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

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

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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More by this author

Matt OKeefe

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

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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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