Even the most productive and creative people have days when things just don’t click. It’s as if the gears in your brain get jammed, stalling your creative flow. It’s a perfectly normal phenomenon, and over time, I’ve learned a few tricks to power through these roadblocks. Most of which involve, well, lying to myself and hoping my mind won’t notice.
One of the most effective strategies I’ve adopted is starting with an easy, no-brainer task and gradually building on it. Let’s say, for instance, that I’m working on an article. I’d kick things off with a simple task like using Stable Diffusion to generate a suitable featured image for the article. It’s a low-stakes activity that’s also fun and doesn’t demand too much cognitive effort. The mere act of doing this kick–starts my thinking process and often, I find myself subconsciously contemplating the rest of the task. If all goes well, by the end of the day, I’ll have forgotten that I was struggling to begin with.
In a similar vein, I sometimes intentionally leave a small portion of my work incomplete. The idea is to start the next day with an easy task, a mini–win, that sets the tone for the rest of the day.
Procrastinators can certainly relate to the feeling of facing a tough task and then promptly diverting their focus elsewhere. Say, you have an exam on the horizon and instead of hitting the books, you find yourself tidying up your room. While procrastination can spiral out of control if not checked, it can also be harnessed beneficially, much like an aikido move. When you catch yourself procrastinating, pivot to tackling other pending tasks instead of the new, daunting one. Just remember not to get carried away and to eventually return to the big task at hand.
Another helpful trick I’ve learned is setting false deadlines. The rush of adrenaline that hits when a deadline looms can help propel your work across the finish line, provided you can successfully trick your brain into forgetting the deadline is faux.
Don’t underestimate the power of underestimating. The tendency to downplay the complexity of big tasks is what often drives parents to have children. “It can’t be that hard, can it?” or “We did it once before, so we can do it again, right?” Sometimes, this underestimation can be a blessing. If we all accurately gauged the complexity of every task, we’d probably have fewer people starting families, building houses, authoring books, launching businesses, relocating, and so on.
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