How Creativity can Help With Procrastinationby Alex Mathers
Many of us have trouble procrastinating. So we find various forms of escape to avoid the discomfort of facing up to the things we know we need to do. Being creative is the opposite of reacting to discomfort like this. It’s an assertive act that keeps us brimming with energy and moving fluidly towards our goals.
Here are five simple activities you can do every day to get into a creative state of mind.
1. Write a brainstorming list
Brainstorming is underrated. When we’re looking for solutions, we often jump to the first idea we have, yet when we write down as many things as we can think of in answer to, say, a question or to solve a specific problem we’re having, we start using our mind’s total creative capacity.
We find new ideas rise up to replace the first few we could think of. The best ideas often appear when we start running out of ideas. This is because creativity thrives in a constricted environment. We do more with less.
Here’s how you can start your brainstorm session:
- Identify a problem you have that you’d like to solve. It could be personal, work-related, or any other focus area of your life that needs attention.
- Get a notepad out and write down all the solutions you can think of.
- Go beyond ten things if you can.
Make it a habit – it will allow you to simultaneously use and strengthen your creativity muscle, while also finding the best solution to any problem.
2. Create something small
We tend to procrastinate when we are confused or fearful about what we need to do next. If we have a big project we’re working on, we can hold it off because it seems too big and, well, let’s admit it, very challenging. This is why breaking things down into the tiniest pieces and the smallest steps makes everything easier. It’s the same approach we have been using for years in our productivity tools.
If you’re looking to become more creative, you simply need to be creative and do the work. This fuels your creative strength. Find something fast and easy you can do right now. Write 100 words for your presentation. Draw something in five minutes. Send an email to one potential client. Simple. Now you have momentum and the sense of accomplishment that will drive you to the next task.
3. Go on a note-taking adventure walk
You can combine the uplifting power of going outside for a walk with getting creative. We release endorphins in the brain when we walk. Our mood lifts, which is the ideal state to be in when looking for creative solutions.
Take advantage of this state and the rewards of being in motion by bringing your notebook or taking digital notes on the go. Be intentional about using this walking time–even if it’s 20 minutes–to note down everything that comes to mind. You can even set your sights on gaining insights for a specific project you’re working on. For example, I often go on these walks with the aim of jotting down new ideas for articles to write. My mind sets to work and gives me ideas as I walk without needing to force anything. This way, I’m having a productive adventure out of doors, while also having fun.
4. Be intentional with your next three steps
We often feel stuck because we don’t know what to focus on. We end up trying to do several things simultaneously to compensate, whether watching inspirational videos on YouTube, checking emails, or washing the dishes. And often we end up doing very little at all. We’re doing the opposite of creativity–which is reactivity.
Instead, write down the next three (up till five) priorities you need to focus on, in order. Make them easily manageable and straightforward if you need to. Refer to this list, tick the items off one by one, and resist the distractions that may interfere with any of these tasks. Now you’re being truly productive, and this will be rewarded with entering the flow state and receiving creative insights as you progress.
5. Mindfully observe your blocks
An often overlooked reason why we procrastinate and come up against creative blocks is how we respond to our emotions moment by moment. When we think of a potential creative project, these thoughts can be accompanied by a range of emotional responses in the body. We might get a tightness in our stomachs. Or we feel discomfort in the chest area. Perhaps our heart rate increases slightly. Many of us inadvertently run from these feelings and use them as an excuse to escape and not do what seems the hard thing.
If you can sit mindfully for a few minutes and observe the feelings as they arise, those sensations will begin to fade. And when the discomfort is replaced with calm and peace, you can proceed with what you need to do. Be an observer of all the feelings that come up, even if you don’t know where they come from. Watch how your mindful attention overtakes the emotion. This can be a powerful hack for overcoming procrastination and propelling you into motion instead.