Creating Perfect Solitude for Creative Focus

Collaboration and connecting with others is a beautiful thing, but in the end, creation is done in solitude. All great art is done in isolation. All creative work must be done by shutting out the outside world, sitting down, and creating. That sounds simple, but creating the perfect block of solitude in your day isn’t always easy. We’re going to look at how that’s done.

1. Schedule It

Solitude doesn’t usually happen by accident – you have to carve it out of your busy day. Set the time for your first block of solitude now – and see if you can make it an un-missable part of your daily routine. Some ideas:

  • Early. I like to take my solitude early in the morning. It’s when the world hasn’t woken yet, the kids are still sleeping, and everything is quiet. I get my best work done here, and the great thing is that nothing comes up this early to disrupt the schedule.
  • First thing in the office. If early morning isn’t good, try as soon as you get into the office. When I worked in an office, I’d get in 30-60 minutes early, just so I could get some quiet work done before the office started buzzing. And again, first thing is great because later, things get busy and can disrupt your solitude block.
  • Away. If you can’t do it early, get your solitude by getting away from the office or your home (if you work at home and there are others in the house). Go to a coffee shop, or better yet, a library.
  • Late. Tim Ferriss is the opposite of me – he gets his best work done at night. If you’re a night owl, this is a great time to find quiet and solitude and get creative work done.

2. Clear the Desk

Before you start your Perfect Block of Solitude, prepare your environment. This doesn’t have to take all day, but it’s worth spending 10 minutes of time, because a cluttered environment can be distracting. Some ideas:
  • Clear the top of your desk. If it has a bunch of papers, folders, or office tools, clear them off the desk. You can simply stack them neatly out of sight on the floor, or put them in a drawer or a box for now. Later you can find places for these things, but for now, just get the desk clear, with a minimum of essential things.
  • Close computer programs. If you’re going to write, for example, you don’t need anything but a text editor. Close your browser and all other programs. Turn off email and IM notifications and anything else that might pop up and distract you.
  • Clear the walls. If you have a bunch of papers posted on the walls, take those down. Leave up artwork, but take down anything that’s distracting.

3. Disconnect

Turn off the Internet. Seriously – turn it off, or you won’t get any creative work done. If you need some research done, do it before your block of solitude. If you doubt your ability to leave the Internet disconnected, actually unplug your router, or use the Internet-blocking program Freedom.

If you skip this step, don’t expect the rest to work. Disconnect from the Internet.

Also turn off your phone, mobile devices, and anything on your computer that gives you notifications. Completely disconnect, so there are no distractions.

4. Pick One Task

Pick something amazing. Something that will have a huge impact on your life and work and business. Something that excites you, that’s important and worth your time and trouble.

This is the one task you’ll focus on during your block of Solitude. Don’t multitask or switch back and forth. Pick one task, and focus on it completely.

5. Simple Tools

You don’t need to obsess over your tools. If you’re going to do a writing task, use a simple text editor like TextEdit or WriteRoom on the Mac, or Notepad or Q10 on the PC. For other tasks, choose something similarly simple – and don’t fiddle with them. The important thing isn’t the perfect tool or setup, but the doing.

Pen and paper, by the way, also work great. No distractions, and that’s what you’re aiming for.

What’s Your Take?

Is solitude crucial to your creative output?
How do you find alone time?

Leo Babauta

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Leo Babauta is the founder of ZenHabits.net and author of the new book, Focus: A Simplicity Manifesto in the Age of Distraction.
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