3 Steps to Creative-Business Balance

Two weeks ago I wrote about the importance of carving out time in your busy schedule for pure creativity. Today I’m tackling the flip side — how to ensure you continue to do those critical business-and-life tasks when all you want to do is create.

As the Voice of Golden Eagle told me, we need to create when the tide is in, and attend to administrative tasks when the tide is out. But here’s my dilemma: my creative tide has been in for nearly a month now, and by obeying my muse and creating I’ve been neglecting some of the very tasks necessary to allow me to continue to professionally create.

Below are three steps that you as a creative — writer, songwriter, visual artist, interpretive mime — can follow to ensure the right balance in creativity and administrative tasks. These work if you’re a full time creative or someone carving out a few precious minutes around other work.

  1. Set aside daily administrative time. If you know that every day at 3 pm you’ve set aside time to write that query letter, send that invoice, or balance that ledger, your muse’s voice will have a harder time diverting you from those tasks. You should choose a time when you know your daily creative tide is low. It’s no surprise I chose 3 pm in the example above, because that is my creative low point; it’s when Robert Goulet appears and messes with my stuff.
  2. Set reasonable goals. I have on my desk my administrative “pile,” filled with bills, business cards of people I need to follow up with, and other unpleasant things I don’t like to look at. I can tackle that pile if I tell myself that Monday I will follow up with two of those business cards, and Tuesday I will pay two of those bills. Breaking up the tasks into manageable bits makes it easier for me to start. Plus, if I’m done faster than the time allotted and I’m now in an administrative flow, I may respond to two more business contacts or pay two more bills, and bask in the glow of überproductivity.
  3. Acknowledge victories. Let’s say I’ve dedicated myself to sending out two work queries a day. If one of them hits and I get some work, I need to stop and thank the me-in-the-past that took the time to research that proposal and write that letter. Doing so will make it easier for me to sit down and research and write another query the next day.

The key to any success in life is balance. I’d love to hear how you strike a balance in your own creative pursuits.

12 thoughts on “3 Steps to Creative-Business Balance

  1. Like you, I took a look at my daily rhythms to see where I could take the most advantage. I identified my biggest time blow-out: the habit of starting my day with coffee and email. A very comforting routine, but lousy for being productive in other areas.

    I set out to break that habit. The new rule is no coffee until I’m actually writing. (Coffee lovers will relate to how big that incentive is :)) I also have a set amount of time I can write each day, depending on how full my afternoon is with admin, people connection, etc.

    Wednesdays are write-all-day events, which means I have to be efficient during my four admin afternoons or I’ll fall behind.

    Though I believe in creative spontaneity, I love having this new structure to keep me honest.


    1. It’s great that you have a routine that’s working for you. I sympathize on the coffee, although I like the morning paper with that. My most productive routine has me waking up, getting a little writing in (with coffee) and then rewarding myself with the paper.

      Love the idea of an all-creativity Wednesday!


  2. I definitely get bogged down in admin tasks at the expense of my creative work. I’m fitting my business in between several other responsibilities, which makes it so tempting to do what’s easy and immediate rather than what’s most important. But given how limited my time is, I really should be spending almost all of it on creating. One of my goals is to hire out some of the admin tasks. That’s really not what I should be spending my time doing.

    Love the idea of creating while the tide is in and doing admin stuff when the tide is out, but you’re right–sometimes the tide is in too long (or out!)


    1. It’s always a challenging balance, I agree, Sue. I’m intrigued by the idea of hiring out some administrative tasks. When I ran a nonprofit I did that with some back-office and other tasks; the challenge is making sure you get good quality for the right price, but I guess that’s true with any expenditure! 🙂


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  4. muz4now


    Awesome recommendations for creative people who want to succeed. Um, better said: awesome recommendation for me. I’ve printed this and put it on my wall as a reminder.

    Stan (aka @muz4now)


  5. dear Patrick,

    while I’m considered a “successful artist”, I can really take this blog to heart…my time usually ends up fragmented by administrative tasks… and I include e-mail in this realm since it usually produces a raft of follow ups.

    I’m especially drawn to the “acknowledge victories”. I have a tendency to move on at the same speed that I move towards goals. this acknowledgement would let me have greater satisfaction along the way.

    thanks for the great reminders. I take these on as a renewed practice! thanks for the inspiration.



    1. Anita, a pleasure as always to hear from you. I’m so pleased you find this of value!

      On the acknowledge victories point, that’s one I have to keep reminding myself of. I’m always wanting to look forward, but it’s important in life to stop and savor victories, small or large.


  6. LOL@ Robert Goulet! I feel like an ‘interpretive mime’ from time to time too :p

    Thanks for another great post, Patrick. I especially appreciate the reminder to make sure I acknowledge victories (or even take the time to let myself identify them) before immediately continuing on to the ‘next thing to accomplish’ on this long ‘to do’ list like some relentless slave driver.

    I also need to schedule some administrative tasks closer to ‘Robert Goulet time’ instead of getting distracted with doing them first thing in the morning (my creative ‘prime time’). Before I know it, I look up and it’s noon and I haven’t finished the writing or other creative work I had scheduled to get done that day. But I’m always in control of my email! 😀


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