When it comes to building consistent habits, creatives are built different.

For creatives, the pursuit of perfection in their craft is ultimately the pursuit of something that is unattainable. That makes for an interesting mindset when it comes to building habits. 

Most people develop consistent habits in pursuit of a goal. 

Creatives develop consistent habits in pursuit of the process. 

The 15+ years I spent studying the bassoon helped me understand and appreciate the habit of building a consistent process around my goals as a creative. 

While developing a consistent habit can be a challenge, there are several steps creatives take to increase their chances of success. Here are some tips:

  1. Creatives start with a clear goal: As a bassoonist, my goal was always something objective and time-bound, like winning an audition. The same thing goes for my work as a creative today. I set objective goals and then develop a process for achieving the goal. 

    Tip: Before you begin, identify the specific habit you want to develop and why. Be specific about what you want to achieve, and make sure your goal is measurable.

  2. Break it down: My most successful work as a creative happens when I break down my end goal into smaller chunks. As a musician, I built a consistent habit of daily practice, which enabled me to create small and specific daily goals that moved closer to my end goal. 

    Tip: Break your habit down into small, manageable steps. This can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and make it easier to stick with your plan.

  3. Schedule it: Each day I set aside two big blocks of time for when I would practice. Within those blocks, I had a minute-by-minute practice routine that I followed each day. My current habit of writing follows a very similar routine. If I don’t schedule it, it doesn’t happen.

    Tip: Decide when and where you will carry out your habit, and add it to your schedule. Make sure you set aside enough time for it, and try to stick to the same time each day.

  4. Make it a priority: My best work as a musician happened when I was the first person in the music school at 6 am. By the time 8 am rolled around, I was halfway done with my practice routine, while many others were just rolling into the building. Today, I prioritize my writing by getting up at 5 am each morning to write before the rest of my day begins.

    Tip: Treat your habit as a top priority. Don’t let other tasks or distractions get in the way of your habit, and make it a non-negotiable part of your daily routine.

  5. Start small: As a musician, I developed the habit of starting with the absolute smallest iteration of each goal before putting it together with my larger aspirations. Sometimes that meant as little as stringing two notes together 1,000 times in order to feel good about my technique. Today, that translates into making one small tweak to my writing process and trying it for two weeks in order to see if there is a difference in results.

    Tip: Don’t try to make too many changes all at once. Start with a small, achievable goal, and gradually increase the difficulty as you become more comfortable with the habit.

  6. Track your progress: I had a moleskin journal to track my daily practice routine, which helped me understand what was working and what was not each day. Today, I find that the analytics available to me through various online platforms help me track my progress. 

    Tip: Keep track of your progress, and celebrate small victories along the way. This can help you stay motivated and encourage you to continue with your habit.

  7. Stay committed: There is nothing more humbling than taking a step backward in my daily practice as an artist. Developing the habit of practicing every day, regardless of how the previous day went, set me up for long-term success rather than being hypercritical at the moment when something didn’t go my way, or I missed a day of practice altogether. The same thing goes with my current habit of writing and posting on a daily basis. Some things I write resonate with my audience, some things fall flat. The key is to write every day, regardless of what others think. 

    Tip: Consistency is key when it comes to developing a habit. Don’t give up if you miss a day or two — just get back on track and keep going.

While not full-proof, these steps will help you increase your chances of developing a consistent habit that can help you achieve your goals. 

While hitting a goal feels great, creatives understand that the biggest reward is a life-long commitment to the process. 

Photo Credit: Rachel Loughman

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Nate Zeisler is the Dean for Community Initiatives at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. He envisions a world where students majoring in the arts have a clear path to a sustainable career, where creative minds are empowered and inspired to rule the workforce, and where access to the arts is not just for the privileged few, but for all.

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