Finding motivation to dive head first into a new project, struggling to put the finishing touches on that senior thesis—regardless of the task that lies in front of you, if you’re human it’s almost inevitable you’ve had to deal with procrastination. A pesky habit that seems to pop up at the most inopportune moments, there are things you can do to battle procrastination and keep the creative juices flowing when you feel like you’re running on empty.
As a regular blogger, I’m constantly faced with deadlines that just won’t go away. They hang over your head, beaming down as a constant reminder of what you must get done when, and to be honest they aren’t very conducive to creativity. Granted, there is a rush that comes with racing the clock trying to get your next piece of work in promptly—almost like a personal challenge—but for the most part if I start to feel overwhelmed I retreat from my tasks at hand, although a pretty impractical solution as they will be waiting for me when I return.
I feel I’m not alone in this problem and thought I should share some of the tactics I use to clear my mind and get focus on the job in front of me. Although originally written with inspiration-starved bloggers, writers and other creative professionals in mind, the following four tips can also be used by college students trying to complete assignments, teachers seeking inspiration to make it through the school day and anyone else looking for a way to revitalize their usual work or school routine.
1. Get AWAY From Your Desk or Work for a Bit
I’m sure the majority of you are wondering how this could possibly help the cause, since there already seems to be a lack of work getting done, but giving yourself a mental break could be just what you need to kick start your motivation.
For me, if I’m in the middle of a blog post or article and find myself particularly stuck, I get up and take a 10-15 minute walk. Whether just around the office, around a nearby park or even just to the bathroom and back, the goal is to get AWAY from the content for a bit, so you can return with a refreshed set of eyes and a renewed perspective.
2. Don’t Limit Yourself
Sometimes after you’ve given yourself that well-deserved break, you come back only to have the creative juices not only flowing, but in overdrive. Your mind can’t even get them out as fast as they’re coming to you. You waste time overthinking them, doubting them—when what you should be doing is writing down as many as you can. Sure, some of them will be completely ridiculous, but you can worry about that later. Better to get them out and have more content than you need, than to be scrounging for “that brilliant flicker of an idea” you had. There’s always time to organize and edit your thoughts later.
3. Ignore The Clock….To An Extent
Although you do have a looming deadline, checking the time every 10, 20 or 30 minutes will not help anything. Obviously, it’s wise to not lose complete track of time, but rather limit yourself to only checking the clock after you’ve completed a big chunk of what you need to get done. Constantly obsessing over the minutes that are slipping away is not only counterproductive, but it also breeds stress and worry, which will not help you in the long run.
4. Something’s Better Than Nothing
In my mind, procrastination and stifled creativity is partially caused by an underlying fear that what we create won’t be good enough. As creative professionals, we strive for a nearly unattainable level of perfection, but the truth is this just isn’t a realistic habit in the real world. Sure, if you’re working on a novel on the side you want to pour your heart and soul into it and scrutinize every little detail, but at the office you have to know when to just accept the best you can give in that moment. Having a handful of assignments each day can take a lot out of a person, and it’s important for you to realize that every blog you write, every graphic you design won’t be perfect. You’re going to love some of the work you produce and you’re going to hate some of it, but as long as you gave it your best shot and came up with something you shouldn’t fret.
It’s important to remember that your standards of your work are most likely way higher than those reading it. Sure, colleagues may recognize an imperfection in it, but the general public probably won’t because they aren’t analyzing it as intently as you are.
5. It’s All About Perspective
At the end of the day, if you find yourself struggling to produce anything and your brain feels pushed to its absolute limits, just take a step back and try not to over-think. I try to remind myself that putting too much pressure on myself or an idea until I force it out will be just as painful to read as it was for me to write. Readers will sense the awkwardness and chances are my ideas will not flow.
However, as any writer, designer or musician can tell you, sometimes the inspiration just isn’t there, so when you’re under the gun try these simple tips and see if they work for you!