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How to Overcome Creative Blocks

How to Overcome Creative Blocks

Creative blocks are the bane of every artist’s life, but the harsh truth is that if you’re doing something even remotely creative, you will almost certainly encounter some form of mental block at one point or another.

Whether you consider yourself a writer, painter, blogger, or entrepreneur, it’s helpful to have a few tools up your sleeve that will enable you to combat creative blocks and overcome them as quickly as possible. Here are six tips you can use to get your creativity flowing again:

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1. Journal

Journaling can help you overcome creative blocks in a number of ways. Stream-of-consciousness journaling helps you get your thoughts out of your head and onto paper, clearing your mind for the task at hand. As a creative block is essentially a thinking rut (in other words, a stuck thought pattern), you can also use specific journaling techniques that encourage your thoughts to flow freely. Free association encourages you to be receptive to unconscious thoughts and suggestions: Begin with one word or phrase, then follow on with the very next word or phrase that comes to mind, then the next, and so on. Don’t over-think your words—simply wait to see what comes up.

You can also use another fun technique called Lists of 100. This involves writing a list of 100 items to do with a certain theme, for example, a list of 100 places I’d like to visit, a list of 100 things I own, a list of 100 things I’d like to own, a list of 100 people I’d like to meet, a list of 100 things I’d like to do before I die, and so on. Your list doesn’t have to be related to work: the point of this suggestion is to encourage you to think around a certain topic and transition out of your usual way of thinking.

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2. Change your scene

Changing your scene can do wonders for overcoming creative blocks. Take your work outside, to a local cafe, to the beach, or wherever you can go that feels new and unusual as a working environment. If you usually work on a laptop or computer, try working through the project using traditional pen and paper, or dictate your thoughts into a voice recorder. Any activity that encourages your mind to think in a different way can be helpful.

3. Brainstorm

Brainstorming has a similar effect to making a List of 100: It encourages you to think about all possible options, then choose those that are most realistic and doable.

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For an effective brainstorming session, start by listing everything you can think of in relation to the topic. Include the impossible, the wacky and the downright insane. It’s really important to make sure you get everything you can think of onto paper, no matter how silly it feels, to get it out of your head and get a different perspective on the task at hand. Once you have all your options on paper, you’re in a much better position to take a step back and look at each decision one by one.

4. Develop a routine

In his must-read book The War of Art, Steven Pressfield highlights the importance of routine in overcoming resistance. Having a regular routine can also help us overcome creative blocks: When we experience these blocks, it can be tempting to take a step back and say “This isn’t working, I’ll come back to it later”, but sometimes, the most effective way to overcome a block is to grit your teeth and experience it. Even if your imagination looks more like a barren wasteland than a magical factory, show up every day, sit there and experience it. You’ll overcome any creative blocks much more quickly if you turn your creative sessions into a routine than if you step back and simply wait for your creativity to reappear.

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5. Accept it

Creativity is an unconscious process. As much as we might will it to appear (and as much as having a routine helps), sometimes it won’t. There’s nothing wrong with that—it doesn’t say anything about our individual creative ability, and it’s not necessarily a sign that something is wrong either.

Fighting a creative block, berating yourself or judging your artistic integrity is not going to help; in fact, it’s likely to make the block even more prolonged. Instead, accept that the block exists, try to remove any internal judgements you might have surrounding it, and see it for what it is: a mind rut. However bad it feels, it will pass, and you will create again.

What are your tips for overcoming creative blocks? Leave a comment and let us know.

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Published on July 17, 2018

How Productive People Compartmentalize Time to Get the Most Done

How Productive People Compartmentalize Time to Get the Most Done

I’ve never believed people are born productive or organized. Being organized and productive is a choice.

You choose to keep your stuff organized or you don’t. You choose to get on with your work and ignore distractions or you don’t.

But one skill very productive people appear to have that is not a choice is the ability to compartmentalize. And that takes skill and practice.

What is compartmentalization

To compartmentalize means you have the ability to shut out all distractions and other work except for the work in front of you. Nothing gets past your barriers.

In psychology, compartmentalization is a defence mechanism our brains use to shut out traumatic events. We close down all thoughts about the traumatic event. This can lead to serious mental-health problems such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) if not dealt with properly.

However, compartmentalization can be used in positive ways to help us become more productive and allow us to focus on the things that are important to us.

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Robin Sharma, the renowned leadership coach, calls it his Tight Bubble of Total Focus Strategy. This is where he shuts out all distractions, turns off his phone and goes to a quiet place where no one will disturb him and does the work he wants to focus on. He allows nothing to come between himself and the work he is working on and prides himself on being almost uncontactable.

Others call it deep work. When I want to focus on a specific piece of work, I turn everything off, turn on my favourite music podcast The Anjunadeep Edition (soft, eclectic electronic music) and focus on the content I intend to work on. It works, and it allows me to get massive amounts of content produced every week.

The main point about compartmentalization is that no matter what else is going on in your life — you could be going through a difficult time in your relationships, your business could be sinking into bankruptcy or you just had a fight with your colleague; you can shut those things out of your mind and focus totally on the work that needs doing.

Your mind sees things as separate rooms with closable doors, so you can enter a mental room, close the door and have complete focus on whatever it is you want to focus on. Your mind does not wander.

Being able to achieve this state can seriously boost your productivity. You get a lot more quality work done and you find you have a lot more time to do the things you want to do. It is a skill worth mastering for the benefits it will bring you.

How to develop the skill of compartmentalization

The simplest way to develop this skill is to use your calendar.

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Your calendar is the most powerful tool you have in your productivity toolbox. It allows you to block time out, and it can focus you on the work that needs doing.

My calendar allows me to block time out so I can remove everything else out of my mind to focus on one thing. When I have scheduled time for writing, I know what I want to write about and I sit down and my mind completely focuses on the writing.

Nothing comes between me, my thoughts and the keyboard. I am in my writing compartment and that is where I want to be. Anything going on around me, such as a problem with a student, a difficulty with an area of my business or an argument with my wife is blocked out.

Understand that sometimes there’s nothing you can do about an issue

One of the ways to do this is to understand there are times when there is nothing you can do about an issue or an area of your life. For example, if I have a student with a problem, unless I am able to communicate with that student at that specific time, there is nothing I can do about it.

If I can help the student, I would schedule a meeting with the student to help them. But between now and the scheduled meeting there is nothing I can do. So, I block it out.

The meeting is scheduled on my calendar and I will be there. Until then, there is nothing I can do about it.

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Ask yourself the question “Is there anything I can do about it right now?”

This is a very powerful way to help you compartmentalize these issues.

If there is, focus all your attention on it to the exclusion of everything else until you have a workable solution. If not, then block it out, schedule time when you can do something about it and move on to the next piece of work you need to work on.

Being able to compartmentalize helps with productivity in another way. It reduces the amount of time you spend worrying.

Worrying about something is a huge waste of energy that never solves anything. Being able to block out issues you cannot deal with stops you from worrying about things and allows you to focus on the things you can do something about.

Reframe the problem as a question

Reframing the problem as a question such as “what do I have to do to solve this problem?” takes your mind away from a worried state into a solution state, where you begin searching for solutions.

One of the reasons David Allen’s Getting Things Done book has endured is because it focuses on contexts. This is a form of compartmentalization where you only do work you can work on.

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For instance, if a piece of work needs a computer, you would only look at the work when you were in front of a computer. If you were driving, you cannot do that work, so you would not be looking at it.

Choose one thing to focus on

To get better at compartmentalizing, look around your environment and seek out places where you can do specific types of work.

Taking your dog for a walk could be the time you focus solely on solving project problems, commuting to and from work could be the time you spend reading and developing your skills and the time between 10 am and 12 pm could be the time you spend on the phone sorting out client issues.

Once you make the decision about when and where you will do the different types of work, make it stick. Schedule it. Once it becomes a habit, you are well on your way to using the power of compartmentalization to become more productive.

Comparmentalization saves you stress

Compartmentalization is a skill that gives you time to deal with issues and work to the exclusion of all other distractions.

This means you get more work done in less time and this allows you to spend more time with the people you want to spend more time with, doing the things you want to spend more time doing.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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