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10 Ways to Overcome Creative Blockades

10 Ways to Overcome Creative Blockades
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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 July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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