“Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances,” noted the American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou. How about you? Do you follow a rhythm? Do you, so to say, dance? Today, I want to share with you why, as a creative leader, you should strive to establish a harmonious daily rhythm to allow you to perform and frequently create at peak performance levels. But getting into a rhythm, and keeping up with it, is easier said than done.
Rhythm: An unnoticed success secret of creative geniuses
Genius Journey is the creative leadership development method I created for Thinkergy to share with aspiring creative leaders how to reconnect to their inner genius and how to gain access to higher states of creative consciousness. To creatively empower would-be creative leaders, we send them on a metaphorical journey where they visit ten destination stops. At each destination, they learn about one mindset that stops them, limits their potential and creativity, and keeps them squarely thinking inside the box. And we also reveal the corresponding empowering mindset that frees their mind, unboxes their thinking, and reconnects them to their innate genius potential.
Suppose you are enrolled in the program and travel the Genius Journey. Then, you would learn that what stops you at Destination Stop 10 is your busyness, or in other words, being mindlessly busy doing, doing, doing something all the time. Correspondingly, what gets you started is to harmoniously balance focused doing with relaxed being, and to establish a harmonious rhythm between focused action and unfocused relaxation.
What is rhythm? And what is the average rhythm of genius?
Rhythm can be defined as a strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound. But in our context, it can also mean a regularly recurring sequence of events, actions, or processes.
In his book Daily Rituals. How Artists Work,, Mason Currey investigated the daily routines of creative top achievers from the sciences and the arts. These creative domain leaders averaged 8.5 hours of work a day (thereof, they invested 6.5 hours in their main creative work), almost 8 hours for leisure and exercise (play), and 7.5 hours for sleep. Naturally, there were individual differences in the daily schedules. Still, Currey’s data suggest that following a rhythm concerning the amount of daily (creative) work, play, and sleep allows creative leaders to create outstanding creative outputs in their respective domains and keep productive on an ongoing basis.
(Note: I reported on the key findings and related insights of Currey’s analysis at length in an earlier article titled Learning from the daily routines of creative top achievers.)
Why is regularly following a daily rhythm good for tapping into the advanced levels of creativity?
Just like the creative top achievers studied by Currey practiced their daily rituals, you should also make your daily activities follow a rhythm, or a regularly recurring sequence of events, actions, or processes. Thereby, make sure that with the various work and play activities, you oscillate between regular periods of focused application and unfocused relaxation. And leave some time for play each day, in line with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s advice: “A child reminds us that playtime is an essential part of our daily routine.”
Why is this helpful for creativity? When you establish and practice a balanced, harmonious rhythm between creative work, play, and sleep on most days of the week over a longer period, you make it easier and more likely to regularly experience flow (also known as the “state of optimal experience” or “being in the zone”).
When you’re “in the zone,” you’re performing at your best while practicing a challenging but not overwhelming activity. Moreover, you are more likely to get ideas from your subconscious mind or the collective unconscious while being in flow. As such, establishing a harmonious rhythm in your daily work and life allows you to perform at your best and tap into the subconscious and superconscious states of creativity. Or put simply:
- Get into your rhythm.
- Get into flow.
- Let each moment’s magic show.
- Get ready for your creativity to overflow.
(Note: In this connection, please also consider checking out the two related articles Shifting to the advanced states of human creativity ((Part 1 and Part 2)).
How can you find your ideal creative rhythm?
In these frantic, crisis-shaken times, identifying and honing an ideal daily creative rhythm and following it whenever possible is easier said than done. So here is a recipe for you to try out:
- For one typical work week, keep track of your daily activities and how much time you dedicate to each of these. Thereby, classify the various activities into the following categories:
- WORK: a) Creative work | b) Secondary work | Day job/Admin work
- PLAY: a) Exercise | b) Leisure | c) Personal duties & “life necessities”
- After one week of activity-tracking, map out your daily activities over the 24-hours timeline of each day. Then, analyze your activity patterns to identify your “typical” daily rhythm at present. Here, acknowledge that daily schedules may vary on different days of the week — and between workdays and the weekend (or days off).
- Using the average genius rhythm mentioned above as a baseline, design the ideal daily rhythm that, from now on, you desire to follow as often as possible.
- Develop action ideas on how to change existing routines and establish new ways to move your daily rhythm from the current state towards your desired state (= your ideal creative rhythm).
- Finally, implement your best ideas one by one into your weekly schedule, openly experimenting with what works and feels good for you. Please acknowledge that you might not arrive at your ideal rhythm immediately (and every day), but resolve to reach it eventually and experience it as often as possible.
How my ideal daily rhythm looks like
“When you dance to your own rhythm, life taps its toes to the beat,” suggests the American quotation anthologist Terri Guillemets. So what’s the beat of my rhythm that I prefer to dance to?
I prefer waking up around 7:30 a.m. and performing my typical morning routines (including 20 minutes of meditation and occasionally dropping off my daughter at her preschool on the way to my desk). Then, I enjoy a main creative work phase of 4 hours (interrupted by short 5-minute breaks each hour). Next, I ideally take a long lunch break of 1.5-2 hours. I often use it for doing sport (60 minutes of running, strength training, or Vinyasa Yoga) followed by a quick shower and a small bite or protein shake.
In the early afternoon, I engage in a second creative work phase of 2-2.5 hours, followed by a 20-minute afternoon coffee break, preferably to catch up with one of my teammates. Then, in the late afternoon, I take care of emails, make phone calls, and have meetings until 7:00 p.m.
After work, I meet my family for dinner and joint relaxing evening activities. Between 22:00-23:00, I might attend a second time to my emails if needed and do my evening meditation. Finally, I unwind for another hour of reading or similar relaxing activities. Around midnight, I begin drifting off to a well-earned 7.5 hours-long sleep.
Interestingly, my naturally ideal rhythm largely mirrors the average category time investment of Currey’s creative top achievers: 8.5 hours for work (thereof 6.5 hours for creative projects or events), 7 hours for play (1-1.5 hours of exercise, 2-2.5 hours of leisure, and 3.5 hours personal duties and daily necessities); and 7.5 hours for sleep.
Conclusion: Following a harmonious rhythm brings greater productivity, creativity, and happiness into your life
Since the global pandemic outbreak in 2020 and the subsequent delayed economic recovery, there have been regular periods where the harsh necessities of life and work as both a creative business leader and academic forced me to follow a rhythm that deviates from my ideal daily rhythm. And guess what? Whenever this happens for too long, I feel out of flow, disconnected from my peak creativity, and start feeling agitated and unhappy. It seems like the Nigerian Grammy-award-winning drummer and educator Babatunde Olatunji made a point: “Where I come from we say that rhythm is the soul of life, because the whole universe revolves around rhythm, and when we get out of rhythm, that’s when we get into trouble.”
However, I am highly productive and creative whenever I can follow my ideal daily rhythm on most days of my work week. I can produce creative outputs on a high-quality level when I am in harmony with the natural flow that connects me to my intuitive mind and the spiritual mind of the universe. I feel productive, creative, energized, achieving, and happy during these periods. As the American Trappist monk, theologian, and writer Thomas Merton noted correctly in this context: “Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm, and harmony.”
- Genius Journey is Thinkergy’s highly effective and transformational creative leadership development method. Check out this video and download this booklet to understand how the Genius Journey works its magic.
- Thinkergy offers experiential Genius Journey training courses (of one to three days) for companies. Also, we can compose a tailored, more extensive Genius Journey development program for a group of executives who are eager to rediscover their inner genius.
- Contact us to learn more about how Genius Journey and our other innovation methods, and how we can help you deliver on your innovation agenda in 2023.
© Dr. Detlef Reis 2022.