5 Tips to Get You Unstuck During A Creative Process
After a very long pause in posting online, this is the first blog post of my new blog. Here I will be sharing my opinions whenever I want to share something. I like literary blog posts much better than casual social media posts. And I have a style that I feel doesn’t quite fit the social media platform! So, whenever I have something to say, whether it’s a trick that I learnt recently, or a topic that I found interesting and wanted to describe from my own point of view, or me nagging about sociopolitical issues of the modern world, I will be making a post here. If you don’t want to miss the new posts, follow my Twitter account where I share my random, short thoughts as well as letting people know if there is a new blog post.
With that intro, let’s jump into 5 tips that I use in my work to get myself unstuck, and relieve some of my stress so that working becomes a bit easier. Following these tips helps me feel good about working on stuff rather than feeling bad for not finishing things!
Tip Number 1: You Do Things Much Faster If You Keep Doing Them
Don’t get frustrated if tasks take a ridiculous amount of time! Be open to learning new things, and building new skills. If you’re struggling doing something, instead of wanting to get it over with as fast as possible, tend to it and try to make it a learning experience for yourself. Taking that time is worth it, because after you properly learn how to do it, you’re gonna do it much faster for the rest of your life. If you always want to get them done as fast as you can, you never learn how to do them. And guess what, they always end up taking more time than expected!
Tip Number 2: Try to Procrastinate on Related Things
This may be a little specific to how I manage my own daily schedule. But I’m using this strategy to stop feeling bad for wasting time or feeling like I’ve done nothing when I was supposed to get certain things done. I have multiple-hour-long chunks of time in my calendar that are dedicated to a certain thing. For example, I have a 4 hour long chunk for writing blog posts. The first thing that I tell myself is that I don’t need to be working for all of that duration. For example, 1-5 pm on Fridays are for writing blog posts! Now, this doesn’t mean that I have to be writing non-stop for all of that 4 hours. I am allowed to take breaks. But “when” I’m working, I have to make sure that what I’m doing is “related” to writing scripts. So I may be taking an online course on Quantum Computing during that time, which at the first glance does not sound relevant to writing blog posts at all. BUT...
If I’m taking notes that I will be using later in my posts, or even if I end up getting some new ideas for future posts, I will still count that as working on a blog post. Because doing research and preparing notes for a post are a part of writing as well.
Tip Number 3: Focus on Working Instead of Finishing
I often found myself dissatisfied and unhappy at the end of the day because I didn’t finish anything. Even if I had a full day and I actually made progress on some things. I completely discounted my success in pushing things forward (and believe me, when you’re struggling with attention deficit, the smallest bit of progress is a huge accomplishment!) and just saw everything as me falling at finishing the tasks. You don’t need to finish anything by the end of the day unless you have set a milestone or there’s a deadline. Remember that the purpose is working on things. If you worked on the things that you wanted to work on, and as long as you are not missing a deadline, you’ve had a good day!
Tip Number 4: Have Personal Deadlines
Set personal deadlines for your tasks way before their actual deadline - if they have an actual deadline - or the time you expect them to be done. I call those deadlines Panic Days!
Here’s why. I find myself being in panic mode most of the time because there are always important that I need to make sure I’m not forgetting about so I have enough time to work on them. Personally, if I know that I have set a certain time in a certain day to deal with something important, and I already have calendar events and reminders (and even asking some people to remind me a few days before that date), then I can postpone panicking about that task to that certain date! So this way, I’m relieved from that mental load at the moment and I have more energy to spend on other, more pressing things! Ideally, by following this strategy we should be able to stop worrying about all the things that we worry about, and let the only mental load we have be the task we want to work on at that exact moment.
Even if we can’t get rid of all of those worries, we still end up with a much calmer mind that makes us feel better, and actually, more willing and capable to work. For example, paying the bills is important and you want to make sure you pay them before their due date. But it also is one of those tasks that a lot of us keep putting off until the last minute. So because of this combination, we end up being in a constant state of stress (however small it may feel) until those bills are paid. But if we set a personal due date, a few days before the actual due date, and pick a specific time for paying that specific bill, then as long as we have calendar events and reminders for it, we can just forget about that task for good until it’s time to deal with it. This small inconvenience of scheduling is absolutely worth the relief that comes after.
If you don’t manage to finish the task before your personal deadline,
then cancel everything you can in the few days left to the actual deadline and only focus on that task. It takes time, but with consistent practice you start to organize your tasks this way automatically and you end up finishing most of your tasks well before the deadline. Which is awesome! So it’s worth the initial misery and frustration!
Tip number 5: Always Have A Ready-to-Submit Version of Your Work
I apply this mostly to my writing, but honestly, it can apply to almost any kind of project. After decades of being obsessed with the quality of my work, I started to notice that my obsession with refining every sentence and every paragraph as I was writing was completely draining all my energy to the point that I would get stuck on one sentence for minutes! I couldn’t find the exact word I was looking for, and I also couldn’t let go and move to the next sentence! And I was always stressed because after months of working - in the case of my proposal - my work was still incomplete. This change of mindset, to focus on “what” I want to do instead of “how well” I want to do it, was like unlocking heavy chains off my hands and finally made me able to make consistent progress.
Let’s see it this way. I remember my college days when I had a writing assignment for a topic that I was really interested in and I’d tell myself, “oh, gee, I’m gonna rock this paper” but two days to the deadline and I had only 20% of the work done! So at that point I was pissed and frustrated and just wanted to have a complete paper ready by the deadline. I would stop caring about the quality at all!
Do you see those two totally different mindsets? So I told myself, what if, and bare with me, what if, I only cared about getting something ready to submit as soon as possible FIRST, and THEN try to “rock this paper”! The peace of mind of knowing you have something ready to submit gets rid of a lot of things that make our head foggy all the time.
So what I do for my writing is that I try to come up with a template that consists of the full outline with sections and subsections and all the figures, tables, any appendix that I can think of. Then, for each subsection I write only one sentence to describe the general purpose of that subsection. I do that for any part that requires writing and I keep it to just one sentence. At this point forward, whenever someone asks about the status of the paper, I have at least an extremely simplified, but complete, paper to show.
So these were 5 tips that I use to get myself unstuck:
1- I accept that I will get better and faster at things if I keep doing them
2- As long as I can find something useful in my procrastination that I can use to improve the task I was supposed to be doing, and as long as I’m not missing deadlines, I won’t feel bad about wasting my day!
3- I set my expectation to having progress instead of getting things done
4- I set personal deadlines and try not to freak out until after that deadline
5- I always keep a ready-to-submit version of my work, however terrible it may be
Thanks for reading and leave me a comment and let me know what you think about these tips. Let’s chat! :)