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10 Ways to Overcome Creative Blockades

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10 Ways to Overcome Creative Blockades

Creativity can flow like water or it can slowly drip out like…water…

The point is that creativity, like everything else in life has ebbs and flows. Unfortunately, sometimes you need to boost your creativity to meet a deadline, complete a project, etc. It’s times like these you’ll end up banging your head against a wall, as pressure mounts and time plows on. I don’t want to see you hurt yourself, so here are a few ways to get those juicy creatives back on track and raring to go.

1. Create a Mind Map

We’ve previously explored mind-mapping in this Lifehack and the dangers of over-mapping here. The reason I advocate looking into the practice is because it helps make everything feel tangible and real. You should always keep notes, whether on your computer or on a notepad. Personally, I try to keep a notepad and camera handy everywhere, although I often fail. Either way, gather your thoughts, and organize them using mind-mapping as a valuable tool.

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2. Write Word Lists

Word lists are another favorite of mine, and it’s something we previously touched on in this Lifehack. The difference between mind-mapping and word lists is the difference between a word search and a Mad Lib, and all of the aforementioned activities are great brain exercises to jump-start your creativity. You can create whatever rules you want.  Start with a random word as a category, and think of 5-7 associated words. Do it on a board, so you can monitor your progress. By the time you’re done with these critical thinking exercises, you’ll have overcome creative blockades.

3. Draw Timed Sketches

Word games aren’t the only great games for overcoming creativity; artistic endeavors could assist you as well. In fact, we’ve explored several great classic games for thinkers in this Lifehack, and many of them have social media equivalents, so you can involve other people in your creative process. “Draw Something” and “Scribblenauts,” for example, make art an action or turn-based adventure, which stimulates parts of your brain that are vital for creativity.

4. Eliminate Distractions

Don’t get too attached to your tools, gadgets, and the people around you – some days it’s easy, but many times creativity takes focus. Isolate yourself in your creative space as much as possible so you can be both productive and creative. We’ve exhaustively touched on distractions at Lifehack, so here are two links to send you further down the rabbit hole on preventing distractions.

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5. Differentiate between Inspiration and Comparison

Comparisons seem harmless, but as we discuss in the rules of creativity, they run counter-intuitive to creative endeavors. It’s also a subject we’ve touched upon in this Lifehack on things positive people don’t do. The reason we’re so vocal against comparison is it invites competition, which can spark, but doesn’t always nurture, creativity. Make sure you understand the difference and use everything in moderation.

6. Steal from Peers

Ideas are free – you have freedom of thought, so by all means, steal ideas from other people. Sure you can’t market an exact replica of an iPod in the U.S., but even that’s possible. What’s even more feasible is implementing Steve Jobs’ ideas (among which is, ironically, to steal) in your business presentation. You can even publicly display a few football logos; I can assure you the NFL is too busy battling real pirates to care what you and your peers do.

7. Wash Your Brain

Meditate. Meditate. Meditate….Sorry, but that’s the only way to drill it into your head. We explored how to meditate anywhere in this Lifehack, and how to maximize your potential with meditation. Whether you close your eyes, put on music, stare at a candle, or sit in the dark, do meditate every day, at least once a day for 15 minutes, no matter who you are or what you do – it does a body good.

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8. Follow Snoop

Snoop Dogg is one of the most recognizable artists in the world, appearing on albums, in movies, on TV, in the news, and in marketing campaigns for soccer mom brands like Hot Pockets, Golden Grahams, and Overstock. It’s hard to say exactly what sparks the creativity in Snoop’s joint, but I’d recommend listening to his chronic words as bluntly as possible. Doggystyle can get you out of some of those real sticky-icky creative situations.

9. Take a Break

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run. You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table. There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.

Sorry…I needed a break…

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10. Live in the Moment

The past and future are great, but take some time to reflect on what’s going on around you – you’re only one person, and you have to depend on your senses for creativity. Go on a walk, and interact with people around you; involving yourself in the here and now and appreciating the world around you, no matter how bland or dreary it feels, is one of the best ways to stay creative.

Now flap on, little bird…and get your creative on!

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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