Working in the creative field is tough. Creativity doesn’t follow a straight line – it’s a process filled with a lot of thinking, brainstorming and coming up with new concepts. Sometimes the ideas are flowing, and other times you face blocks that can seem insurmountable.  When you come up against these blocks, it’s frustrating, stressful and ultimately affects your productivity, as well as your confidence. The good news is that you can increase your creative productivity with practice.

Here are four proven ways to create more in less time: 

Get out of your head and into your body/senses.

Many times we get stuck when we overthink and get into perfectionist mode.  We get locked into a cycle of judging every idea, thought or action before it’s had a chance to blossom into its potential. One of the best ways to break this cycle is to get into your body and explore your senses.   

To do this, either get active or get quiet – your choice!  Does robust exercise help you shake the cobwebs loose in your mind? Research suggests exercise improves memory and thinking skills. If you don’t feel that exercise opens you up to create, try gently settling into a meditation practice.  Research also confirms the health benefits of meditation, particularly the ability to calm the mind.

One of the fastest ways to get out of your head and into your body is to focus on your senses.  Focus on the sounds around you, even the sound of your breath.  Focus on the colors and textures in the room, including how the lighting affects them.  Do you detect any specific aromas?  By being playfully present in your senses, it will help you break the overthinking loop. 

Take action and start with something simple.

Even if you’re feeling stuck, just write down what comes to mind or use a talk-to-text app to record whatever comes to mind. Remember your first draft isn’t supposed to be perfect. 

The longer you procrastinate, the more likely you will psych yourself out and simply give up. In fact, studies show you have a small window to go from thought to action. If you hesitate, a stress signal is released and your brain goes into survival mode. 

Our brains are wired to protect us and amplify risk in order to prevent us from getting hurt. However, our brains can’t tell the difference from a real and perceived threat. It will react the same whether you are actually in a dangerous situation or simply believe that you are.

There’s a common misconception that you have to feel motivated to take action. The truth is you may never feel ready. However, by taking action, it will build the momentum you need to follow through on the task at hand.

When it comes to action steps, you can start anywhere, even if it’s something small. This is when our brain begins to work in our favor. The simple act of starting a task increases the chances of you finishing it. Referred to as the Zeigarnik effect, incomplete tasks are more likely to stay in your memory. 

This is due to the fact that our short-term memory is limited in terms of capacity. We can only hold on to so much information, and trying to retain it requires mental effort. The more you try to store in your short-term memory, the harder you will have to work to keep it there.

Since this creates cognitive tension, your brain will continue putting this information at the forefront of your awareness until the job is complete.

Set realistic goals and focus on your progress.

Tony Robbins once said, “it’s not about success, it’s about progress” and he’s absolutely right.

To accomplish anything, you need to build momentum. In order to build momentum, you need to feel like you are making progress. Oftentimes people feel stuck when they focus too much on the outcome. By focusing on your progress, it will increase your confidence and propel you forward.

There’s a saying “Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill”, but sometimes it’s the opposite advice which is useful.  Often, it’s important to make molehills out of a mountain! By taking what may feel like an insurmountable objective and breaking it into realistic achievable goals, you create sustainable momentum.  How you set your goals plays a huge factor in your ability to achieve them. In fact, the more people feel their goals are attainable, the higher their cognitive and affective well-being, whereas if the goals seem unattainable, people are more likely to be frustrated and unmotivated.

Stay present and don’t dwell on your mistakes.

When it comes to increasing your productivity as a creative, being in the here and now is essential. It’s easy to get swept up in the disappointments and let downs from the past, but it’s not helping you. The sooner you can let them go, the sooner you can move forward.

Setbacks are inevitable. Just remember you always have two choices: allow them to hold you back or use them to learn and grow. Acknowledge how far you’ve come and the hard work you’ve put in.  

By making these small changes to your creative process, you’ll see a major difference in your productivity. Most importantly, when you’re feeling stuck, don’t get caught in the overthinking trap. Take action and stay focused on your progress. You’ve got this!