No matter how self-motivated you are, everyone has points in time where they struggle to get through a particular project or task. Maybe it’s a job at work that you find very difficult, or something monotonous that you have become bored with. Maybe stress is sapping your energy and you’ve become overwhelmed with work. We’ve all been there.
When it comes to my work at NeoMam Studios, my job description is unique. I am an Ideation Researcher. My role is all about finding inspiration and working creatively to get the best possible ideas. Ideas are fun, exciting and really satisfying when you finally get the one idea that sticks. On the downside, creating ideas for a living means I can’t have a ‘bad day’.
When my ideas aren’t good, our content will simply not be effective, so there is a lot of pressure to get it right.
During these past few years, there were times where my workload overwhelmed me, and the ideas wouldn’t come. If I’m being honest, I sometimes wondered if I was really the right person for the job, and regularly thought it was impossible to be inspired every single day.
But through experience, I have learnt a lot of coping techniques as well as tricks to get me through the hard times. It’s not to say that great ideas always come easily now, but it is certainly much more fun and manageable to come up with concepts that work again and again, whilst enjoying your job at the same time.
Based on my experience, I wanted to write a blog post that shared the solutions that help me get rolling in the right direction again:
1. Set Goals
If you haven’t already, set outcome goals for the task at hand.
Whenever I lose motivation to do something, I just take few deep breaths and focus on some of my life goals. I will visualise what will happen if I quit with that unmotivating activity and what will happen if I just clear my mind and continue. Setting goals gives me clarity on what I ultimately want to achieve. Not only in business, but in life too.
- Be detailed. What will success look like? How will you feel when the goal is met? Will there be a reward?
- Create long term goals. Think about 3 months, 1 year, 5 years and beyond. The big picture can be very motivating.
- Visualise those goals. When struggling through tasks, keep this vision in mind.
2. Find Ways to Make It Fun
When you are working with the same client for a long time, things can get boring.
I was stuck on a project and couldn’t think of even a single good idea. I was going through my research process step by step, but nothing stood out. At that point I decided to take a break and go outside to have some breakfast. On my way home, I bought a chocolate with enough calories to give energy to a small village. What immediately crossed my mind was ‘How much will I need to run to burn this off?”. And there it was, one of my favourite ideas ever: ‘How Much Energy You Need To Burn Off 8 Junk Foods’. Just a small change of scene and I was back on track.
Think of things you can mix into the task to make it more enjoyable:
- Put your favourite music on to motivate you while doing the task. Whenever I feel like my motivation slips, I turn on some Johnny Cash and I get back into it. Find what works for you.
- Get a friend or co-worker in on the task to add a bit of motivational competition. Most of the time their ideas will inspire you to get even better ideas.
- Change the scene. Take your work to a more enjoyable atmosphere, such as your local coffee shop or outside.
3. Track Your Progress
It can be hard to recognise the progress you’ve made without the help of clear milestones.
Most weeks I have a new project every single day. It can get confusing, jumping from business ideas to environmental ones. Lots of times my brain will just refuse to cooperate. My inspiration won’t switch from one to another. How to fix that? I look into old projects that I did and see how did their outreach campaigns go and what did we achieve. Seeing some of your old ideas work so well will give you a boost to get you back on track.
- Keep track of the progress you have made. Seeing the rewards your efforts are achieving can be a great inspirational tool.
- Notice the obstacles that you have overcome.
- Remind yourself of specific improvements that have been made so far. It can really help to see just how far you really have come.
4. Take Breaks
Don’t burn yourself out by doing too much without a breather.
One of the first lessons I learned when I started to work with ideas was how important is to walk outside to get creative juices flowing. When Danny Ashton, our CEO told me to go outside every day and just walk for 30 minutes, I thought I was just wasting precious time. But I was wrong. Creative thinking improves while a person is walking, and that’s even proved by a study by Standford.
- Prevent burnout. Pushing through something you are unmotivated about can cause you to become drained and destroys motivation, making the task that much more difficult and frustrating.
- Give yourself a break at least every couple of hours. Even a few minutes of a break here and there throughout working on your task can make a big difference
- Walk outside for some fresh air, and clear your head. It’s a known fact that walking improves creativity. Win-win situation!
5. Don’t Beat Yourself Up
If things aren’t moving along as quickly as you had hoped, don’t be too hard on yourself.
When I was working on a project for one client, they rejected all the ideas we sent them. They just weren’t satisfied and wanted something completely new and provocative. I have to admit I was frustrated, as I thought the content ideas we sent over were really good.
I decided to reflect back and see what could be done differently. I saw that instead of focusing on content that already existed, I started to think about how to add something new to the discussion.
- Don’t get frustrated. Rather than getting frustrated, use the situation as a lesson.
- Reflect back and look at what could be done in a different way. Look at what you may have been able to put more time into, and what may not have needed as much time.
- Adjust your goals and milestones to more reasonable expectations.
- Don’t dwell on the negative. Try to focus on the positive and take the frustrations as lessons to be learned from.
It is inevitable that we all get frustrated from time to time while trying to achieve certain tasks, but by following these steps, you can stay positive and push through the difficult times, changing direction when needed. Keep in mind that every task you complete builds you as a person as well as your skill-sets. Do you have any top tips that have help you push through creative blocks? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below.