It’s been later than you thought. After a hard day of work you passed out on the couch watching your favourite tv show. While the show still continues you start imagining making your own tv show, that will be way better than your current favourite. Or writing that book, you’ve been thinking about whenever you had a moment to think. Someday, you think enthusiastically, I’ll do it. And you switch to the next episode of your favourite show.
Are you familiar with this little story? I’m just the same. I’m a recovering tv show addict. And procrastination is familiar to everyone I’d say, not just the designers and creatives, and a daily companion. I’m proposing a little thought experiment. Are you ready?
Exchange consuming for creating
What can you achieve, when you use the hours of consuming creatively to make your dreams a reality? For example, writing a novel.
Recent studies found out that Germans are consuming 492 minutes of audio-visual media on average every day (last update: 2015). That’s more than 8 hours a day. Seeing this result, it’s not surprising that everyone complains of not having enough time.
First of all you need to find out how much you are consuming on a daily basis. I’m referring to conscious consumption. Let’s assume you’re watching the average amount of tv, 186 minutes, per day. Doesn’t matter if it’s Netflix or the usual way. How about you’d write your novel instead of watching tv? Three hours of undivided attention for the story, you’re just itching to get down on paper. And afterwards you are looking at the result with satisfaction, maybe even a hint of pride. And you’re happy to have gotten one step closer to your goal.
Why are you not doing it then?
If you’re waiting for inspiration to strike, you will wait a long time
The only one standing in the way of your creativity is yourself. Your brain is screaming the usual excuses at you: “I’m not talented enough!”, “I don’t have the time!”, “I can’t handle a pencil/brush/instrument properly!”, “Everyone else is better than me!”, “I’m totally uninspired!”. And so on and so forth. Excuses, the whole lot of them.
We humans don’t like to venture out of our comfort zone, because it could be dangerous out there (saber-toothed tiger!). It applies to you as well as to myself. The uncertainty of the result of your project is stopping you, before you’re even started. But without trying something new, you can’t possibly know whether it’ll be good or bad. Or if the result will match or even exceed your expectations. No one claims that learning something new is easy. It’s difficult and there are no shortcuts or success formulas. It’s simply a lot of hard work. Talent isn’t a crucial factor, neither is inspiration. But the novel you’ve been carrying around in your head for years, won’t write itself on its own. At some point you have to decide, if you’re going to risk it or not. Two questions, you should ask yourself, are “Is this project worth all the hardship and difficulties coming with it?” and “Does this project mean so much to me, that I’m willing to sacrifice some things, that have been important to me before?” If you can answer both questions wholeheartedly with a “Yes”, do it.
But don’t try to do too much at once. Perseverance is the key. Work on your passion project a little bit every day. Every single day. Even if it’s just for five minutes. If you have a hard time motivating yourself, get yourself a partner, that will hold you accountable and reminds you of your project. Or you’re announcing it publicly, on social media for example.
3 tricks to get into a creative mindset
The following three tricks have helped me to spend more time creating than consuming:
1. Start your day with a creative activity/h3>
I got accustomed to start the day with a creative exercise. After breakfast I’m writing morning pages. In writing I look back on the previous day, take note of all the tasks I have to or want to do during the day and add everything else, that’s on my mind. I’m writing for half an hour on average. But that’s enough to get into a creative mindset for the whole day.
2. Choose a space for your creative activity
It can be helpful to have a permanent place for your creative activity, that will put you into a creative mood the minute you enter it. It can be an extra desk with all your utensils, a café or the little shed behind your house.
I’m writing my blog posts and other things on a laptop in the living room at the dining table for example. All the creative work is done at the desk in my bedroom. Both places help me to get into the writing or designing mode instantly.
3. Creative bedtime treat
The brain processes everything we’ve experienced throughout the day while we’re sleeping. So why not end the day with something creative? You could brainstorm ideas and write them down in a notebook. Or read an inspiring report or listen to a podcast. My favourite activity before going to bed is drawing. I’m taking my sketchbook and just draw random things. Most of the time it’s nothing worth sharing, but I’m closing my eyes with a satisfied feeling and am in a creative mood for the next day already.
It’s in your hands
Is your passion project worth investing time and maybe even money, no matter how many obstacles will be in your way or what you might have to sacrifice? Or would you rather stay on the couch dreaming about it? It’s entirely up to you.