We all fall into ruts in our daily lives. As responsibilities pile up, we become machines of routine that eventually can lead to monotony. It is hard to be creative within monotony. I get it, I have three kids and there are plenty of days where efficiency is the only goal of the day, so when I read an article telling me to “break routine” in order to be more creative, I just laugh. But, there are some tips I can offer that I find helpful. Not all of them are pandemic-proof, but we can possibly modify a bit to fit our current situation.
Getting away from a computer always seems to help grease the gears of your brain even if it is merely a walk in your neighborhood. Believe me, that can work wonders! Try to take a day trip to go hike in a nearby state park — even better if you pick one you have never been to. Over at the Take Care of Texas website we designed, you can take a pledge to help do your part to preserve the beautiful landscape of Texas, and in return they will send you a very helpful Official Texas State Parks & Wildlife guide!
Use your PTO, take vacations, take staycations. Go to new places and go to old places. Take mental-health-random-days off if you need them. Our company founder and Chief Creative Director Brian wrote an entire blog on the importance of taking vacation a couple of years ago, you can read it here. I have known way too many people that talk about not taking vacations as a way to prove a strong work ethic. It’s not — it can only burn you out. Use your earned time off.
Never Stop Learning
Push yourself outside your comfort zone. Learn a new program, learn a new skill, learn about any subject that peaks your interest — even if it’s 100% not related to your career. If you are interested in philosophy, read about it. If you don’t have time to read then you can listen to podcasts while you are doing the dishes or grocery shopping (I have previously talked about some podcasts I enjoy here). I am a big fan of listening to audiobooks while driving! Learning new things stimulates your brain, keeps it sharp.
They say that classical music has a physiological benefit to the brain, but I have found that there are many different kinds of music that can, and will, stimulate your creativity. I like to curate different playlists that can work for different projects and different moods. Some days I can listen to hours of movie scores and other days I am listening to punk as loud as possible. Listen to new music, I love to go to nearby music festivals (we have even taken our kids!) and what's really fun about it is most of the time there's good chunks of time where I don’t know any artists playing, so it becomes a sit outside and enjoy music you have never heard before… it’s amazing!
OK, so in my case I do audiobooks more than physically reading books. But the same advice still stands. My husband likes to bounce between nonfiction and fiction in a much more stimulating fashion than I do. Books are my escape. I like fantasy and light fiction. Occasionally when my mind is particularly frazzled and I can’t concentrate on work, I will put on an audiobook that I have heard many times and it somehow calms down the portion of my brain that can’t concentrate so that I can actually do my work.
Team brainstorm sessions can be game changing for getting creative juices flowing, but it can be quite an issue during the work from home slog that we are all struggling with right now. Google Meets has been beneficial from a meeting perspective, but our Slack workspace has kept the team tight and easy to bounce ideas and send work to each other (and lots of memes). I also use a Slack to connect with some other design and tech groups that have become a life saver without the social aspect of an office.
I have never been one to exercise on a regular basis, preferring to hike on weekends and occasionally take walks during the week. Work from home during the pandemic has definitely left me with excess anxiety and energy, so we got a rowing machine. Problem 100% solved.
Last but not least, attend (or virtually attend) professional conferences if you can. I generally can’t seem to fit them in because I have young kids, but I still enjoy listening to the talks when I can. As a personal preference I enjoy most general and inspirational chats that can be overall creative inspiration or specific to a certain path of design. I can learn about programs through online tutorials — I want to be inspired.
I hold firm the belief that I become a better designer because of life experiences I have (and continue to create) and a hunger to learn about everything. Because graphic design touches just about every industry out there we find ourselves always needing to push ourselves more once we get a grasp on any comfort zone. And with constantly changing technology and ever evolving culture, we only need to learn to adapt even more. Share with us the unique ways you have discovered to keep pushing your creativity.