What I was missing was the constant stimulus of inspiration, and I definitely was not going to get that from my corporate job. I had to find alternative ways to stay inspired and generate content from my surroundings.
So I started a routine, one that sustains creativity rather than trying to set up the perfect creative setting.
Here are some ways I stay in the creativity zone both at work and at home:
There are many days I feel I have to be in the right environment in order to create. Being in the design field can easily lead to countless hours of the creator’s block, resulting in what seems like zero progress. To get out of this mindset, here are a few things I started doing:
1. Do something different everyday.
Typically I already know what tasks I have to complete before I start them. This gives me ample time to plan out my days, making sure I switch it up so I don’t bore myself. I complete mini-sprints with each of my tasks, maybe spending one day conducting user research and the next day focusing on another project. I normally have multiple projects under my belt, so I alternate in order to get a fresh glance every time I iterate.
Having this constant change in my routine allows me to be much more creative and open when I design. It also gives me time to reflect on my work when I’m switching up my day to day routine.
2. Find an outlet to explore news and trends.
I find it really hard to design and iterate on something without any external inspiration. When I feel stuck, I usually explore on Dribbble, Behance, or Pinterest to see how others are designing for a similar problem.
A really good resource I use for inspiration is Muzli (https://muz.li/), which compiles many popular creative websites into one place. I set it as my homepage, so whenever I open a new tab I get to see fresh content. They always have updated content, but you can also check out their Medium publication (https://medium.muz.li/) for your inspiration needs.
3. Join a community.
In addition to online inspiration, I still feel the need to connect with real people. Local meetups are a great way to start, and you can find them through Meetup, Eventbrite, or even Facebook events. I also participate in Slack communities (shoutout to Designer Hangout) to connect with people, share ideas, and meet up for coffee. I found that having a support system with real people to talk to was very helpful for me to learn about the industry, trends, and problems we all face as creators. (It’s also great networking, as I have connected directly with designers looking to hire =]).
My brain is mentally fried by the time I leave the office, and it gets even more difficult to dedicate my after-work hours on creating. I think we all are very ambitious to pursue our passions and throw ourselves head-first into something, but eventually we end up in the same cycle of fatigue, internet surfing, and pushing things off to tomorrow.
To keep the momentum going at home, I believe it’s very important to set the right attitude when it comes to staying creative. Be open to trying new things, don’t get hung up on how much time you should spend creating. Start small, and build up a habit of completing small steps everyday.
4. Invest in your hobbies.
I recently picked up piano again after a 5 year hiatus. I thought it would be a great past time, since I wanted to lose myself in the music I first fell in love with. Initially, I started practicing 30 minutes everyday. Then it gradually increased to 2 hours, and I found myself losing track of time because I was so invested in it. This daily practice has improved my muscle memory skills, sight-reading skills, and now music theory and composition.
Playing piano again gives me so much joy and also helps me relax my mind. Now I get to pursue my passion and also jam with my roommates (we’re starting a band)!
Even though I would tell you this is only a hobby, it’s a hobby I am fully invested in. It’s one that I put my love and effort into just learning and getting better everyday. And you can find yours too! Try out new hobbies, relearn old ones, and practice practice practice.
5. Be spontaneous.
Like I mentioned before, it can be really easy to get stuck in the same old routine, packed with to-do lists that end up being pushed to tomorrow.
Forget about the to-do lists. Instead, create a bucketlist of all the things you’ve always wanted to do, but never “found the time for.” Do at least one of these things each week, and make intentions to actually follow through.
If a friend hits you up that she’s visiting for the weekend, go get dinner! If a colleague invites you to happy hour, go drink! Whatever it may be, make room for spontaneity, because those moments are the ones you’ll remember.
I have made it a priority to spend time away from my computer and the distractions that can inhibit my productivity. As a designer, it’s especially frustrating to have a creative block for days on end and nothing to show.
This is why I say it’s totally okay to give yourself some breathing room and let your mind wander somewhere else or walk away and try something new. Spend some time by yourself, invite boredom and spontaneity, but most importantly, just start.