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My new book: Productivity for Creative People

Cover of Productivity for Creative PeopleThe most popular thing I ever published here on the Wishful Thinking blog was an ebook called Time Management for Creative People.

In it I adapted the principles of productivity to the very particular challenges faced by creative professionals in a hyper-connected world. I released the ebook as free pdf and lost count of the downloads after 100,000 copies.

That was back in 2007. A lot has happened since then, and I’ve written a lot more on the subject – here, at my Lateral Action blog, and in my column for 99U.com. So I decided it was time for a new edition, incorporating extensive revisions to the original ebook, the best of my articles in the intervening decade, and some brand new material reflecting my current practice.

The result is Productivity for Creative People – over three times longer than the original, and (hopefully) substantially more useful.

You can pick up the book from Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Google Play and Smashwords.

How to get creative work done in an “always on” world

The book starts from the realisation that 21st century life presents a double-edged sword to creatives:

We are living in an age of unprecedented creative stimulation-via the internet, social media, all-pervasive technology, and an “always on” working culture.

Which means we are living in an age of unprecedented distraction from focused creative work—from all the same sources.

The pace of change is exciting, overwhelming, and unstoppable.

And creators are increasingly discovering a downside to the brave new world:

  • countless distractions and interruptions
  • endless email
  • pressure to keep up
  • anxiety about falling behind
  • difficulty concentrating
  • aches and pains from too much time at the keyboard

Dig a little deeper, and the biggest concern for many creatives is a nagging sense that their most important work is being left undone.

The book is designed to help you take advantage of the benefits of our hyper-connected society, while staying true to your creative path. The three-part structure will help you redesign your working week for maximum creativity and minimum drudgery:

  1. Laying the Foundations – making big-picture decisions about your priorities and working practices
  2. Doing Creative Work – in spite of the demands and distractions of 21st century life
  3. Dealing with the Rest – in a timely and professional manner

All the ideas have been extensively road-tested – in my own life as a writer and coach, and in the lives of the hundreds of creative pros I’ve coached over the past 20 years.

Click here to pick up your copy of Productivity for Creative People.

Mark McGuinness is a poet and a coach for inspiring and ambitious creative professionals.

Video: Time Management for Creative People

Here’s a time management training video I recorded at the Royal College of Art (just before I gave a talk to the students) in which I explain how time management can help you become more creative.

Now, many creative people resist the idea of time management, because they like doing things their own way, and because they (rightly) think creativity isn’t something you can fit into a neat system.

But if you take this attitude too far – especially in our hyper-connected world of digital communications – you can end up feeling stressed because of losing track of important commitments and falling behind on them. You can end up in a state of constant anxiety, wondering whether you have forgotten something critical. Which isn’t exactly conducive to creativity!

In these circumstances, a little time management training can go a long way to reclaiming your piece of mind – giving you the time and mental space to focus on your big creative challenges.

Watch the video to learn:

  • Why time management matters to creative people (even if they don’t like to admit it!)
  • How to manage a portfolio creative career, juggling multiple projects at at time
  • Why I use a post-it note for my daily to-do list
  • How to avoid constantly checking email on your phone (without relying on willpower)
  • How to prioritize between exciting new ideas, deadlines and things that pay the bills
  • Where time management shades into big picture career decisions

The lighting wasn’t ideal, so I’m looking a little more sepulchral than usual, but I hope you find the ideas useful.

Time Management Training for Creative People

My course on Time Management for Creative People – based on my ebook of the same name, downloaded over 100,000 times – is one of my most popular workshops. Click here to learn about booking a workshop to help the people in your organisation become more creative and productive.

Thanks to the team at FuelRCA for inviting me to speak – they are doing a great job of providing CPD tailored to the needs of the arts and design students at the college. And they have a cool blog, click here for their notes on my talk.

Free Ebook: 20 Creative Blocks (and How to Break Through Them)

Ebook cover: 20 Creative BlocksCreative blocks are among the most frustrating obstacles encountered by creative people.

Our creativity is so tied up with our sense of fulfilment and identity that we are just not ourselves when we are unable to create.

And if we rely on our creative work to pay the bills, this only adds to the frustration – and the pressure to find a solution.

This is why, over on my Lateral Action blog, I invited my readers to tell me about their creative blocks – and I wrote a series of articles offering solutions to help them. Marelisa Fábrega helped me out by writing an article which is included in the ebook.

I’ve now collected the entire series into an ebook: 20 Creative Blocks (and How to Break Through Them) which you can download for free here.

Creative blocks covered in the ebook include:

  • procrastination
  • creativity v cash
  • lack of time
  • fear of getting it wrong
  • disorganisation
  • kids
  • information overload
  • taboo
  • sex, drugs and rock’n’roll

The ebook is published under a Creative Commons licence, which means you are welcome to copy and share it as long as you keep it intact in its original form, credit me as author and don’t exploit it commercially.

I hope you find it useful in tackling your own creative challenges – get your copy here and please pass it on to anyone who you think may find it helpful.


10 Ways the Workplace Crushes Creativity (and How to Fix Them)

I’m starting to think the word ‘workplace’ is a contradiction in terms.

I’ve lost count of the number of people who have told me they do their best work in the early mornings and evenings, “because it’s impossible to get any real work done during working hours”.

This is particularly common among creative employees, many of whom bitterly lament being charged with delivering outstanding creative work – and then expected to work in conditions that crush their creativity.

In other words, these are people who really want to work hard and deliver amazing results for their employer. But they are being prevented from doing so by the very people whose business depends on their creativity.

[Read more…]

Sign up for My FREE Course in How to Succeed as a Creative Professional

Detail of two ships and compass from antique map

If you’d like to inject some inspiration and momentum into your creative career, feel free to enrol on my new course: The Creative Pathfinder.

It’s a 25-week programme designed to equip you with the creative and professional skills you need to succeed in your chosen career path – whether you’re an employee, freelancer or creative entrepreneur.

Things you’ll learn include:

  • why following your heart makes sound business sense
  • the four most powerful types of creative thinking
  • how to handle a creative block – when you’re supposed to be the creative pro
  • why opportunities just land in some people’s lap (and how you can be one of them)
  • the most effective ways to make a living from your creativity
  • why having a resume could handicap your career
  • how to turn your website into a magnet for new business and career opportunities
  • the weird and profitable properties of intellectual property
  • how to sell without selling out
  • what to do with all the money you earn
  • why other people seem so weird – and what to do about it
  • how to succeed in the face of overwhelming odds

Every week, you’ll receive a new lesson via e-mail, containing:

  • An article explaining the what, why and how of the topic
  • A practical worksheet for you to download and complete
  • Links to additional resources (articles, books, e-books etc — most of which are free)

And it won’t cost you a penny. Sign-up on the enrolment page and you will receive the entire course of 25 lessons for free.

Since I launched The Creative Pathfinder on Lateral Action last week, over 1,200 students have signed up. It would be great if you could join us on the journey

Workshops for Creative People – Now Booking for July

Time Management for Creative People

Following the success of my Creative Momentum workshops last summer, I’m pleased to announce two more public workshops in central London this July:

Time Management for Creative People — 7 July

Manage the mundane – create the extraordinary. Essential skills to maximise your creativity and minimise your stress levels at work!

From people who attended last year:

“Clear, intelligent and genuinely useful material.”

Thomas Heath, thomasheath.tv

“I liked the way the ideas for managing time were uncomplicated and realistic enough to start fitting them into your everyday life.”
Candida Bradley, candipops.com

“The content was clear and can be easily applied.”
Jacob Sam-La Rose, jacobsamlarose.com

Full details + booking here: Time Management Training

How to Motivate Creative People (Including Yourself) — 14 July

Motivate yourself to overcome obstacles and create amazing work – and a sustainable career.

From people who came last year:

“This was nothing like I expected and much better than I expected. Made me look at how I work and why I work, in a completely different way. Mark has a very laid back style which is great.”
Sarah Turner, turnerink.co.uk

“The group size was just right. The distinctions worked well, and gave me a different way of thinking about motivation. The material is interesting and well presented. An enjoyable and worth-while workshop!”
David Stevens, musicforspecialneeds.com

“I really liked the way you related the issues of the talk with stories which you almost acted out! It was interesting relating problems which you experience yourself to other people who have succeeded – it made it seem more achievable! I really enjoyed it, a really comfortable atmosphere was created and the group seemed to get on well. Thank you!”
Candida Bradley, candipops.com

“I liked your presentation style. I think it was the first time in a long while when I actually was captured by a presentation and the content and listened to what you had to say.”
Kim Robertson

Details and booking here: Motivation Training

The workshops are designed for creative people of all descriptions — artists, creatives, freelancers, entrepreneurs, and anyone else who takes their creativity seriously.

As before, I’ll be tailoring the workshops to the specific needs of each group – when you book your place, I’ll send you some questions about what you want to get out of it, which will help me target the issues that are most important to you.

The workshops are designed to work equally well as standalone sessions, or to complement each other if you take both. There’s also a special offer if you book both workshops together.

Places will be strictly limited to 25 per workshop and allocated on a first-come-first-served basis. Last year they sold out well in advance, so early booking is a good idea if you want to be sure of your place.

Here’s the booking page (with secure payment via credit card or Paypal):

We had a lot of fun last year and I’m looking forward to more of the same this time round. I hope you can join us!

PS — I may be running some more workshops later in the summer — you can join my mailing list if you want to be first to know when they are announced.

Guest Articles for The 99% and MyCake

I’ve recently written a couple of guest articles on other blogs that you might enjoy.

RSS Creativity – Routines, Systems, Spontaneity

Venn diagram: Routines, Systems, Spontaneity

A summary of my recent thinking about how to manage creative workflow without stifling your inspiration.

The 99% is an online magazine for creative professsionals – if you like Wishful Thinking you should feel very much at home. The 99% is produced by Behance, the company behind the Behance Network – a great place for creatives to network and showcase their work. (Here’s my Behance profile if you want to connect over there.)

Four Questions You Must Ask Before Starting Any Creative Project

4 Leafed Clover

Image by kaibara

A look at the different types of motivation – financial and otherwise – creative people have for taking on a new project. Clarifying your motivations and checking others’ expectations before you start a project can save you an awful lot of misery later on.

The MyCake blog is full of financial advice tailored to the needs of creative professionals. Sarah Thelwall and her team understand that book-keeping is probably not your favourite activity, and offer tools and guidance for sugaring the pill of updating your accounts and managing your finances.

Four Conversations to Boost Productivity During a Recession

Chaff, separated from wheat

Photo by Lincolnian –(AWAY)–

Collaboration is the new productivity.
Leo Babauta

The recession is challenging all of us to achieve more with less.

Whether you’re a manager facing a hiring freeze (or even redundancies) or a freelancer burning the candle at both ends, chances are your resources are shrinking and the demands on your resourcefulness are growing.

So following on from my piece about How to Motivate People during a Recession, this article will offer some suggestions for boosting your productivity without adding extra team members or spending any money.

The first thing you can do — right now, for free — is to download a copy of my Time Management Training ebook Time Management for Creative People. It’s licensed for free noncommercial distribution, so you are welcome to pass it on to your colleagues and contacts. It contains plenty of tried and tested advice to help you and your team improve your working habits and deliver more value each day.

But getting individuals to change their work habits isn’t always enough. While teaching time management in organisations, I’ve noticed that many of the barriers to productivity are created by the company culture: [Read more…]

20,000 Thanks re My E-book on Time Management for Creative People

Busy Bee

Photo by Arlindo71

Well it’s been a busy month so far on Wishful Thinking and Business of Design Online – my e-book about Time Management for Creative People has been downloaded nearly 20,000 times and has attracted some great reviews and feedback.

A big thank you to everyone who has downloaded, forwarded, linked, commented or e-mailed to say they have found it useful. It’s been fantastic to see the book featured on some of my favourite blogs such as Copyblogger and Lifehacker, and Brian Wallace at Nowsourcing made the front page of Digg with his post about the e-book.

I’ve also enjoyed following the incoming links to new blogs and discovering people applying and adapting the ideas to their own situation. There’s not space to link to them all here, but have a look through the Technorati links pages for my post about the e-book and the ones on Business of Design Online.

If you haven’t seen it yet, feel free to download the e-book and share it with anyone who might find it useful.

EDIT: If you prefer watching video to reading, here’s a time management training interview in which I explain some of the key concepts from this series. (And the ebook has now been downloaded well over 100,000 times.)

Would you like your team to be more creative and productive?

If your team could do with some help getting creative work done in the midst of the demands and distractions of the 21st-century workplace, ask me about running my popular time management training workshop Time Management for Creative People for your organisation.

Time Management for Creative People – Free E-book

Writing my own poetry and books, and coaching hundreds of creative professionals over the years has taught me a lot about what it takes to get original work done in the midst of the demands and distractions of the 21st century workplace.

I’ve boiled down what I’ve learned into a free ebook, Time Management for Creative People, which you are welcome to download and share with your friends and contacts.

Time Management for Creative People

The ebook has been downloaded over 100,000 times, and I’ve received enthusiastic feedback from people all over the world who tell me it’s transformed their working habits and helped them achieve their artistic and professional goals.

It’s full of practical advice for creatives, including:

  • Finding the method in your creative madness
  • Identifying and prioritising your most important work
  • Getting in the right state of mind for focused work
  • How to minimise interruptions and distractions
  • Managing e-mail effectively
  • How to remember — and fulfil — all your important commitments

“A really well done 29-page download that provides practical time management and productivity tips tailored specifically for those performing creative work.'”
Brian Clark, Copyblogger

“Even if you don’t consider yourself a creative person, the ebook is chocked full of useful tips.”
Kyle Potts, Lifehacker

Click here to download your copy of the ebook.

(Ebook licence details here. N.B. the images are licensed from istockphoto, so you should obtain a licence from them if you want to use them in other contexts)

A big thank you to Cat Wentworth and Neil Tortorella for prompting me to write the material and hosting it as a series on Business of Design Online.

Mark McGuinness