One of the ideas I've come across often when reading articles about doing creative work is the concept of working with your natural energy flow throughout the day. There are times during the day when it's easier to accomplish creative tasks than others.

For me that has been a difficult thing to nail down. Sometimes I feel like working on things in the morning. Other times I don't. When and what I feel like working on constantly shifts, so I've always felt that working along with the way I feel is a totally unrealistic idea.

But then I came across Sketch Now, Think Later by Mike Yoshiaki Daikubara. I started reading this book mainly for the real life sketching advice, and it is one of the best books on sketching that I've read, especially when it comes to making art on the go and in a short amount of time.

However, what also amazed me is how Daikubara looks at time. He explained that he's found that moments throughout his day typically fall into one of four categories:

Little Time/Lots of Energy
Lots of Time/Little Energy
Lots of Time/Lots of Energy
Little Time/Little Energy

Then he mentioned what he does for each category:
  • Little Time/Lots of Energy: This is when he sketches the most.
  • Lots of Time/Little Energy: He goes out for a walk.
  • Lots of Time/Lots of Energy: Sometimes he creates sketches, but he often feels lost in all the possibilities due to the excess amount of time.
  • Little Time/Little Energy: Rest
Feeling totally inspired, I decided to take this mindset a step further. I created a list of activities I could do for each category.

For example for the Lots of Time/Lots of Energy category, I made a list kind of like this:

  • Cook for the week
  • Do deep cleaning
  • Write multiple blog posts 
  • Draw comic pages 
  • Writing: Planning and plotting new stories
  • Go on a social outing
  • Read a How-To book
My real list is a bit longer, but this is basically how it is. Since the category is Lots of  Time/Lots of Energy, I focused on how I would spend the day if I had all the time to do what I wanted. In reality, this mainly applies to vacation days and days where I decide to cancel everything and do what I want. 

But typically my day falls into Little Time/Lots of Energy. For that, my list is like this: 

  • Break chores into 5 or 10-minute tasks. 
  • Make simple to cook meals. 
  • Shop online or go to just one store to get everything I need.

  • Writing: Write in stream of consciousness. No backspacing. Use a Pomodoro timer. When editing, only edit for typos, punctuation, or to add extra info. 
  • Comic making: Draw characters on pages. Exclude hands. Erase minimally. 

  • Short social media check-ins
  • Send a text
  • Make a short phone call
Here I've listed the same activities as the previous list, except the activities are condensed so they can be done in less time. Under chores I break up large tasks into smaller ones. For my projects, I take a "work fast now, perfect later" approach. At moments like this, I don't have time to be a perfectionist. The best I can do is get everything out and improve on it later. This method isn't ideal for all projects, but for me it works with writing and art.

Also I've created portable kits for each of my projects that are focused on keeping my tools simple and to a minimum. I can work on writing projects and post to my blog where ever I am by using phone apps. Since I'm an artist, I also keep a makeup bag in my purse with a pen, sketchbook, and a watercolors kit. Having little project kits like this is even great for when I'm at home because set up time is reduced. Overall, this category takes the most creativity because it involves figuring out more efficient ways of doing things. 

The next category I find myself in the most often is Lots of Time/Little Energy. My list is like this: 

  • Easy, one-minute chores or chores that I can do while sitting.
  • Take care of plants 
  • Buy pre-made food for dinner 
  • Shop on-line

Easy Project Tasks
  • Finish a sketch. Add notes and color.
  • Add color/tone/or speech bubbles to comics.
  • Edit fiction/non-fiction/blog posts. Edit for details, style, and overall story flow.

  • Go for a walk
  • Power nap
  • Pilates
  • Cup of tea. Something fruity or spicy
  • Casual reading
  • Journal
  • Watch a movie or TV show

When I have little energy, that's a cue some self-care is in order. I avoid tasks that require my unwavering attention. Since I'm an introvert, I reduce my social activities so I don't become more drained. Also when it comes to projects, I've found that this is when my mind is most ready to focus on the details. Now I can perfect what I made in the Little Time/Lots of Energy category. Also when I'm in this category, I try to pay attention to when my mood changes. Usually at some point during the day, I return to Little Time/Lots of Energy. 

The last category is Little Time/Little Energy, and when I find myself here, the most effective thing I can do is take a short nap. I'm really not fit to do anything else. Even if I try to stay awake by doing relaxing breathing exercises, I fall asleep anyways. 

I shift through categories throughout the day, and I've found that thanks to this method, I am more aware of my limits. In the past I would push myself too hard to work on things, even when I knew I had little energy. Now, I'm better able to check in with myself, which is nice because that frazzled, over the edge feeling is not so great.