Many of the world’s most successful creatives had peculiar habits and rituals that they used to make some of the most celebrated art. The book Daily Rituals by Mason Currey, exposes some of the interesting, funny, and bizarre rituals of painters, writers, musicians, filmmakers, and other famous artists.
As a designer, most likely living a much more mundane life than, say, Beethoven, who roused his creative muse by splashing water all around his flat, you may nonetheless be intrigued by the idea of getting more out of your creative brain by adopting a regular ritual. We’re going to explore some ways to go about it, as well as what if any, the exact benefit would be.
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The main gist behind a creative ritual, regardless of the actual action used, is that the brain responds very positively to the routine. All of the artists profiled in Currey’s book did something on a regular basis, which is the most important takeaway and speaks to the way in which we process information and alleviate stress.
When we force ourselves to adopt a routine, whether it’s working out at the gym or swallowing a live goldfish, we remove the hard decisions about when and how to start work that can use up our mental energy. The truth is, every decision you have to make will deplete your willpower and mental energy – even if it’s something insignificant like what you will have for dinner.
The more activities you can put on autopilot, the more you can focus entirely on doing your work.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes it’s difficult for me to get started on a project, especially if it’s very large or difficult. Having a routine to get yourself out of your morning rut can be a tremendous help. Millions and millions around the world use coffee or tea for this purpose, but the excessive caffeine can become an issue.
A routine such as walking, doodling, or journaling can have the same invigorating effect without jeopardizing your health.
If you’re wound up about a project and are feeling scatterbrained, having a ritual can help calm you down. Something like meditation, reading, or listening to music can help you focus your mind and eliminate the jitters.
This is especially helpful for those who are easily distracted or have trouble keeping their attention on the task at hand, and a much healthier alternative to spending hours worrying or self-medicating.
Your brain is very malleable and susceptible to influence from you that will change the way it approaches a task. After a relaxing ritual that you turn into an everyday habit, your brain actually becomes better adapted to focus. Think of it like training a pet to behave the way you want it to. The more you practice a habit, the easier it becomes because you’re actually changing the neural pathways in your brain.
If you’re dreading an upcoming project, it can help decrease your unease if you briefly practice something pleasant immediately beforehand. In the book The Art Of Learning by Josh Waitzkin, there is a case study of a man who used music and playing ball with his son as relaxation techniques he did each morning before attending a horrible, exhausting meeting at work.
Eventually, the man was able to overcome the intense feelings of dread and anxiety about the meeting and replace them with the pleasant feelings of playing with his son and listening to music. The meetings subsequently became much easier to bear.
If you’re facing a similar situation with a horrible client meeting or something similar, ask yourself if there’s a ritual you could adopt beforehand that can help you carry over those pleasant feelings and eliminate the unpleasant ones. Sometimes spending time with a family member or friend, or doing an activity you genuinely love right before you have to do something you hate can help you convert your attitude about getting it done.
Whether or not you adopt a specific ritual is up to you. But keep in mind that your willpower will diminish, the less focus and routines you have. Planning ahead and doing things in a methodical way will give you the energy you need to get through your day regardless of how you choose to approach it.
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