People struggle with creativity, a fact that makes perfect sense when you consider that it requires more cognitive effort than logical thinking. But still, creativity is a crucial part of being human – having been shown to increase both happiness and brain power, and even boost your immune system. All definitions of creativity essentially boil down to one thing: ideas that are original and effective. In other words, creativity takes effort and focus.
Even with all the data and research pointing to creativity being a net positive in any scenario, prioritizing it can be difficult. I have, for years, pushed personal projects that I’m working on to the side to “work on later.” But later never comes.
Recently, I found a practice that works to prioritize time for creative projects and train my creative muscle. It is called “snack hour.”
At the risk of outing myself as an avid TikToker, I will concede that the inspiration for my newest habit comes from Timm Chiusano’s TikTok. Chiusano, who coined the term, has a nightly snack hour, where he enjoys some popcorn and beer and works on “homework” – whatever that may be. He completes some work he didn’t get done that day, edits his videos, or anything else that needs to be done.
I have also chosen popcorn as my go-to snack, because there is truly nothing better, but have revamped my snack hour to be all about creativity. For me, the value of snack hour is not in your choice of snack (although that is very important), but in the consistency derived from having a set time to do a set task. This simple practice has allowed me to work on all of my half-completed ideas that have been stagnant for who knows how long. But the resounding success of snack hour had me wondering, why does it work so well?
How It Works
The first rule of snack hour is to always schedule snack hour. For me, it is around 8 p.m. every night, but the exact time may vary. The key is to always have the time blocked off on your schedule at least a day in advance. I, along with many people, have always had a hard time prioritizing creativity outside of my job. There are tons of things that I want to do. I have two novels in the early drafting stages and 100 other little projects that are half (or less) done.
By never intentionally setting aside time to work on these projects, I have mysteriously never found myself doing them.
Now, I physically block out an hour on my calendar every single day for snack hour because scheduling time in advance has been shown to increase the chances that you actually do something. You will only have the time if you make the time, so the first step to a successful snack hour is making the time.
The second step is to make sure that snack hour is always on “Do Not Disturb.” Interruptions have been shown to create blocks for future creativity so I ensure that all my devices and my dog are muted or napping, respectively. Research has shown that people who face an influx of interruptions not only produce less work but the quality of their work is drastically reduced. Creativity is a chain reaction and one little distraction can break the chain. Muting any predictable distractions can help ensure that your focus stays on your project.
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Creativity is a Muscle
Maya Angelou’s quote, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have,” reflects another reason that snack hour is a worthwhile habit. Creativity is hard, but the more you work on it the better it gets because it’s something that you can train.
In 1968, George Land conducted a research study showing that children have extremely high levels of creativity, but as they grow up these levels diminish. While Land’s research initially appears upsetting, it means that if non-creative behavior is learned as you develop through life, that creative behavior comes naturally and can be re-accessed at any time.
Creativity is a muscle that you can train but as with any muscle, your creative brain needs practice and consistency to truly improve. Snack hour sets aside time to practice.
Create, Create, Create
Snack hour’s value comes from the time it gives you to work on personal, creative projects that otherwise could get pushed to the bottom of your to-do list, but it also creates an ideal environment for a flow state. Working on things that interest you and are important to you and setting aside time specifically for focused creativity are all important contributors to entering a flow state, which means they are also all important contributors to increased creativity.
Some of my most exciting ideas have come to me during snack hour – and also some of my worst. This practice has changed the way that I think about the projects that I want to do and the way I write. In fact, I wrote this article in pieces across a few recent snack hours.
Snack hour provides a perfect balance between the practicality needed to get things done and the innovation that comes with repetitive, forced creativity. It is now one of my favorite hours of every day and one of the best things that TikTok has brought to my life.