It’s inevitable for every creative to hit a wall and think “am I even a graphic designer anymore”? That’s extreme, I know, but we’ve all thought that, or at least I have plenty of times. It’s usually when I’ve been pulled outside of my rhythms I’ve implemented. I’ll forget to take care of myself above my work and start to feel like everything I make is garbage and that I’ll never get of the unproductive slump.

So, what do we do in these moment of lethargy? No, we don’t binge the Office or continue perusing Behance hoping we’ll get a sudden spark of inspiration. Sure, you could work through the creative block and eventually come out on the other side, but what if I told you that there was a faster, healthier path towards being that kick-butt creative that you are?

Let’s get started!

1. Walk away from your devices.

Hard as it may be, this is probably the most necessary thing to do. Close your laptop, turn off your phone, log out of Instagram because everything can wait.

The healthiest version of you is when you’re taken care of first.

So start going down the list:

  • Have you eaten yet today or did you skip breakfast and get right to work?
  • How’s your water to coffee ratio? If all you’ve had is drip from your local shop, go fill up your water bottle and CHUG.
    You might be dehydrated.
  • How much sleep did you get last night? 3 hours? Go take a short nap.
  • Have you had your quiet time lately? No? Then go for a walk and pray. Tell God what’s on your mind.

These are just a few ways to monitor your energy levels and maybe pinpoint why you’re feeling the way you are.

Once you’ve turned your tech off, go for a walk, run or do something other than sit in front of a screen. Visit your local greenhouse, plants are proven to reduce anxiety and stress whenever we look at them. Call a friend and talk for a bit. Do ANYTHING that doesn’t involve a screen!

2. Print isn’t dead!

I’ve found that I naturally get refreshed by perusing different lifestyle magazines (Cereal, Kinfolk, Eye on Design, Juxtapoz to name a few) and exploring the different layouts, paper weights and ways they’ve chosen to bound them.

Another way to disrupt complacency is to get out of your typical medium. Mine would be digital design and yours might be the same.

Let’s take the limits off and do something different for a moment. Challenge yourself to do one thing a month that’s outside of your normal medium. Paint something on a canvas, take up screen printing, break out your film camera and shoot, make a linoprint, experiment with watercolors, draw in a notebook with a pen instead of using Procreate.

Disrupting the mundane can encourage innovation.

3. Establish a rhythm.

We all need healthy habits. Whether it’s the same morning routine or that you’ll always go for a run after you finish working. Whatever it is, do that!
Even limiting your work hours to certain times of the day will force you to be more productive during those times versus taking multiple breaks over the course of the day.

After observing my emotional wear and tear multiple times over the course of 3 weeks, one of my good friends and I sat down and planned what we call “The Perfect Week” (see photo for reference).

Each day is mapped out from when I wake up to when I go to bed with space for personal time, relationships, work and side projects. After almost 2 months of implementing that schedule, I can testify that there are still stressful moments, but making myself stay accountable to that schedule and putting myself above my work has been beneficial to maintaining healthy innovation.

If that’s what it takes for you too, do it!
Call a mentor or a close friend, launch Excel and start planning. 

4. Start investing in yourself.

I’m not talking about just your work. What you make is a product of the person you are. Take time to read books, whether it be topics on leadership, self-help, or fiction.

Listen to podcasts! Here are few that I love (found on Spotify):

  • “Secrets of the most productive people” by Fast Company
  • “Before Breakfast w/ Laura Vanderkam” by iHeartRadio
  • “Optimal Living Daily: Personal Development and Minimalism”

Become a specialist in your craft.
Switch up your workflow every once in a while to shake off potential complacency.
Learn how to make better motion graphics, research trending social media strategies, or take a masterclass in a topic of interest.

While this isn’t a cure-all, making time to take care of your mental and emotional health eventually reflects itself in how you communicate with those you work with and what you create.