Four months into lockdown and my creativity is waning. I haven’t written anything in weeks (you’ll have noticed). I’ve barely been posting on Instagram. I haven’t drawn or practiced regular asana for ages. At the beginning of this pandemic I was enthusiastically doing all these things all the time. I was inspired. I had clarity. I was excited to work on myself and my business. I was productive and I felt juiced for life.
Over the months though, time has crept on and nothing’s really changed. Time and time again I’ve been overlooked for the jobs I’ve applied for. As the novelty of spending so much time indoors and alone wears off and the pandemic rages on, my momentum has slowed until I finally felt like I wasn’t doing anything at all.
I’m absolutely not a proponent of the philosophy of over-business. You know, the cultural idea that if you’re not working every moment, hustling, then you’re not fulfilling your purpose or your worth. I absolutely do not want to encourage that. Still though, there’s a different kind of busy that is healthy. The kind of busy where you feel fulfilled at the end of the day instead of exhausted. The kind where there is plenty of time for constructive rest and relaxation. There may be things you have to do that you’d rather not but you don’t feel the need to fill your time with endless different occupations. That’s an avoidance tactic and it doesn’t end in contentment.
The difficulty for me was that with not working my ‘free time’ seemed to stretch on forever. There is no constraint to work within and there for no structure to the day or urgency to get on with anything. Thinking I have all the time in the world leaves me feeling under stimulated.
Being unemployed when you really want a job is hard on your mental health. Months of rejection (including the radio silence received back on most of the applications I sent out) is demoralising. It’s hard to keep the job hunt motivation going and that can spill over into other areas of your life. Sometimes it can become overwhelming but by starting slow and small you can step back into your creativity, get your verve for life back.
It took me a while to recognise my inertia, and it took a while longer to be able to shake it off.
- Challenge and discomfort
The way that I’m inviting creativity and dynamism back into my life is by setting myself challenges. Things to push me outside of my comfort zone and jump start my motivation. Small things that I know I can do first and then building on that to reignite my passions.
I’ve started intermittent fasting. Hunger is a sensation that I’ve always somewhat feared, so intentionally depriving my body of food has been a revelation of resilience. Same with cold showers and my discomfort with being cold. Writing with my non-dominant hand a few lines everyday to practise becoming ambidextrous has been a fun way to let go of the need for ‘perfect’ or even ‘good’ results in the things I’m trying.
These little explorations into discomfort have sparked excitement in me again. Even writing this blog. It’s something I’ve been putting off for ages because I was over thinking the results rather than remembering how much I simply enjoy the act of writing. The first few paragraphs were slow, and difficult to get down on the page- I kept getting distracted by my environment but as I continued to dig into my truth to share it with you the words began to pour out of me. I accessed that flow state where I was completely absorbed into what I was doing, which is something I’m always searching for and which I had forgotten I could access so smoothly through the practice of writing. And after writing this I felt so accomplished my energy and joy were boosted and I’m still reaping the benefits of purposeful productivity.
- Time blocking
Another tool I use to push myself to do something is time blocking. In the evenings I map out what I want my next day to look like. I give myself time in the morning to do my morning routine*, then I lay out the times I want to do each of the things on my to do list.
This gives my a framework to lean on so when I find myself sucked into Instagram or simply bored I can check my plan and get on with the task I’ve chosen for that time.
OF course this timetable is completely flexible so that if I find myself wanting to do something different that I’d planned at a given time I can. If I get absorbed by a particular task and don’t want to stop I can spend more time than I’d initially budgeted. If I decide to go out and run around in the woods I can scrap it completely. It’s not about rigidity but about giving myself a support system to fall back on.
For me time blocking works much better than a simple to do list. Looking at a list of things I need, or even want, to do, I find it all too easy to put things off until later. Unfortunately we all know that later, just like tomorrow, doesn’t exist so putting stuff off for later is really just ignoring it altogether. When I schedule my day, I can clearly see that ‘later’ is already assigned to another activity. It’s now or never!
Also, having a start and finish time for each of my to dos means I don’t get caught out by my subconscious conviction that if I can’t finish something in one go then it’s too big to start at all. I can begin a project today, work for an hour or two, and continue on other days.
- JFDI/Kill Bill
My third and final tip for overcoming habitual inertia is Just Fucking Do It (JFDI) aka Kill Bill (watch the films and you’ll know what I mean). Sometimes it’s the only way to shake things up enough to regain momentum. Sometimes you just have to make yourself do the thing- write the blog, apply for the jobs, do the exercise, cook the food. It’s a hard one because it means you have to muster up the motivation from possibly nowhere (I find a change of scene really helps with that- the library is my top inspiration spot). It is worth it though, because almost every time the rewards are immediate and you feel so much better about yourself when it’s done.
Feeling better about yourself is the whole point. Accomplishing a few things off your to do list, no matter how small, makes you feel good and energises you to keep going. It’s an upward moving spiral. Yes, you can slide up and down the spiral, but all it takes is a little shift in mindset and you can flow on. Use the tips in this article to change your mindset and you’ll be on the up and up!
I believe in you x
*Morning routines deserve a blog of their own, watch this space!