Last year, I embarked on a 365 day project of making something every day, and it opened my eyes up to how little I was doing in both my business and creative life.
I love blogging, and for the most part I've been blogging since 2005 (hello, Myspace - never did discover LiveJournal, I feel like I really missed a rite of passage there...), and it's something I absolutely love. But I had a pretty huge wakeup call this year when I realized that I've been chugging along in my business paying the bills, working with clients, and not doing what I really love. Things like blogging, and creating meaningful content. And it's astonishingly easy to do!
Through #yearofmaking, I learned a lot about my own limits and my own self-sabotage. Here are things I saw I was doing A LOT of over the past 3 years, how they held me back, and how I changed them in 2015 and continue to in 2016.
From 2007-2011 I created a ton of content online. It was literally my life blood and got me out of bed in the morning. Until I burned out. Which was huge, and I don't want to dive into how that happened here. Everyone has their path and that was mine. I learned a lot.
One of the ways I soothed my spirit from burnout that year was just completely checking out. I literally went to work, worked, and came home and watched TV. That was it. In 2011 I started watching TV again after basically not watching it for years. I mean years. Yes, I would watch Netflix, but for the most part I never had any real shows I watched.
TV seemed to be the perfect elixir to help me just check out (and now I see, recover). But here's the thing. Once I got back on my feet and started wanting to create content again, run my own business, and work with clients -- I now had this other habit: TV. Plus, damn, TV had gotten SO GOOD (right?!).
Once I started my #yearofmaking in 2015, I saw just how much time TV ate up in my life. (My friend Abby does not watch any TV - scroll to the very bottom - and it's no wonder she gets SO MUCH done). While I will never advocate not watching TV, that just doesn't work for me. I enjoy TV, and I love the way I can chat about what's going on with a certain show with friends. BUT. Just like anything else, there has to be limits. I now save my TV for a few nights a week - after 9 when I'm done with work, and weekends, and every now and then on a rainy day I'll allow myself some shitty TV.
Where does TV fit in your life? How can you cut back on it so it doesn't eat away at your time and creativity?
There is never enough time. So let's just get that out of the way.
If you let excuses take you away from the things you truly love you're going to wake up 20 years from now and realize holy shit, I am no longer the person I thought I was. I have always considered myself a creative person, but something kind of died in me in 2011 after getting burned out and I wasn't able to see that. Thank GOD I decided to do a #yearofmaking in 2015, because it really opened me up to so much that I was no longer doing.
Once I committed to making something every day I saw just how often my brain made excuses to try and keep me from creating, or setting time aside for myself, or doing things that helped me achieve my goals. (You see, I have this brain that has worked really hard my entire life to self-sabotage. I have learned to ignore it. It still tries really hard though. Do you have the same brain?)
Excuses are the death knell of creativity. They feed off of fear, and host on your energy. Always push through. There is never a good time, just begin and get started. You can always stop.
Setting Goals & Not Sticking to Them
The thing about goals is they don't work if you aren't actively revisiting and building your life choices around them. Setting goals, checking in with those goals on a weekly, sometimes daily basis is imperative to make changes within your life. Making a list of goals in December, and then waiting til the following Decemeber to see if you achieved them is not a a great way to meet those goals. Trust me I've been there.
Over the past 10 years, I've learned to set monthly and quarterly goals and then make a system to check in with them to try and meet them. Somewhere between 2012 and 2014 things that really mattered to me sort of fell by the way side as I built my consulting business.
Setting goals was no longer useful for me. I really needed to take it up a notch. I got an accountability partner in September of 2015, and it has helped me see things I couldn't see, and it's actually held me accountable to my goals and mission.
Find an accountability partner, start a mastermind group with peers you trust, or if you have extra cash hire a business coach.
[Tweet ""Estimable acts create self-esteem.” How to stay creative when your mind is self-sabotaging:"]
Giving into Sloth
This is a hard one, but it's true. Being lazy is just a reality no one wants to talk about. It's complicated, and nebulous and it's not easy to get a hold of. It's a daily practice fighting it for me. But giving in to being lazy has never helped me. (And let's be clear, I am not talking about taking a much needed break - I am talking about actively shirking responsibilities because some weird fear monger has you by the neck.)
Three ways I combat being lazy:
How is it helpful: I ask myself how is being lazy (not taking responsibility for the tasks at hand, giving into fear and watching TV instead) helpful to meeting my goals? Do I want to go back to working a 40 hour a week job that I abhor? No. This tends to get a fire under my ass.
Creating self-esteem: When the lazy urge is really hard, I repeat this quote that's helped me immensely over the past 10 years: "Estimable acts create self-esteem." One can never have enough self-esteem (unless of course you're a narcissist - but I highly doubt you could be cast as the next American Psycho), and doing small tasks and getting shit done makes one feel better and build self-respect. Especially when it's hard.
I just push through: When all else fails, I push through and tell myself to stop being a goddamn baby. Because sometimes you just have to put your big girl pants on and admit you're being petulant and self-sabatoging and its helping no one.
The Paralyzing Nonsense of Compare & Despair
Ugh. This happens to everyone, and I'm no exception. I've worked really hard over the past 10 years to combat this weird self-sabotage thing we're all prone to. It's hard. It's not easy.
When I start to feel that nagging feeling of I am not good enough, my business isn't a success, etc. I get offline, or stop doing what I'm doing because normally it involves me reading someone's blog, looking at Pinterest (which I love, I'm not hating, but let's be real it can happen there), looking at the iTunes Top Podcast List, and on and on...my brain is really adept at working to see things in a light that tells me there is not enough room in this world for me.
It's not true. I know this deep down. When this happens, I do one of a few things: I check something small (or big if the mood strikes me) off my to-do list, I reach out to a friend to see how I can be of service to them and get the hell out of my own brain, if it's really bad I take my dog for a hike to get some perspective.
The biggest thing to do when this happens is to stop it. I also use the 3 things I listed above to snap me out of it. It's not always easy, but at the end of the day comparing someone's outsides to your insides, helps no one. Snap out of it.
Not Being Disciplined Online
This aspect/issue is sort of a combination of a lot of the above. Because I work online all day, I have strict boundaries around clicking around aimlessly now. I rarely ever open up my laptop without an intention set to work, complete a task, start a project, etc. I do not allow myself to surf Facebook, Twitter, et al unless it's a period of time in which that sort of behavior is allowed - like weekends or after 9. I just can't allow myself to do that.
I often talk to clients and workshop attendees about that 45 minute to 3 hour (god forbid, but it's happened) Internet rat hole I have fallen into time and time again, until I finally said enough is enough. I now have a solid work system set up to keep me from falling into that shiny object syndrome. At the end of the day, I am my own boss and I can't be a shitty employee by wasting precious time online. It's just not a choice I am willing to make anymore.
Making It Work & When to Give In
Staying productive and creative is not always easy. It's a constant refining process. It's important to continue to constantly take stock of what is working, what's not, how to push yourself through a slump, etc. But it's essential to be honest with yourself about what you're doing to hold yourself back from accomplishing your goals and dreams.
It's also important to know when it's OK to just let yourself check out, space out, and take a breather. Because we all need that too. We can't have the peaks without the valleys, it's important to allow those times as well. All of the above was getting in the way of important things for me. The key is balance, or just knowing when enough is enough. Like I said, it's a constant process.
What have you done to snap yourself out of a bad cycle of not creating? Is there a trick you do to get that fire going? I'd love to hear it!