We all know the feeling that hits us after hours of creative work. Here at the Verved office, we like to call it “The 3 O’Clock Feeling.” After a long day of work, Laura and I will often begin to laugh randomly, struggling to continue being productive. Each time it happens (almost without fail) we look at the clock and say in unison, “it’s 3 o’clock again!”
These afternoon hours seem to drag and it can be really hard to keep creative thoughts and ideas flowing through your head. But, today is not the day to despair! The next time you find yourself struggling to work or create, try at least one or more of these things I like to do when I’m stuck on a project!
1. Take a Quick Walk.
As a creative, it can be hard to stay fresh and inspired all day, especially during those lousy afternoon hours. Something as simple as a short walk can be very beneficial!
Sometimes, Laura and I will take a midday walk around Englewood. Even using this time to talk about what we’re working on or struggling to create, we’re often surprised at how rejuvenated we feel, as we sit back down at our desks.
2. Look Around.
If you’re struggling to find inspiration, try looking up from your work. We can all feel more creative after noticing all the shape and color around us.
If you’ve never tried Adobe Capture, it’s a mobile app designed to help take inspiration from the world around you. I often find myself pulling out my phone to capture color palettes in places I would never imagine taking inspiration from.
This is a great exercise to combine with taking a walk. While you’re walking, look around. I’m going to expose myself a little bit here: I once had a design take some inspiration from one of those bike racks outside of a Walmart that Laura and I passed on our daily walk. Y’know, one of these things:
3. Take breaks.
Sure, going on a quick walk can help you stay fresh, but sometimes it’s just not enough. When you’ve been working on a project for a while and it’s starting to grow old, take a longer break. Sometimes the best way to help your project move forward is to stop working on it and come back to it the next day. This can be hard to do with deadlines, but it will help you create better work and be more efficient.
This is actually a great moment to remind you that as a creative, you should try your best to give yourself plenty of time to work on your projects in order to allow for the flexibility to do something like taking a break every once in a while.
I like this exercise so much that I’m going to put it into practice right now. It’s 3:45, and I am really struggling to keep writing. So, I guess I’ll come back and finish this tomorrow.
4. Focus on quantity.
Alright, I’m back!
This next exercise is probably most helpful when starting a project, but it can be applied to any step of your process when you’re lacking creativity or inspiration. The goal here is to focus more on general ideas, and not get bogged down in the details.
Try setting a timer for 5 minutes. When the timer goes off, you should have at least 10 ideas sketched out on what was a blank sheet of paper. This is not an excuse to scribble or drift away from the project at hand. Throughout the 5 minutes, you should continue to be focused on the themes and ideas of your project. This is a process I and many other professionals like to use when starting a new logo design.
I’ve heard of some people liking a very similar activity, called 30 circles. The goal is to draw in as many circles as possible in ten minutes. While this may be a great creative exercise, drawing that many “doodles” in such little time can be counterproductive to a workplace because it’s not driven by a specific project or idea, so if you want to go this route, think about lessening the number of circles you need to fill.
5. Do You.
If you’ve made it this far, you may be wondering why you would want to listen to MY thoughts on YOUR creative process. That’s a valid thought, and I’m going to try to give you an answer as best I can.
In reality, these are just things I like to do whenever I get stuck on a project or notice myself being unproductive and drifting off of the project at hand. The truth is that these are really only tips to give you ideas, and I’m really hoping to just give you a foundation to figure out what helps you out the most. You know yourself. Maybe a walk isn’t possible or doesn’t help clear your mind. That’s fine! Try something else.
The truth is that there are endless possibilities of things to help clear your mind and inspire you. Put in headphones and listen to your favorite (or least favorite) kind of music, stand up while you work, sit next to your fireplace, maybe work outside, stare at the freaking ceiling (yes, even something as absurd as that can help you be more productive and creative!). I don’t care what you choose to do and to be honest, no one should care what helps you feel creative. We are all different and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with experimenting with what helps you finish creative projects in an efficient manner. How do you think I came up with these tips?