Breaking through a creative block

“I need these designs by 4 pm today. Can you make it?” How many times have I heard these words. The funny thing is that it seems to always happen when I’m in a moment of a creative block.

I’m sure you know these moments too. Working hard on something but not getting anywhere with it. Through all these years I found three approaches that help me through these moments. Most of the times they work. But sometimes they don’t and I ship average work, feel bad about it and can’t wait to get back and improve it. Anyway, here they are.

Force my way through with hard work

How many times have I spent hours of work on a project that needed to be done yesterday but still wasn’t going anywhere. The feeling of frustration grows until you’re fed up and need a break. I usually do take a break but a short one. The work needs to be done in a few hours and there’s nothing left but force my way through. A few hours of hard work after already a few hours of hard work is incredibly tough. But sometimes it’s all that is left. It may produce above average work at best but it will be done. It’s important to leave your perfectionism out of it when you need to take this approach. Momentum is the other important part. Don’t take long breaks. Take more shorter ones instead.

Work on something else

This approach will only work if you have the luxury to postpone the work for a little while. Working on one thing for hours will narrow your focus and you won’t be able to see the big picture anymore. You might also need a different perspective on the work but after hours spent on it, you’re too heavily invested. You need to get away from the work and work on something else for a while. Spend an hour or even less trying to find a solution to another problem, then get back to the original task. You’ll fell slightly refreshed and more eager to continue the work. Smaller tasks are the best for intermediate shift of focus. Try to complete at least a few to motivate you even more.

Sleep on it

The last approach is not for the rushed projects that need to be done on the same day. This will only work if you can get back to work on another day but might be the most effective. Our subconscious mind is more effective at finding patterns than the conscious one. After spending hours of hard work on a problem your brain will do you a favour of trying to find a solution while you sleep. That’s why it’s much better to study for an exam before you go to sleep, not in the morning just before the exam (tell that to the young version of me). You’ll have a better picture of the problem you’re trying to solve and sometimes even a solution. This approach is great for tougher problems that need time. Others use this approach quite effectively as well. The key is that you need to spend a few hours working hard on the problem. Maybe just before you go to sleep as well. Then let your brain do the heavy lifting.

Matej Latin

I’m a self-taught designer proving that you don’t need a design degree to make a career in design. I went from doing boring graphic design work to working for big tech companies as a Product Designer. I thrive in the grey area between design and web development and I wrote a book about web typography for designers and web developers.

Triple Your Salary Guide cover

Get the design salary that you deserve

Increase your salary by learning when to switch jobs, which skills to improve and how, and how to find a UX-mature company to work for.

Download the free guide

Related posts

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *