The Truth About Having Time to Create

The Truth About Having Time to Create

Create June 26, 2013 / By Jeffrey Davis
The Truth About Having Time to Create

Why don't we create as much as we want? Author and consultant Jeffrey Davis looks behind a study's numbers.

Why don't we create as much as we want? What’s the one thing that keeps most Americans from being able to create?

If you look at the results from the research firm StrategyOne, you will get one part of the story. The firm surveyed 5,000 adults - 1,000 each in the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and Japan - in 2012 about their attitudes and beliefs toward creativity and published the results in the state of create study.

The firm identifies what it calls The Creativity Gap.

85% of Americans surveyed believe that creativity is key to driving economic growth. Two-thirds believe that being creative is valuable to society. 75% value their own creativity in resolving personal and professional problems.

But here’s where it gets interesting: Only 25% feel they live up to their creative potential.


You could blame our educational system - certainly an easy target that Sir Ken Robinson, filmmakers, and others have turned into a mission. You could blame the recession and work environment as many respondents noted that they’re being asked to be more productive than creative at work these days.

But here’s the key question: Which of the following are your biggest challenges to being able to create? Please select all that apply.
Other Personal Obligations?
Other Work Obligations?
Not Enough Time?
Your Age?

For the Americans surveyed, self-doubt (27%), other personal obligations (29%), other work obligations (22%), and one’s age (13%) ranked fairly low.

That leaves two self-perceived blocks: Time and Money.

54% of surveyed Americans claimed they didn’t have the financial resources to let them create. 52% perceived that lack of time kept them from being able to create.

But when you unpack this question, its potential answers, and the actual responses, much if not all of it comes back to time.

Our perception of time is tied to how we view our obligations. If we think we don’t have enough money to create, this means in part that we think we don’t have enough money to be freed up from other obligations to afford us the solitude and “off-time” necessary to be “on” creatively.

Here’s a related stat: More than the Internet proliferation and addiction, the one factor perceived as decreasing our creativity collectively is decreasing amounts of leisure time.

Which I take to mean not vacationing in Margaritaville. I take this to mean that people perceive they do not have dedicated time to reflect, daydream, map out, conceive, incubate, and execute on ideas that swim around but never get captured in the daily flotsam. I assume this is what is meant by "leisure time" because when people experience creative flow, according to Mihaly Csikszentmikalyi (cheek-SENT-me-HIGH), they do so not because of what recreational wealth or drugs bring them but because of being engaged in activities of sustained focus that bring novelty, discovery, delight, and risk.

Two things to do then: Change your mind or / and change your circumstances. Or both.

I don't intend to make this complex matter simplistic. But there is simplicity to the equation of time and creativity. If you cannot change your circumstances immediately, you can change your mind’s relationship to and perception of time as well your mind’s relationship to current obligations and work. Not feeling as if you have enough time is also a good incentive to cultivate more awe.

But if you could change your circumstances to help you create more, what would you want?

Again the survey question: Which of the following do you wish you had/had more of our could do/could do more of to be creative?
Time to think creatively - 42%
Training to learn and use creative tools - 38%
An environment where you can think creatively - 32%
Tools to create - 35%

In addition to culling research like this - which is part of my job description - I’ve also surveyed the people I work with and my readers.
Specifically people writing or wanting to write the first or next book.

They are pressed for time. But they also want an environment that gives them structured time to create and even to collaborate and get supportive feedback. They’re kind of tired of winging it alone or processing their Morning Pages or attending retreats that help them feel good for a few days but don’t really equip them to return home to create amidst the laundry piles and client calls.

But they also want substantial field-specific and domain-specific tools to help them move forward.  They want concrete tools and methods framed in a way that makes sense for their book project, their publishing goals, and their platform and brand needs.

So, with the need for time and money is a need for know-how + an optimal experimental and learning environment.

Here are what I call The 6 Core Factors to Create:
1 ~ systems or methods for time sculpted, chosen, and prioritized for the sake of creating what matters
2 ~ tools to focus and imagine and be redirected with compassionate vigilance during that sculpted time
3 ~ methods to incubate with deliberate diversions outside of that sculpted time
4 ~ habits to build stamina to sustain the blood sugar-burning activity that creativity is
5 ~ well-chosen, presented craft-specific and domain-specific tools with feedback during practice (this from seminal research in mastery)
6 ~ optimal environment for guided learning, lateral learning, serendipity, good feelings, and meaningful experiences

There are other key factors, too, such as good systems, structures, and even simple and reliable technology.

With these elements together - time, training, environment, tools - you might be wise about how you invest in workshops or summits or conferences or retreats or consulting. Take stock of what you really need now and what you’re going to come away with other than only cool experiences - although meaningful experiences are essential.

That jibes with what I want in life still. And it jibes with what I want to create for myself and for my audiences. You?

Jeffrey Davis is creator of the Mind Rooms eGuide to Sculpting Time and the live author’s intensive Your Brave New Story - which provides, time, tools, optimal environment, and feedback to shape a book that matters. 

Note: A version of this article originally appeared at on June 9, 2013.

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