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If Minutes Were Calories, Would Your Planner Be Fat or Lean?

You can use proven diet strategies to optimize your creativity.

I anxiously sat in the tiny, sterile examination room. “Your blood pressure is 160 over 110,” Dr. G said. “That’s very high. We need to get this under control right away.”

“I feel fine,” I said. “A little headache. That’s it.”

“We’ll try some medications but you might think about losing some weight.” She typed into her laptop and scribbled on a prescription pad. “What pharmacy do you prefer?”

I replied. She typed and pressed "send." Then she said, “You might start with an appointment with a nutritionist.” She handed me a card and I made an appointment.

To lose weight, you must eat less and move more. That’s it. Easy, right?

It’s basic physiology but it’s also psychology. It’s about not fooling yourself.

The first thing that the licensed dietician asked me to do was to record my food intake for three days. “Just write down everything that you eat. Also, record how much you eat.” She gave me suggestions for estimating quantities and amounts such as the size of your fist, or a deck of playing cards. “Easier than measuring and weighing,” she advised.

When I returned with my list a week later, she calculated my average calorie consumption based on my food log.

It was only then that we talked about diet.

For example, she pointed out that my bagel with cream cheese (probably two tablespoons) accounted for nearly 400 calories. She explained a healthful distribution of protein, carbohydrate, and fat and pointed to the cream cheese as a hidden fat bomb. (My words, not hers…she’s a professional, after all.)

“But, I thought that cheese was a protein.”

“Nope, not really. The softer the cheese, the less protein and higher fat,” she offered. “In fact, cheese is one of those foods that you should avoid or limit.”

So why am I writing about food in a post on creativity?

A common challenge of creatives is not having enough time to create. They work full time as a barrister, a teacher, or an accountant. They dream of spending more time baking, gardening, writing, painting, but at the end of their eight-hour day, they are exhausted.

The wannabe creative logs on to Netflix, or Hulu, or HBO to watch the latest episode of Ted Lasso or The Voice or reruns of Seinfeld.

The dieter says, “Just one muffin. A handful of chips. Wait, these would taste better with dip. Isn’t there some in the fridge?”

Like many hungry dieters, the aspiring artist thinks, "I deserve this. Just one show. Then I’ll paint that landscape." Or write that story, practice guitar, sew that quilt, bake that cake, weed that garden.

Many popular diets prescribe a food plan. You can sign up for prepackaged meals delivered right to your door. Peel back the plastic wrap, zap in the microwave and enjoy your dinner. If you stick to the program, the pounds melt away while your bank account depletes. But you were hungry after that tiny portion of chicken alfredo. You supplement it with a baked potato topped with butter and sour cream because that’s the way you like it.

Eventually, you unsubscribe from the plan and go back to your old ways, never having learned to balance intake with activity.

Seeking a similar balance, the creative needs to dedicate more time in their day to their art activities, but at the end of the week, when they count up their completed projects, they suffer the same fate as the dieter whose scale never budges down. And even sometimes moves up.

‘Just plan out your day. Start with your "to do" list, then check off the "dones." But the day always seems to get away from us. Rightly, we tackle the things we have to do (work, family, community, etc.) and push aside our creative dreams.

Creatives will benefit first from tracking how they spend their day. (Remember the food log?)

If you want to lose weight, first you need to really know what you eat.

If you want to be more creative, you need to know how you spend your day.

Creativity is about gaining balance—just like dieting

Eat less, move more.

For the creative to be more fit (creatively) and produce more work, they need to consume less non-nutritional (nonproductive?) content and actively create more art.

The only way to do that is to manage your daily calendar.

If minutes were calories, would your planner be fat or lean?

You can begin to master this balance by tracking what you do throughout the day. I’m sure there are apps to assist with that, but a pen and paper will do the trick. Or use the Notes app on your smartphone. Whatever is easy and whatever you can and will use.

In an effort to grapple with this dilemma myself, I created a timesheet with the typical waking hours of every day divided into 20-minute chunks. You can download the PDF from my website. And it divides the day into morning, mid-day, and evening.

Like the good nutritionist that advised me to track my food intake, start by tracking how you consume your minutes.

Since that fateful doctor’s appointment many years ago, I dropped 25 pounds. Losing weight, exercise, and taking meds help me to maintain an optimal blood pressure of 120/80.

Being aware of time-sinks helps me to plan more productive days. When I carve out 20 minutes to do my art at least 3 times each day, I gain 7 hours each week. That's almost an entire workday.

Just think what you could do with an extra day each week.


Kolod, S. (2015, February 27). Why the "Eat Less, Move More" Approach Often Fails. In

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