What do you do if you’re partway through an important project for a client and you get, well… stuck? You simply can’t wring any more good ideas from that brain of yours, and none of your ordinary tricks to relieve creative block are working.
To many designers, this is the kiss of death, but I’m here today to tell you that it doesn’t have to be. We’re going to explore some unusual, but very effective ways to get those creative juices flowing again, so that you can get back in the flow of things and continue to wow your clients.
Creativity in Routine?
Here’s a fact about the human brain that you may not know: every single decision you make throughout your day will have a negative effect on your ability to successfully complete a task. That’s right – whether it’s choosing which color to make that drop down menu, or whether you should wear that green shirt or the blue one, every time you’re forced to make a decision, you lose just a bit more mental energy.
This is why you may find yourself burnt out by lunchtime if you begin your day by answering emails or answering silly questions from dense clients. Those small decisions have used up a huge amount of your energy for the day. Sure, you can recover some of it by eating a nutritious lunch or having a quick nap, but you won’t be quite as productive after noon as you were before.
Adopting systems and routines that automate a lot of your daily decisions can help tremendously in recovering some of that creativity you thought was lost forever. Consider taking a full day to plan the little things you know you will have to do for the week, even down to what color shirt you’ll wear. Try to batch your email responses if you can – it’s not a crime to cut and paste responses if they’re relevant and get the point across. The more things you can automate, the more you can turn your focus to the work that truly matters.
Getting a Jolt of Energy
Starting a new project can be very intimidating. And yes, I’m about to use yet another of my famous food analogies, so get ready. Have you ever been to a restaurant, and the waiter hands you a menu that’s absolutely terrifying? I don’t mean it has teeth or it growls at you or anything like that. I mean, there are so many items on the menu, and the descriptions are so lengthy, that you almost lose your appetite and want to run back out the front door? Too much choice can do more than confuse us – it can just about ruin our experience and make us want to hide while we try to process everything in front of us.
For me, it seems like the more freedom I have with a design project, the scarier, more confusing, and more impossible it becomes to get started. Of course, freedom in my design work is something I’ve strived very hard to achieve, and I’m very fortunate to have it. But sometimes, with a big, hairy project deadline looming over my head, I almost wish I was a student again, with rigid assignments and a limited scope as to what I could work on.
What’s the solution to this problem? I’ve found that doing something spontaneous to get my blood pumping and my creative energy flowing helps tremendously. Exercise is the most obvious choice here, and I don’t need to tell you how many ills it can help cure besides creative block. However, there are other options, such as spending quality time with friends or loved ones, working on something else, like a personal project, or, my personal favorite, cooking.
Calm Those Jitters
Sometimes, your problem isn’t that you’re frightened into submission by your project. Rather, you’re inundated with too much energy, which can manifest as nervous fidgeting, hair-pulling, or procrastinating by doing meaningless busy work. This can be just as maddening because you’re not sure exactly where to begin, and you know you should be doing something productive, but you just can’t figure out what.
You may not realize it, but your brain is like clay. Whatever approach you decide to take for your work will leave an impression on your brain for next time. So, if you react to a challenging project with stress, nerves, or excessive anxiety, you’re saving a copy of that reaction in your brain’s hard drive, which it will automatically pull up every time you’re faced with a similar dilemma.
In this case, you need a solution that will burn off or diminish some of that excess energy. A calming activity, such as meditation, walking, journaling, or reading, will help soothe your brain and help it focus on the task at hand.
What Do You Think?
How do stress and lack of focus impact your ability to complete projects successfully and on deadline? What methods have you devised for coping with these problems that all designers share? Let us know in the comments.