Have you ever sat down at your computer to finish your lengthy to-do list…only to realize that, frustratingly, you felt unmotivated and unproductive? You may have looked at the long list of things you needed to finish, which gave you instant overwhelm.
But you couldn’t help it, right? You just weren’t feeling inspired.
So, you either forced yourself to create mediocre, uninspired work, or you just did a whole lot of nothing (and probably felt guilty about it!). Either way, you weren’t operating as your highest, most creative self, and you probably wasted a lot of time in the process. (Can you tell I’m speaking from experience here?!).
One of the first things to suffer when we start experiencing burnout or overwhelm can be our creativity, and whether you’re in full-blown burnout mode, or just feeling a little stuck around your creative work, the result is the same:
- Feeling like you’re in a total rut
- Worried that your creative output is derivative, a version of what everybody else is saying
- Feeling deeply uninspired to do the work you normally love
When I was suffering from burnout, I ran head first into a huge creative and writer’s block. I normally love to write, but back then, I would log into my blog and just stare at the blinking cursor while it put me to sleep. My mind was so clogged, nothing seemed to come out right.
Eventually, I started to figure out what was stopping me from connecting to my creativity and productivity, and I have a feeling you might be experiencing the same exact problems.
So, let’s chat about 5 reasons why you’re feeling unmotivated and uncreative…and how to fix them!
1. You’ve had too much input from others, and not enough from yourself.
True creativity is about your own honest expression, and getting too much input from social media, friends, and family can mean that your voice gets diluted and starts to sound like a replica of everyone else’s.
And Too-Much-Input Syndrome can creep in unexpected. One minute, you might feel like a creative genius, and the next minute (usually after some Instagram scrolling), your subconscious might decide that everything you’ve been working on is garbage.
And you’re not alone. It’s why some writers avoid reading books similar to theirs when they’re writing, to avoid being influenced by other authors. And why some musicians stop listening to other people’s music when they’re trying to write their songs. In the same way, you might need to tune out the noise in order to be able to hear your own creative voice.
- Take a social media sabbatical. With social media, we have more external input and stimulus that any other generation before us — and the deluge of other people’s ideas can be hard to ignore. But stepping away can be deeply refreshing. Decide how long you will be away, and make a commitment. Delete the apps off your phone and block the sites on your computer if necessary. I promise, they’ll still be there when you’re ready to return.
- Create stronger boundaries with loved ones. Maybe it isn’t strangers on the Internet who are zapping your creativity, but family members and loved ones. If you have someone in your life who constantly downplays your vision or doesn’t support your goals, then it might be time to create stronger boundaries with them, rather than freely sharing your ideas (that you know will be disapproved of).
- Stop outsourcing your decision making to everyone but yourself. Meaning? Instead of asking everyone else for what they would do in a situation, start making your own decisions without other people’s input. It may be that you are a part of a mastermind or a creative group designed to provide feedback, but you’re getting so much feedback that you’ve started trying to make everyone happy instead of staying true to your vision. If this sounds like you, it’s time to stop asking for feedback and opinions, lovebug. Go with your gut and trust your instincts.
2. You’ve been busy nonstop.
Have you ever noticed that some of your best ideas seem to show up at the strangest times — like standing in the shower, taking a long walk outside, or even sitting on an airplane with no wifi?
Our most creative ideas generally don’t come when we’re running ourselves ragged, and that’s because the part of our brain that’s good at generating new ideas needs space and time to work.
If you’ve been busy nonstop lately, first ask yourself “why.” Is it because you genuinely have a zillion things to do everyday (hey, some people do — I get that!), or is it because you’re filling your calendar in order to escape something you don’t want to think about or deal with (like, perhaps, your lack of creativity or zest for life)? #ouch.
- Dig deeper into your need for “busy” — journal about it, talk to a confidante, or go for a tech-free walk in nature. As humans, we repeat behaviors that give us some kind of reward. What reward are you getting by staying busy? For example, does being busy make you feel important or needed?
- Create some intentional space in your life. If you ARE busy nonstop and it’s killing your creativity, then schedule some downtime. Start with one hour — one hour to sit and do absolutely nothing. Notice how it makes you feel. Good? Anxious? Bored? Those feelings might provide more insight into why you’re so busy in the first place. Now try scheduling some white space every week, then every day. How does that feel?
3. You’re disconnected from your authentic voice.
When I found myself stuck in a creative rut, it was because I was having a hard time connecting with my authentic voice. I repeatedly asked myself, “What do I want?” Yet, I could never quite think of an answer. I was so disconnected from myself that I had no idea what I wanted to do, say, or create.
Maybe you’ve lost touch with your inner voice — or maybe you’re not sure you’ve ever really been in touch with your authentic voice because you have so many other voices layered on top: friends, family, coworkers, society, etc., all telling you what you “should” be or do.
Find ways to reconnect to yourself. This is best done solo and away from technology. Talk honestly with a friend, exercise, go for a walk, go on spotify and listen to some meditation music and just breathe for 10 minutes, or even take a solo trip.
Whatever you do, try to use the time to be quiet and tune in to what your inner voice has to say.
Use these journaling questions to help you tap in to your inner voice:
- Whose approval do I need the most in order to feel fulfilled and worthy? Said another way: Who am I most afraid to disappoint? Keep in mind, there may be multiple people or groups who are influencing you — list them all.
- How does seeking approval from these people or groups cause me to dim my authentic self?
- What would it look like if I didn’t seek approval from them? What would I do differently?
- What’s at stake if I choose to keep approval-seeking instead of living authentically?
- How would my life positively transform if I made authentic choices, instead of making choices that I think other people would approve of?
4. Your ideas feel like a jumbled mess.
When I’m overwhelmed, it generally happens for one of two reasons:
- I have a lot on my plate.
- I feel like I have a lot on my plate.
While these might seem similar, the experience of them is actually completely different. See, when you DO have a lot on your plate, the solution might be to eliminate things from your hectic schedule to come back to balance.
But oftentimes, it merely FEELS like you have a lot to do because you haven’t organized and streamlined your schedule. So, all those tasks feel like an overwhelming mess because they’re all sitting in your brain instead of broken up into smaller chunks in your schedule.
- Get it all out on paper. If you feel like you have too many ideas and can’t make sense of them, start by making a list and getting everything out of your head. I love to use post-it notes because they can be rearranged and reordered as much as needed.
- Do some research. If you feel like you don’t know enough, or there are some pieces missing, do a bit of research to fill in the blanks. When we don’t know how to do a step in an overall process, our brain has a tendency to zero in on that small, confusing detail and make the entire project feel exhausting. So, if you do a few minutes of research to add more understanding to your tasks, you might just feel like a weight has been lifted.
5. You feel alone.
Loneliness can be a big barrier to creativity. I truly believe that human beings are created for deep connection and when we don’t get enough of it, it eventually takes a toll on us. Yet, when we get busy with work, one of the first things we tend to do is isolate ourselves. Notice a problem, friend? 🙂
- Find a mentor or join a community. Depending on the type of work you want to do, you might find a support group of other creative people, create a mastermind, or you can join a program that will support you.
- Create a community. When I was an expat living in Japan years ago, I felt those pangs of loneliness, too. I could barely speak the language and it was difficult to make friends. So, after a few months of wishing I had a community to spend time with, I decided to create my own. I started a meetup group online. I hosted a small music and arts festival. I created a blog so that I could connect with people online. Instead of feeling like a victim of my circumstances, I did something about it (and it made ALL the difference). Don’t forget that YOU have the power to create what it is you want.
Want more strategies to help you get rid of overwhelm and feel motivated again?
I’m hosting a 100% free online workshop on October 10th all about how to get your SPARK back when you’re feeling unmotivated and uncreative.
Here’s what I’ll be covering…
- Why “time management” and “to do lists” are an old-school approach, and how to use new age methods to actually make time for your work in today’s distraction-filled world.
- The #1 worst thing you can do when trying to get things done, which is robbing you of your time and focus (and can lead to procrastination and a lack of motivation). And of course, what to do instead!
- How to design a fun and creative Flow State Ritual to nearly instantly become your most focused and productive self.
- How to tell if you’re suffering from “burnout” and specific steps to follow that will bring you back to your vibrant, healthy self.
Now tell me in the comments below…which of the 5 tips above resonated with you most? Was there one that felt like OMG THAT IS SO ME? Let me know!