facebook account.

Carrie Rollwagen is co-owner and book buyer at Church Street Coffee & Books.



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