Do you ever have those days where you have a mountain of work to complete but end up binge watching TV shows on Netflix instead? Obstacles to creativity can be a truly frustrating experience. What puts us in a frame of mind that keeps us from being productive? Sometimes the obstacle comes from being in a profession you dislike, but other examples include writer’s block, the dog eating your keyboard, kids crying all night, social media addiction, and more. Even people who are passionate about what they do for a living hit roadblocks on a regular basis.
Being in a state of inertia can have real consequences. As adults, missing a deadline cannot be covered up with the “my dog ate my homework” excuse. Instead, it can get you fired or cause you to lose clients. Those five hours spent indulging in reruns of The Office could really cost you.
Maybe you don’t even get to the point of indulging in anything but instead just stare blankly at the screen while the minutes tick by (true story). Or maybe you become wrapped up in someone else’s project instead of your own. Whatever the reason, there are some things you can do to get yourself back on track. Next time you find yourself in a rut, try one of these handy tips from real creative professionals.
Exercise— good for body and mind
Coffee may be the fave go-to for waking up and staying alert, but exercise is much healthier and more effective. Even just 20 minutes of moderate cardio will improve memory function and information processing.
Dino Dogan, CEO and founder of Triberr, says that his biggest obstacle is keeping on top of the tasks no one else wants to do: switching from bookkeeping tasks, to community support, to partnership agreements, to interviews, you name it. These distractions take his focus and shatter it into a million pieces. Yet a 30 minute run 3-4 times a week helps him think, keeps him focused, and enables him to cope with the demands of the job.
The next time you feel distracted or have a creative block, try even just five minutes of exercise and see if it helps. The best time to exercise is the morning, which will get you revved up and motivated for the day, but any time will be beneficial. If you find exercise boring, mix it up a little. Simply walking your dog around the block a couple times can get you back in the creative game.
Dance it out
If you need to spark some mental creativity, sometimes the solution is to get physically creative. Much like general exercise, dancing increases your heart rate, which will sharpen your focus and boost serotonin levels so that you feel refreshed and motivated. Dancing naturally gets your creative juices flowing, and this can jump like a little spark from physical creativity to mental creativity in just a few minutes.
The publisher of Green Bamboo Publishing says that dancing is her first go-to for overcoming creative obstacles and writer’s block. She says her biggest obstacle comes from staring at a quiet screen all day; the silence makes her stir crazy and sitting for long periods of time sucks the energy right out of her. Dancing solves the problem by adding both physical activity and a musical component. Just five minutes of dancing around her living room to Lady Gaga gets her pumped up and able to focus on her writing.
If you have longer periods of time to spare, try signing up for a dance class. This will add a social component that is especially beneficial for those who work from home. Which brings us to our next point…
Many creatives work alone and say that isolation is their biggest obstacle. Anyone who’s seen The Shining understands why being alone for hours at a time can interfere with the creative process. Negative feelings of isolation can spiral into physical complications as well, including high blood pressure, memory problems, depression, and inflammation.
Rather than succumbing to a fate similar to Jack’s, get out of the house for a bit. Most cafes have wifi and just being around other people will make you feel more social, which can boost your imagination and productivity. You can create a support network, too, by surrounding yourself with creatives who are in the same situation. Life liberator and business igniter Lane Kennedy says she overcame her isolation obstacle by “creating kick ass masterminds and being around amazing people who help lift my spirits when things are not so bright.” A little socialization really does go a long way.
Other ways to overcome isolation include meeting a friend for lunch, calling a friend or family member, and joining an interactive group such as a cooking class or book lovers club. Even a little retail therapy can offer some socialization. Whatever option you choose, just make sure your socialization takes place off screen. Which means Facebook is out, sorry guys.
Shake it up
Routines can be comforting but they can also create inertia and can result in a lack of inspiration. Doing the same thing over and over again can quickly become tedious and a drain on your creative mind. If you find yourself feeling like a worker bee, shake things up! A quick change of scenery can be all that’s needed to make you feel inspired.
Jerome Imhoff from The Resume Shop INK confesses that not feeling inspired is his most daunting obstacle. “I find that when I am stuck in procrastination/writer’s block, or whatever, I have to change my energy. I will take a walk with the dogs. Take a long hot bath or a shower. Anything to get away from my desk and into a new space.”
He also offers a great solution: turn your workspace into a veritable playroom. “I have a dry erase board that I use to write quotes on or to keep track of projects. I have lots of fun things to look at such as photos of family and friends. Glinda (from the Wizard of Oz) is my muse, so I have a couple of images of her too.”
Take care of yourself
If you’re not well, how can you expect to have a healthy creative mindset? Sure, there are examples of unhealthy creatives, but most of these people crashed and burned, and that’s not very productive in the long term. There are a couple of things that can cause you to be unhealthy and the fixes are straightforward: get lots of sleep, eat healthy, exercise. But there are other factors that require more complex solutions.
One of these is fear, with the fear of failure being the biggie. Some people even have a fear of success. The solution to the obstacle of fear is to build self-esteem. If you’ve already crossed off the eat, sleep, exercise solutions, try focusing on your emotional self. Self-esteem boosters include having mentors, reading success stories about former underdogs, giving back and helping others, and daily mantras. Sometimes, more drastic measures are necessary, such as attending therapy. Either way, if you get your self-esteem on track you can conquer your fears.
Writer and digital strategist Anna Colibri suggests that another reason why we stop taking care of ourselves is due to a sense of entitlement. She says, “”Entitlement is an obstacle because it impacts resiliency. You either procrastinate when you have to do things you don’t want to do, or you feel negative when faced with unwanted tasks.The truth is, most people have to deal with tasks that are boring, repetitive, or unpleasant at least some of the time. What I find helps is cultivating perspective and gratitude. Remember that these tasks are only part of what you do, and they help make possible the things you really love. Then, focus on what you love.”
Carla Hernandez, a popular nutrition and skincare blogger, who, like so many of us faces a variety of obstacles including “short attention span, [getting] distracted when researching around the web for content, [being a] slow writer and a perfectionist,” finds her solution is often to focus on the work she loves. “I feel my best when I’m helping people and bringing light on health and nutrition in regards to skin health. Self care? Exercise! (Yoga, running, boxing) and meditating, hiking, being alone in nature.
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