Hacking Your Output with a Creative Calendar

Are you hungry to create?

Do you wish you could create more but you don’t feel like there’s enough time in the day? And when you feel like you’re making progress, you look around at all of the established artists you admire and feel like you’ll never be where they are?

We all go through this. I was suffering from this recently, which is why I decided to write about it.

It’s inevitable, and it can be very discouraging. It sounds so cliche, but the best thing you can do is be selfish — forget about what others are doing and how well they’re doing it. Focus on you. You need to be the best you that you can be.

You need to push harder and harder to create more. But a lot of creatives produce so little because they aren’t organized enough.
I’m going to share with you the organizational system that I use to maximize my output.

Maintaining a Creative Calendar

You want to create, but do you always know exactly what you’re going to be creating when you turn to a blank page?

Perhaps you’ve heard of editorial calendars.

The idea behind an editorial calendar is to plan out the topics you’ll be writing about. If you’re a weekly blogger like me, you’ll have a document for each month that contains 4 main topics — one for each week. Underneath each topic is a set of subtopics or headlines that can guide the writing process. Each main topic has a date assigned to it. This is the date that I’ve set aside to write that topic. This way, when I sit down to write, I’m not scrambling to find something to write about.

I came up with the concept of a creative calendar a few months ago based on how well the editorial calendar system was working for me.

In my creative calendar, I outline all of the projects that I’m working on or need to start and when I’m going to be working on them. I’m never guessing what I’m working on or trying to dig up new inspiration. All of the guesswork has already been done ahead of time.

I plan my creative calendar for every week on Sunday. For example, this is my creative calendar for this week:

  • Monday:
    • Initial progress on Client X logo sketches. Goal is to come up with a general direction.
  • Tuesday:
    • Sketch of the words “Maximize Output”. This is for an Instagram post on Thursday to promote this new blog post.
    • Rough sketch planning of the word “Integrity”. I’m going to be making a sticker from this script to send with my future online store purchases.
  • Wednesday:
    • Client X direction refinement. Goal is to solidify direction and get the design near-perfect.
    • Several sets of rounded-style brush alphabets. (I’m currently taking an online class for brush lettering.)
  • Thursday:
    • Finish Client X logo sketch and prep for vectorization. This involves perfecting sketch, scanning it, and setting it up in Illustrator for when I vectorize it.
    • Finish business card design and prep for print. (This is an extension of last week’s project.)
  • Friday:
    • Free time. (Work on whatever I want, but to be honest, I generally go out drinking with friends after work and as a result, I don’t get much done!)
  • Saturday:
    • Client X logo vectorization session 1. Goal is to get through a rough pass of the vector. Will perfect and refine and later sessions.
    • Several sets of chiseled-style brush alphabets.
  • Sunday:
    • Client X vectorization session 2. Goal is to get it the majority of the way there. Last tweaks to be made in the final session next week.
    • Next week’s creative calendar planning.

Obviously, it doesn’t have to be super formal. It’s simply planning ahead so that you know what you’re working on and when.

Keeping a Progress Log

Maintaining a creative calendar enables you to measure your progress and see how your projects track.

Having a more detailed insight into how you work can be very helpful for your future planning. Not only that, it will also give you a powerful sense of accomplishment. And it will fuel your energy to create even more.

To really underscore the empowerment it provides, I recommend keeping a daily log of everything — not just creative work — that you’ve accomplished that day. It feels really great to write down a quick bullet list of all the progress you’ve made.

There’s nothing like going to bed at night knowing you’ve made the absolute best use of your day.

Developing a Creative Routine

It’s not the end of the world if you fall behind your schedule — just adjust accordingly.

However, it’s also great to challenge yourself to stick to what you’ve planned out. Carving out deliberate time to create might sound challenging at first. You probably feel like there’s not enough hours in the day. But I promise you, if you develop a habit, it will get easier and it will be more rewarding.

And as time goes on, you’ll be able to get even more aggressive with your routine. This means that you’ll be outputting even more.

Pro-Tip: Take pictures of everything you do as you do it. You can share these pictures on social media and even use them in project case studies. It takes no time at all and it is an easy way to have a consistent presence for your audience.

Back to the “Be the Best You” Cliche

You probably follow people on social media that you look up to and admire. Perhaps your favorite artist. How frequent is their output? If they’re well-known for their craft, they’re probably shipping new content very frequently, if not even daily.

In an ideal world, you would be able to create amazing things every single day of the week too. And if you were able to devote focused time every single day, think of much better you’d become at what you do. The same holds true for those you look up to — they show up often and ship constantly.

Comparing your work to the work of someone you look up to is poisonous. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with drawing inspiration from these people. But if you’re constantly getting down on yourself for not being as good, you’re always going to be disappointed.

You need to be the best you that you can be. Stop comparing yourself to others. No one follows the same path. You need to face it now — you’re never going to be that person, so stop trying to be.

What you need to be focusing on is pushing your work to the next level. And when you get to that level, pushing it to the next. As long as you stick with it and deliberately progress, you’re going to get better.

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