Unleash your creativity with a creative routine

Tom Simpson
February 16, 2024
8 min read
8 min read

Cultivating creativity is a process, one that can be practiced and improved to produce more, and better ideas.

Ideas also ‘happen’ to us when we least expect it, but our creativity isn’t limited to these ‘eureka’ moments.

Establishing a creative routine is the most effective way to unlock creativity more often and in more profound ways.

Everyone can benefit from developing a creative practice. This is not just for artists, this is for entrepreneurs, business leaders, engineers, musicians. Anyone who strives to advance in their ability to think and act in creative ways will ultimately see and experience new opportunities in other domains of life too. Creativity has a way of leading us into new, exciting territories.

In his book Daily Rituals, Mason Currey details the routines and working habits of 161 of the most creative minds in history. From Earnest Hemingway rising at dawn, or Benjamin Franklin taking “air baths” (sitting around naked in the morning), to Friedrich Schiller only working to the smell of rotting apples, or a midday cocktail as VS Pritchett preferred, whatever the routine, it’s clear that inspired minds have some sort of routine that keeps them going.

If the most brilliantly creative people in history had a practice of cultivating ideas, then those of us who aspire to be more creative should follow suit.

This doesn’t mean we have to take on the same routine. In fact, Mason says the one true lesson of his book is that "there's no one way to get things done". What the stories do strongly suggest is that there’s value in carving out time to be creative.

What is a creative routine?

Creative routine is about establishing a practice of creativity that suits you, and that you can be responsible for. Sometimes it leads to big ideas, but more often than not it’s the simple task of practicing, developing and nurturing your ideas.

This practice is almost the opposite of a eureka moment, although they feed off each other. The lightbulb ideas might not happen in those allocated time slots, but the mind is like an engine that, once started, it continues to run in the background. Having this time is practice, so that when it comes to the main events, you’re fired up, ready to respond when it counts.

Routine is not just about a sequence of events, rather the goal is to tailor your schedule in a way that allows for moments of creativity. These times are necessary and even powerful aspects of your creative practice. And if you’re like me, you can’t go a single day without having this energising time of exploration.

“Ideas and creativity are like a cloud, floating through the boundless expanse of the mind. They gather, condense, and take shape, casting shadows of potential and inspiration.” — Rick Rubin

Understanding your creative practice

Creative Practice is a broad term that covers all the areas of your life where you are intentionally developing your creativity and craft. It encapsulates your purpose, passions, learnings, and process of creating and publishing work.

Anyone who is intentional about the work they do and strives to continually improve and advance, has a creative practice.

By understanding your creative work as a practice, you can start to consider where you are on your creative journey and where you are going. You can also make improvements and adjust your routine as you feel necessary.

The most important part about your creative practice is to be committed to cultivating it rather than leaving it to chance.

Starting with a warmup exercise to improve divergent and convergent creativity

It can be hard to know where to start in your creative time. I suggest doing a warmup which not only contributes to your creative session but develops your ability to think creatively in the long run.

Here are three great exercises you can do to improve two forms of creativity: divergent and convergent thinking.

  1. Open Monitoring Meditation
  2. Focused Attention Mediation
  3. 10 Ideas Exercise

Creative Exploration

“Things, people, actions and ideas that are truly creative really change the way that we are able to access the world. They act as portals to the world and to ourselves.” — Andrew Huberman, The Science of Creativity & How to Enhance Creative Innovation

Creative Exploration is a major aspect of a creative practice. It’s my favourite time of the day and is a necessary space for you to carve out in order to develop your creative practice too.

Being creative is much like being a child who goes out to play in the garden. There are trees to climb, places to explore and games to be created.

The goal of Creative Exploration time is to tap into imagination, exploration, and curiosity. It is a chance to go where you want, follow the pathways of your mind and develop your understanding of various topics of interest.

There are many different things you can do in your creative exploration time.

What to do in Creative Exploration

As seen in Mason Currey’s book, Daily Rituals, there are many ways to do the work. What’s more important than what you do, is how you do it; incorporating play and experimenting.

Your creative activities do not have to be a direct reflection of your work—although they can—they can also be complimentary. Anything creative that opens your mind, creates a flow of ideas, and gets you into a state of creative play is a good rule of thumb.

Some options are writing, drawing, reading, learning, experimenting with new mediums, going for physical adventures.

For example, a musician could spend their creative exploration time experimenting with new instruments and sounds, reading and writing poetry, taking up painting as a means of expressing themselves in a different way, or all of these things.

An engineer could spend time coming up with ideas in a large sketchbook, drawing them out and exploring unique relationships between concepts, they could research and write on historic inventions or architecture and their influence on culture, or they could pick up a camera and walk their local streets, photographing what they see in interesting ways.

An entrepreneur could spend time creative writing, exploring topics of interest in story form, they could read about successful entrepreneurs and explore completely new business ideas, or they could do dance classes as a means of expressing feelings through movement and finding new flow in their creativity (movement is strongly associated with improving divergent thinking).

I run a branding and design studio, however my creative exploration exists in the form of research and writing on creativity and branding, along with design exploration and experimentation. All the things that wrap around my main work of branding and design, ultimately infusing it with more substance and creativity.

These are all great ways of exploring your craft in greater depths, either directly or indirectly.


It’s important to document your findings in some way. Writing notes is a good way of leaving breadcrumbs along your creative path, a way of remembering where you’ve been and to develop an overall body of research and work as you go.

Writing helps form ideas and bring language to what is experienced. It’s a great practice that will help you rationalise ideas for yourself and help when it comes time to clearly communicate ideas with others.

Finding your own personal creative routine

How long is creative exploration time?

I spend about an hour in creative exploration every morning. But it doesn’t really matter how long you spend, as long as you start somewhere. This time of the day becomes an experience that you’ll start to crave and you will naturally find ways to maximise the amount of time you can spend there.

Starting with 5 minutes is infinitely better than “leaving it for another day” and avoiding the practice altogether. Often 5 minutes leads to 15 minutes, which leads to more.

Finding your time of day

Finding what time of day that works for you is a major advantage. I find morning’s best, there’s something about creative thinking straight after sleep and before the demands of the day that helps me think clearly and creatively. For others they prefer burning the candle late at night; there really isn’t a right or wrong here but you will find what works for you.

Choosing your workspace

Novelist Jane Austen's wrote mainly in the family sitting-room, often with her mother sewing nearby and regular interruptions from guests. Don’t let your space limit your creativity, the perfect workspace isn't what leads to brilliant work. However, it can be advantageous to explore the place that works for you, whether that be a cafe, bedroom, home office, studio or outside.

The best advice

Perhaps the greatest piece of advice for creative time, is to refrain from editing your work in the moment. Be non-judgmental towards what you’re producing, and focus more on connecting with your intuition and preference volume and velocity of ideas rather than stressing about quality.

Innovation expert Jeremy Utley suggests, “People don’t realise that the quality of your ideas is a function of the quantity of your ideas. So, it’s not that quantity is more important than quality, as quantity leads to quality. If you want to get quality, focus on quantity.”

Publishing your work

Publishing your work is a part of truly forming ideas that have been generated in your creative exploration time. Where Creative Exploration time is usually done in private, publishing your work is where the ideas and experiments generated in your exploration time make contact with the world.

Get in the habit of finding a way to publish your work, whether that’s a blog, book, album, science journal, online shop, or social media.

This will increase your momentum and help you build an audience that gives feedback on the work you do, helping you grow even more.

A quick challenge

I’ll leave you with a simple challenge: Take 5 minutes today for creative exploration, and see where it takes you.

“The only choice we have is to begin. And the only place to begin is where we are. Simply begin. But begin.” ― Seth Godin, The Practice: Shipping Creative Work

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