You Can Train Your Butterflies To Get In Formation
As last year came to a close, I promised myself I was going to experiment with new processes to give my creativity and productivity more structure in 2022. This experiment came as a result of feeling like the pace of my work and life came to a screeching halt in 2020, picked up to a heavy trot in 2021, and now in 2022 we’re at a full sprint.
I’m extremely grateful for the growth, but the shift in my environment feels drastic.
I recently watched an interview with Tom Hooten, Principal trumpet in the LA Philharmonic. He was talking about how he channels the natural nervous energy that comes with being an artist into creative precision, and in his case, how to audition and perform at the highest level despite always feeling nerves. He said that his mom used to tell him growing up, “the butterflies will always be there, you just have to get them to fly in formation.” The lightbulb went off: this was a simple concept, but when I heard him say it, it was a revelation.
As a creative professional, my job depends on my ability to control and focus my energy into producing work with maximum efficiency through a mastered skill, at the highest level, regardless of whether or not my environment or circumstances feel perfect. It’s very easy for me to create when I am not under as much pressure and in my perfectly curated environment. But after ten years at this, I’m still learning how to produce when life around me doesn’t feel 100% comfortable and controlled.
What I’m committing to this year is working to get my butterflies to fly in formation.
At the beginning of January, I started to block schedule my days. I realized that, in an attempt to never keep anyone who was relying on me waiting and to cross tasks off my list as quickly as possible, I had no rhyme or reason for the method to my madness. I was doing things as requests and projects were coming in, but it was all unstructured.
What I’ve been experimenting with is setting myself a routine and honoring it. I wake up between 4:30 and 5am and take anywhere between half an hour to two hours for myself, depending on the day. I use that time to write, read, have my coffee, get my thoughts organized, and find inspiration. Then I batch my tasks into blocks of 2-3 hours of work that is fully focused on one singular project, as opposed to trying to multitask several projects all day long for a few minutes at a time. I force myself to break for lunch at 12:30pm for a quick workout and lunch, then I’m back at it until the evening when it’s time for dinner, a wind-down routine (no screen time), and bed–early…between 8:30 and 9pm. Rinse, lather, repeat.
I’m still adjusting to this more disciplined approach, but through honoring this structure I have found more freedom to achieve creative flow and get to a place of deep work faster. I’m settling into this new process and with each passing week (and with the help of a life-changing productivity app called Todoist), I am finding more focus and feeling less frantic.