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3 Ways To Stay Creative When You’re In A Slump

3 Ways To Stay Creative When You’re In A Slump
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Being creative is almost synonymous with being successful, so avoiding creative slumps should be a top priority. Creativity is sparked through acquired skills like escaping conscious thought, knowing how to concentrate, and keeping our spirits high. Read below to learn more about the tools you need to obtain to stay creative even when you’re in a slump.

1. Harness The Power Of Music

Thomas Beecham, a significant British conductor from the nineteenth century, is quoted as saying, “The function of music is to release us from the tyranny of conscious thought.” Escaping from conscious thought is critical for creativity; it helps expose us to thoughts and ideas that we would never have uncovered otherwise. The New York Times recently theorized that music is an important key to success, pointing out that many of the most successful people in the world are, in fact, musicians. Indeed, making new discoveries is closely tied to listening to or performing music.

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A great option for unlocking your creativity is to listen to instrumental music, which can blend into the background and avoid disruption but also give you an increased or renewed energy as you work away. Lifehacker recently covered how video game music is tailor made to help us concentrate on what we’re doing, so soundtracks to classic games like Super Mario Bros. might be particularly effective.

2. Focus On The Task At Hand

TIME covered last year how multitasking can be detrimental to our productivity. The more you split your attention the more likely it is that you won’t be attentive enough to the things you are doing. That leads to failure at multiple tasks instead of success at one, a result no one is happy with. As much research as there’s been on the subject, the kind of people who read sites like Lifehack continue to chronically multitask, because we always want to do more. We have to remember that sometimes we can be more accomplished by doing less.

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3. Celebrate Small Wins

Dr. Ken Hudson explains how focusing on small wins can induce positive change, referring to The Progress Principle concept created by Teresa Amabile, a professor at Harvard. In his post he includes a particularly convincing quote from her article for the Harvard Business Review:

“Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work.

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“And the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run.

“Whether they are trying to solve a major scientific mystery or simply produce a high-quality product or service, everyday progress—even a small win can make all the difference in how they feel and perform.”

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True accomplishment requires dedication. If we focus on just one lofty goal our motivation will wane when we don’t achieve it right away. If it’s really something worth achieving, chances are it will take time. No one expects the impossible from us, so we shouldn’t expect it of ourselves either. We need to take pride in each small win so we can feel good about ourselves as we continue towards the finish line. If you want to run a marathon, don’t make “Run A Marathon” your sole goal. Break it down into smaller steps or you’ll quickly find yourself overwhelmed. Start with a task on your to-do list that you can check off quickly such as training yourself to run a mile without getting burnt out. Do more and more of those manageable tasks, gradually building up your endurance until you reach the point that running the 26.2 miles is just one check mark away.

Featured photo credit: Lewis Minor via flickr.com

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Matt OKeefe

Matt is a marketer and writer who shares about lifestyle and productivity tips on Lifehack.

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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.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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