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10 Ways to Overcome Creative Blockades

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 March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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