How To Be Productive, Even When You Don’t Wake Up Feeling Creative

It’s so easy to get caught up in all the things we’re doing wrong that we hardly pay attention to the things we’re doing right.

Imagine this: you wake up in the morning, make yourself a strong cup of coffee or tea, and settle down to get some important work done. The only problem? The moment you sit down, your mind goes blank, and the more you try to get something done, the less you seem to be able to do. You’re officially out of inspiration. Welcome to the life of a creative.

Bruce Mars

The scenario is more common than you might think. While working in the creative field may seem like a dream, it can easily become a nightmare. If you don’t wake up feeling creative, you’ll likely spend the whole day stressing out over the fact that you can’t get anything done. The worst part? All your frustration is directed at yourself.

But just because you wake up feeling unmotivated doesn’t mean you can’t be productive, it just may require a little extra work on your part. Don’t hold yourself back; instead, make it your mission to foster creativity.

Here’s our best tips for how to be productive, even if you don’t wake up feeling creative.

Keep a creative journal

Creative journals are great for multiple reasons. For one, it’s nice to have one central place to keep your ideas, but it’s also a great way to foster creativity. If you don’t find any inspiration in your previous notes, open the journal to a blank page and start writing anything and everything, stream-of-consciousness style. When you don’t think you can write anymore, read back through it to figure out what’s salvageable and work from there. Not everything you write will be useful, but there may be some good ideas in your mess of thoughts.

Keep moving forward — not backwards

When you’re in a creativity rut, the hardest thing to do is move forward. You might find yourself looking back over your work and revising it over and over again, but it’s best if you resist the urge to backtrack and instead focus on moving forward. What’s important now is just getting things done, even if you aren’t particularly proud of your work. Force the creativity out of you. You can go back and fix things later.

Take mini breaks throughout the day

If you’re getting stressed out at the thought of doing work, take little breaks throughout the day to keep from getting overwhelmed. Work for 30 minutes, then take a five minute break — color, watch a YouTube video, paint your nails. The point is to do something that gets your mind off of work for those five minutes, so that when you return to your project, you can look at it with fresh eyes. Breaking up your day into chunks will relieve your stress and heighten your productivity.

Shake up your surroundings

Routine might be helpful for your work schedule, but when you feel stuck in a rut, sometimes you need to shake things up. Go to a café you don’t normally frequent or try working outside at the park. Take a little trip to the opposite side of town. Take a walk and pay attention to your surroundings. Being in a new environment may foster creativity, making it easier to get work done on even the toughest of days.

Turn to the things that inspire you

When I get stuck in a writing rut, I read passages out of my favorite books. When my filmmaker friend needs inspiration, she watches short films on YouTube. Creatives often borrow inspiration from other people, so don’t feel bad about it. Keep things nearby that inspire you, like printouts of particularly beautiful quotes, stunning photographs, or even a particularly good movie. When you’re feeling impossibly uncreative, turn to them for inspiration and think about why you like them, and then figure out how you can translate that into your own work.

Find a way to get in the zone

We all have certain ways we work best. For me, it’s working somewhere public with headphones on and music blaring to drown out the surrounding noise. Maybe you work best when you’re isolated; maybe you prefer nothing but silence and white noise. Sometimes a lack of productivity really just comes from distractions, so figure out the best way to keep yourself laser-focused on your work.

Remind yourself why you’re doing this in the first place

Sometimes all you really need is some good old-fashioned motivation. Whenever I feel uninspired or unproductive, I’ll have a deep talk with one of my creative friends about our goals and the future and, as if by magic, I’m suddenly motivated to work twice as hard — and twice as quickly — as ever before. Even if you don’t have someone you feel comfortable discussing these things with, you can do it on your own — write down your goals and why they’re important to you, then remember that everything you’re doing today are just steps you’re taking to get there.

Don’t worry about perfection — just do it

It’s so easy to get caught up in all the things we’re doing wrong that we hardly pay attention to the things we’re doing right. It’s okay if your work isn’t perfect from the get-go — for most people, it rarely is. That doesn’t mean all your work in in vain. So instead of fretting over whether you’re creating the next greatest masterpiece, focus on getting your ideas out there and just creating something. You won’t get anywhere if you just sit around thinking about it — just do it.

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