We all get overwhelmed. And sometimes, our creativity can take a toll. But what if a relaxed routine could be the answer to reduce stress levels and help boost creativity?

A few months ago, “The Diary of a CEO”, a trending British podcast, interviewed renowned English comedian, actor, writer, and presenter Stephen Fry. Towards the end of the episode, Fry recalled advice comic actor Rowan Atkinson gave him about acting: to achieve a great performance, you need to be both concentrated and relaxed, thus achieving a state of flow. This advice could be applied to any creative project, whether in a professional or personal capacity.

Creativity takes work. It takes concentration. To be concentrated, you need to focus. To be focused, you need a routine. But how can one be creative in a routine?

Contrarily to popular opinion, routine is not a killer of creativity. Instead, it can be a booster of creativity. A routine is a series of meaningful habits, in the sense that they create purpose. Reading, meditating, and exercising are all habits that can boost mental and physical well-being. Find habits that work for you and your lifestyle, and try incorporating them into your daily life. Soon, you might find that you feel more on top of things, and find it easier to focus. And it’s even better if you incorporate creative habits such as journaling, drawing, or any other creative outlet.

Finding a consistent organization is key to being creative on an ongoing basis, according to a 2016 scientific study on routine and creativity. Not only do you get a sense of comfort when you repeat daily habits, but you also allow your brain to be free. And if you have freedom, you have creativity.

Repeating the same tasks over and over makes them mechanical, meaning you don’t have to think about them when you do them. Instead, you let your mind wander, and you allow yourself to be bored through routine tasks. Boredom and creativity often come hand in hand. When you have no distractions, you have no other choice than to let your mind wander and this is often when creativity sparks.

Menial tasks are closely linked to creativity and productivity. Just look at Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates: according to a 2019 Economic Times article, they both do the dishes every night. But why would two of the world’s most successful men choose to do this menial task when they could afford not to? Simply put, this mindless task helps them reduce stress levels, stimulate the mind and boost creativity because you it doesn’t take much brain power.

This has to do with the human brain’s default mode network, a part of the brain engaged when you are doing something mindless. This explains why you get your best ideas in the shower, while cleaning, or taking a walk. Creativity is at its best when you perform mundane routine tasks, when you let your mind relax and give yourself a chance to daydream.

However, routine can also be a source of stress. Sometimes, you get caught up with life, and it can seem like you always have an endless to-do list. When a routine starts to reduce your creativity and increase your stress levels, this is when relaxation comes in.

It is crucial to find time to relax in a routine, through menial tasks and actual time out. Give yourself time to rest, change up your routine, and give room to spontaneity. Take time in your day to “rewire” and “unfocus” your brain by doing activities that don’t stimulate your brain. These can be the menial tasks mentioned above (walking, daydreaming, drawing) or anything else that takes your mind off things. It is healthy to modify your routine, and taking time off can help increase spontaneity and creativity.

Don’t force yourself to be creative, it is the worst way to be creative. Instead, focus on specific tasks that work for your schedule. Scheduling creativity can boost your concentration and free your mind from other things, according to a 2017 New York Times article. There is no need to wait around until creativity hits. Instead, you can actively choose to be creative.

Creativity flows when you incorporate small habits into your daily life and give yourself time to rest, allowing the freedom to create whatever you want. That is when you reach peak creative flow.