Here are 5 things I do to stay inspired

Here are five things I do to stay inspired | 5 things to stay inspired

Here are 5 things I do to stay inspired

Inspiration.

That's a funny and loaded word, eh? It's a muscle we are always trying to flex and something we are constantly searching for.

There are times when we feel overwhelmingly inspired in many areas of our lives, whether it's on the professional or personal front. Ideas flow and we have thoughts buzzing in our brains faster than we can act on them all. It's an exciting time when anything seems possible! These are the periods when all I want to do is create, create, create because I feel like I have so much to put out in the world - critics and haters be damned! 

But for every high there's a low and like most creatives, I've fallen into inspiration droughts that leave me feeling grumpy and exhausted. Creativity is a constant ebb and flow and as the saying goes, "use it or lose it". It's rare that you will always be brimming with great ideas but if you can manage to stay creative and inspired, these gems will be easier to hold onto.

The question I often ask myself is how can I get and (most importantly) stay inspired? How can I create on a regular basis?

In an ideal world I'd be in a permanently inspired state because this is when I do my best work and have the most fun. And who wouldn't want to ride that wave forever? I know it's not realistic, however, so instead I do my best to stay inspired as regularly as possible and not let the creative dry spells take over. 

My friend and I had this conversation over dinner the other night and I thought it would be worth sharing my thoughts here with you. I know we are all a little nosy and like to see what makes people tick and how their actions and attitudes affect their work. 

Let's dive right into the inspiration pool, shall we?

1. Be curious about other topics

As a self-employed web designer/developer, I always want to be on top of my professional game. This means I spend a LOT of time learning outside of working hours. I'm a huge fan of continuing education, especially when I can see a direct link between what I'm learning and how that applies to my work/life, but I've recently come to realize how important it is to learn just for the fun of it. 

Learning about a variety of topics has been a major way to stay inspired and I like being able to dabble into whatever tickles my fancy. Whether I read a book or article, watch a documentary, attend a lecture, take a class or workshop, etc., I get off on learning something new!

I'm not trying to become an expert in everything or get a Jeopardy brain, but it does feel good to know enough about a lot of things.

Whether it's web design and development, UI/UX, processes, client management, finances, marketing, etc., I enjoy pulling from all these different areas and being able to contribute intelligent ideas to the discussion.

I've also been hugely inspired by seemingly unrelated topics, such as art, history, food and sports. You never know when a connection will form in your brain and how you can apply that creatively! 

It's fun to learn for pleasure and I find that even the occasional wiki deep binge can help me out professionally in unexpected ways. There are so many ideas, stories and points of view to pull from which means that I often approach challenges in a totally different way from before.

Related: The reading list for January/February 2018

2. Check out design IRL

Like any good millennial, I spend a ridiculous amount of time every day in front of my laptop or on my phone, which is why it feels hella good to step away from the screen(s) and take in the real world around me. 

Seeing different designs and things being created in the flesh always gets me thinking, and I always come back feeling a major surge of inspiration. I go to a lot of art galleries and museums because they offer design in more traditional settings, but that doesn't mean I can't get the same feeling from a really neat restaurant/bar/cafe too! Another thing I enjoy doing is going for a walk or run around a new neighbourhood and taking in the architecture, landscaping, street names, etc.

The goal here is to experience a change of scenery and see design & creativity in action as they're being put out into the world in intentional ways. 

I'm not talking about curated Pinterest boards, Instagram feeds, or magazine collages (although those are all awesome in their own ways!) but instead I find that getting inspired outside in the real world is what gets me the best results.

3. Touch base with peers

OK yes, I fully acknowledge that this isn't exactly a groundbreaking insight, but there's enormous value in collaboration and conversation for staying inspired.

If you don't already, make a point of regularly checking in with your peers. Same, complimentary or totally different industries - it's all fair game. No matter how things start off, you're almost guaranteed to have a lively discussion and leave feeling inspired by the conversation and hearing about different projects. Inevitably someone will share a design/development hangup and the others can jump in with fresh perspectives to help them out. 

Not only will you build and strengthen relationships, you'll also enjoy a front row look at what others are up to and how that might relate to your own projects.

I have a few friends that I meet up and co-work with regularly when I'm at home in Vancouver, and now that I've joined a new co-working space, I find that I am even more inspired by the projects going on around me every day! Tech events are also something I enjoy so I always make time for those. I also have a few "online business friends" who I check in with on the regular and I get a ton out of those relationships as well :) Inspiration from others humans is a glorious thing.

Related : Here's what my typical day looks like as a web designer/developer

4. Design for pleasure

Let's be honest : client work can be draining and when a project timeline stretches on for ages, it can be a real challenge to keep a fresh perspective. Even if it's just you and the client working together on a project, it's often exhausting to design and develop exactly what they have in mind if you don't get to assert yourself creatively as well. Sometimes the most important thing is that the client is happy with the project outcome, but that does mean that you will find yourself doing work that leaves you uninspired. 

In cases like this when I'm in a rut or feeling uninspired, I force myself to design or create something (totally unrelated to work) just for the heck of it. At first this exercise seems like a chore & a bore, but before I know it I'm totally consumed with whatever trivial thing I'm working on and it starts feeling fun! 

Take the pressure off and use whatever tiny sliver of inspiration you have left to create/design whatever you want. The outcome doesn't have to be shared with the world or included in your portfolio, which means you can get a little whacky with whatever you're working on.

Personally, I like to do something totally unrelated to work and design something that has nothing to do with my regular projects. In the past, this has included nail art, DIY birthday cards, t-shirt mockups, whatever. 

Go back to basics or try something new, but whatever you do make it enjoyable! Once it starts being fun, the inspiration will come naturally.

5. Pump the positivity

I know for a fact that I have never produced my best or strongest work when I've been feeling down or in a sad/bad mood. There's power in positivity so when I need a kick of inspiration, I like to lean in harddddddd to anything that makes me feel enthusiastic, optimistic, or good in any way. 

A few things that almost always raise my positive vibrations:

  • Go to a comedy show or watch a stand up special on Netflix
  • Read cheesy "success stories"
  • Watch a cute/funny video online or scroll through a meme feed
  • Listen to a podcast about mindsets and law of attraction (one, two, three good options)
  • Create and write out mantras & manifestation exercises
  • Blast a playlist where I can sing along to every song 
  • Go to a group fitness classes
  • Cook a meal for a loved one
  • Girls nights!

Here are things that deplete my inspiration and I avoid at all costs:

  • Fox news and conservative political commentary
  • Rush hour traffic
  • Cheap take out food
  • Shopping malls
  • Basements

Staying inspired means holding onto a certain energy level and for me, being as positive as possible helps me get and stay there longterm. 

Final Thoughts

Inspiration is all around us, as long as we take off the blinders and make note of it. When I am intentional about feeling and staying inspired, I can create work that I love and projects that I'm proud of. Things come easier and are more enjoyable when I'm feeling inspired, and I find that time flies when I'm in the right zone.

Maybe one day I'll be ~*fully enlightened*~ and will live in a permanently inspired state but until that day comes, I'm going to keep doing whatever I can to seek out as much inspiration as possible in my every day life. 

Now it's your turn to tell me, what do you do to stay inspired? Do you use any of the same tactics? Am I totally forgetting something that works like a charm for you? I'd love to know so leave me a note in the comments below!


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Charlotte O'Hara

Vancouver