Be gentle to yourself. Unless you’re gentle to yourself, no method or technique will work for you. — C.A. Kobu
It’s been with me as long as I can remember. The desire to start anew, organized, focused. To finally achieve my potential. The start of every new school year was full of new binders and planners and hopes and dreams. “This semester, I will stay organized. I will not complete papers the night before (or the morning) they are due. I will set deadlines for myself. I will… I will… I will…”
But it never really happened. I still got great grades, most of the time. But I felt like it was a constant struggle. I could only produce when I was in “the zone,” and I had no way to control when the muse would strike. After graduation, things got worse. Instead of concrete deadlines, I was faced with the squidginess of the real world. And I realized that instead of getting a F if I didn’t turn something in, people would often cut me slack. Extend deadlines. And I abused it. Oh lord, did I abuse it. And I castigated myself. I tried all sorts of organization and motivation systems. “Muse be damned, I’m getting it done!!” I was hard on myself. And it pushed me farther from any semblance of productivity.
I am learning that motivation isn’t a one size fits all scenario. The tricks that can catapult one person into “the zone” will completely immobilize another. Our different learning styles, different personalities and different values combine to create highly specific and beautiful individuals–doesn’t it make sense that our approach to work, organization and motivation should be individualized as well?
The creative process isn’t just about widgets and time-lines–we do need to leave space for the muse. It isn’t only allowed, it’s essential! Charlie of Productive Flourishing voices this very well:
“Creative people approach their work differently. Most of us don’t work 8-5, and we don’t have projects that we can plan to get done during the same times each day. The limiting factor for us is not the amount of time we have available, but rather the type of time we have available.”
We all work differently. So if you struggle with procrastination, or feeling blocked in your projects, take heart! You are not alone. You could be working in a system that isn’t designed for you. Try other planners. Restart your project. Don’t be afraid to get out your markers and draw a picture about how that *expletive* presentation you have to finish by Monday is making you feel.
Download Creative Menthol from Life Literacy Labs and try one of C.A. Kobu’s exercises to get “unstuck.” For the love of Pete, stop using Outlook to organize your task list! Try one of Charlie’s free planners. It is your right to figure out a system that works for YOU, even if it looks like madness or wasted time to an outsider. Give yourself permission to try a different approach. To fail. To refine your process and try again.
You are worth it. Your ideas are worth it.