How I Overcome my Creative Blocks

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June 2, 2014
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How I Overcome my Creative Blocks

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A good friend invited me and my family, free of charge, to spend the Easter weekend at her backpackers in Plettenberg Bay. What a blessing! To take a brake from a full day, seven day a week work program and just relax… well it was about time! She spoiled us big time and we just relaxed. I had my laptop with me, but I just did the most essential things like checking emails (just in-case), but that was it. We returned the Monday afternoon after a great time, all of us somewhat reluctant and on our way I experienced this feeling, not really sure how to describe it. Back at home I just decided to do just the essential on my laptop and enjoyed the last hours of the weekend, relaxing.

The fun started the next morning. I approached my computer and went through the usual drills to start the day. I opened one of my projects I had to work on, looked at the screen for a few seconds and then it dawned on me… that feeling. I turned my chair around and walked away, went outside, looked over the ocean laying in front of me and knew I’ve done it again. Work, work, work without balance is the most horrible thing you can do to yourself and being fifty-one already, I fell into the same trap again. But, I can share it with you. Maybe it will help me and give you some insight to the signs that leads to a creative block that dawn on you in a way you don’t always recognize. I don’t feel like a point 1, 2, 3, 4… I just want to share my thoughts.

The factors that have the most influence on my life are organizing, prioritizing, planning and self-discipline. I have to admit, I am not the most organized person around and I know that I am a person who it doesn’t come to naturally. It is funny to see how if the first step isn’t in place, your entire path also falls flat and then one day when you return from an Easter weekend, you find yourself totally lost and the self-starter doesn’t want to kick in. I quickly want to run through these four factors and share how I think they can make a difference in my life.

I am not a morning person. Therefore, by the time I put my feet on the floor, quite a few things have crossed my mind already. With the first things done when you wake up, if you know what I mean, I think I should take a piece of A4 paper and pencil and go to the kitchen and switch on the kettle. On this piece of paper, using some keywords, I can summarize yesterday’s activities. After that, I can cross out what has been done (and pat myself on the shoulder, because it’s a job well done) and see what is still left on the agenda. With this done I will pour the coffee and move to my laptop. Then I can check the emails and Trello (that’s our organizer we use in the office… oh yes, did I mention that I’m working remotely?). If there are some tasks from emails and Trello, I should add them to the keywords on my piece of A4 paper. Next thing, I should determine the due dates. By this time I’ve learned that I often get some unrealistic due dates and most of the time I just ignore them and continue to do the best I can and handle the fireworks when the time has run out. Not good!! This is where I should make some notes of who to contact about due dates and negotiate! Less stress!

Aaah, first priority for the day… sort due dates. With all the sorted due dates in place, I can certainly start listing the day’s tasks in an order of priority after which I can allocate some time to each task. Now if a due date is not for the same day, I can spend less time on some projects compared to others. Something I like is to do the easy tasks first and keep the more challenging ones for later(Yes, some people disagree to this method). So if I can finish off the easy ones quicker, I have more time for the rest. Well this kind of planning can organize a day quite sufficiently and result in much more work satisfaction than one can realize.

Well, there is a lot more detail one can go into. The task description e.g. the needs analysis, design, development process, submission to the client and feedback, is food for thought, but at this stage what I am talking about is just to get order back into my life… it’s all about balance. It is to know when and where to start, to know where to stop and in between when to take a break and that is all about simple planning.

Last but not least is self-discipline. I can go through all of these drills; organize the perfect day, prioritize every task, plan everything into the finest detail but… if I have no self-discipline to stick to my plan, it can only result in another stressful day. I did not even touch on off-time, family-time, tea-breaks, lunch, dinner, gym, personal time, weekends, holidays or just plain time-out… but I think just to start off with these basics are more than a good starting point. The challenge now is tomorrow morning, when I open my eyes, what will be my next step…

Pieter Els
Pieter Els
Designer at Inconcept Media that is passionate about changing the design industry. With more than 30 Years of experience in the industry and thousands of hours invested, I still love what I do. Follow me on Twitter: @PieterEls12

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