My office has been an intensely focused, deadline-driven environment lately, and it’s gotten me thinking about how to stay inspired under the circumstances. Part of what sparked this line of thinking was actually the observation of how good that intense focus feels to my brain, and how it makes me want to apply the same level of dedication to my independent pursuits. I like the stability my current job provides, and I think it leaves me in a good place to find the peace of mind to concentrate on other aspects of my life as well—that is, if I can learn to balance my creative and working lives. I’m no shining example, but I have found a few things that give me hope that I can one day finish that dreamy novel or short story collection while holding down my desk job. Here are my tips for staying inspired at work, not just about your immediate projects, but about your own creative aspirations:
- Jot down ideas. It’s when I’m most immersed in what I’m doing at work that the creative juices start to flow. I’ll get an idea for a story or blog post while deep into editing a technical document. That’s why I keep a small notebook with me. I take it out when inspiration hits, jot down what comes to mind, and go back to the task at hand. This often happens when I’m at my most productive, work-wise, which is why this article kind of makes sense to me. I also tend to be hit with inspiration while caffeinated, which brings me to my next tip.
- Have a cuppa. I’m not proud of my caffeine addiction, but I find that a well-timed cup of coffee or tea can really boost my level of inspiration (and yes, timing is crucial; consider following this advice to figure out when caffeine most benefits you). I find that late morning or afternoon is best for me; in the early morning, I like to ease into my day, and a full cup of coffee can rattle me. But later on, it sends me soaring through my work, rife with ideas and productivity.
- Take a walk. Whether a lunchtime stroll or a determined walk to public transit, I find that the rhythm and elevated heart rate of walking gets me into a different state of mind. On days when I choose to walk to BART instead of taking the shuttle, I sometimes find myself so mentally energized that I stop every few blocks to take out my notepad. It’s a whole different experience than jostling on a bus. (If you have to drive, see Andria of Anchors & Freedom’s take on the daily commute.)
- Recognize artistry. Whether you’re making pies or websites, or ringing up customers, there is an art to what you do. There is a way of interacting with people that works best, a method of organizing files or moving through tasks that gets better results and, likely, leaves you in a better mood. Recognize these moments of accomplishment, and if possible, take a moment to admire what you and your coworkers have done. You might be amazed at what you’ve created, and that boost of confidence can be carried over into other pursuits.
- Add art. Fill the interstices of your day with things that inspire you. Listen to music if you can (for working, I like classical). If you work at a desk, bring in objects that you like to look at, but won’t distract you (I have a miniature snow globe that I like to turn over at moments when I need a quick dose of whimsy). During breaks, read something with the right amount of substance and escapism. In other words, make time, even if it’s just five minutes, for something you love.
So, that’s my list for the moment. What keeps you happy and inspired at work? How do you balance your work life with outside pursuits? I’d love to hear more ideas about how to tackle these daily challenges.