To be honest, this past month I’ve had to literally remind myself to breathe. I’ve always been a person who loves the rush, the busyness, the crazy feeling you get when you’re pulled in three hundred directions and have to work like hell to pull it all off…but yikes. I need a breather, too. You know?
Maybe I’ve always felt the need to prove myself (to others, to my own mind) or maybe I just work better under self-imposed pressure? I don’t know. Regardless, one thing I’m sure of is the fact that no matter how wild my schedule and life gets, I always make time for my passions. And so I wanted to remind you of this:
Being busy doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice creativity.
So whether your full-time job is stealing all your time, you’re finding yourself falling asleep before 10 p.m. totally exhausted, or you’re surrounded by people and things that are sucking all the life out of you, here are seven ways you can spark creativity, even when it’s tough.
1. Break your routine.
Gasp. I know, right? If you’re a creature of habit like me, this can be tough. But sometimes when you switch things up, you realize the holes in what you were doing before (that you might not have noticed otherwise!)
Personal story: When I first started writing for Thought Catalog, I was doing all my brainstorming mid-day. And I struggled. I struggled to stay focused, to find topics, to be interested…everything. Finally (out of desperation) I woke up early and tried to knock out a piece or two before all my other obligations. And wow – this changed everything! I found in waking up earlier and disrupting my normal routine that early mornings worked for me!
All this is to say that there’s value in doing something different in order to produce different results. If you find yourself bored of the ho-hum, switch it up! The worst thing that can happen is you go back to what you were doing before.
2. Keep a notepad/notes app with you at all times.
I can’t stress this enough. Literally thirty times per day I’m coming up with on-the-fly writing ideas. And I wouldn’t remember a single one of them if I didn’t have my neon legal pads (which I use for everything from to-do lists to prompt ideas to random facts).
Having my thoughts organized in one place not only helps to spark interest later, but gives me a space to write and be creative in the moment—crucial for any writer/artist etc.
3. Take brain breaks.
One of my good friends works for a company that has five minutes every half hour for eyes closed, lights off time. I am not kidding. When he first told me, I laughed…but then I thought about how valuable and smart that truly is! Not only for the brain, the eyes, reducing anxiety, but also for productivity and overall well-being!
If you’re a person who writes/creates with a computer (which is a lot of us in the digital age!) think about how long you’re staring at a fixed screen! That can really wear on your eyes, mind, body, etc.
As often as you can, take an (eye or brain!) break. Take a walk. Read a (non-screen) book. Make a personal phone call. Sit outside. Put away all technology. Have a snack. Go for a run. Turn off the lights and close your eyes. Whatever works. Just allow yourself the space to release so that you can return to your work refreshed.
4. Get up earlier.
I hate to say it non-morning people, but waking up early can add so much time to your day! Whether you’re getting up to head to the gym, to write, to declutter your inbox, meal prep, whatever—this extra time at the start of your day can empower you to feel more productive and end up saving you minutes in the long run.
5. Use a motivational rewards system.
What do you love to do? Can you give yourself a few minutes each day to do that as a reward? Can you reward yourself for setting aside creative time, for crossing something off your list, for reaching a certain level in a project/idea etc.?
We often consider rewards systems as childish, but they actually work! Just figure out what makes sense for you and use it to motivate and push you forward.
6. Drink water (no seriously).
Water helps everything. From weight loss benefits, to helping skin elasticity, to improving focus, water is so very important to keep you motivated and give you an extra boost for adding creativity to your busy day.
7. Take time to dump everything on your mind each day.
Have you ever heard of a ‘brain dump’? It’s literally what it sounds like—grabbing a journal, notebook, or even recording yourself—and letting out everything that’s been on your mind. Whether these are ideas, thoughts, rants, reflections on the past 24 hours, etc. just pouring it all out will save space for creativity and deeper thinking. Plus, you can come back to these ‘dumped’ ideas and see if anything inspires you!
Featured Image Credit: Tim Arterbury