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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.

content-inspiration-ideas

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

setting-realistic-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

having-fun-with-content

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

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

taking-a-break-from-ideation

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

try-new-things-for-better-results

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.

 

We’re hiring a remote Ideation Researcher to join our team. The role is for someone who is eager to understand why some pieces of content succeed while others fail, and gets excited to explore and brainstorm fresh ideas regularly. Interested? Apply here.

Image Sources: Natural B&W by zeevveez / Tunnel by amplifier / Smiling Dog by Allen Skyy / Shutterstock

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5 comments

  • Jenny Cox May 3, 2016   Reply →

    I’ve just been working my way through the fun task of applying for jobs, frustrated with my current position, where my skills as a print-based designer are becoming less relevant, and feeling like my skills are out of date. The strange but good thing about this process has been that answering selection criteria has forced me to look back over what I’ve achieved and what I’m capable of. I had been feeling like my brain was slowly becoming less and less creative, but a reminder of what I have done has been a great way to re-inspire me. I’m actually enjoying my current position more, taking my frustration at not getting to do the things I’ve always been good at and turning it around so I am enjoying stretching in new directions.
    I think sometimes you just need to remind yourself that you CAN do it, when you are feeling that your creativity has dried up.

  • Marina Biljak May 5, 2016   Reply →

    @Jenny, thanks for reading my article. I really appreciate your inspirational comment and I agree with you 100%. Sometimes we just need to look back and see what we have achieved already. We often forget how awesome we actually are, don’t you agree? And when we are proud with the things we’ve done before, it can gives us a creative push forward that we desperately need. I hope you will continue to enjoy your current position as a print-based designer and if you’re still looking for a new job – good luck with that!

  • Ted Williams May 9, 2016   Reply →

    Great advice Mirina. After a few more years in the industry than I like to talk about… let me tell you about Puddles. When working, I get obsessed, working into the wee hours without stopping, even forgetting food and water. While this gets the job done, it’s not the most efficient or healthy. While working on a freelance project at home, I brought dog treats up to my desk. Of course, Puddles really enjoyed this – way too much. So, I told her she’d have to wait about a half hour and I enforced this. After a couple of hours, she would come up every half hour and tap me on the shoulder. These breaks forced me to stop and think, resulting in a better product done in a shorter time. Sometimes we get so stressed out over the project that we forget to step back for inspiration. Puddles is my inspiration, my muse, and having more time with her lets me focus on the beauty the project needs, not just the functionality. Work to live, don’t live to work and you’ll be happier. Dogs, cooking, hobbies and the like interrupt the conscious mind so the subconscious part can do what it does best – inspire you.

  • Marina Biljak May 11, 2016   Reply →

    @Ted, some great advice there! Puddles sounds like a perfect little helper! I love what you said: work to live, don’t live to work. It’s something we all should live by that will make us happier. When we are overloaded, our work will suffer – that’s just a fact. It’s so hard to stay inspired (and healthy) when you’re working all the time. What works for you and me, doesn’t have to work for other people, but I agree with you that hobbies are so important to keep our creative juices flowing. Meditation, reading, drawing, boxing, playing with your dog – whatever works for you best. The important thing is to find something that relaxes you. Thanks again for your wonderful comment, it inspired me to focus more on the things I like to do beside my work!

  • Chiranjit September 15, 2016   Reply →

    Thanks for sharing this post about how To Stay Inspired When You’re Not Feeling It. The important thing is to find something that relaxes and this awesome post inspired me a lot in my work and also I got the useful idea from this post.
    Thanks a lot once again.

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