Getting into “the zone” is a beautiful thing, but when you’re stressed out, sleep-deprived, or feeling uninspired, it can be pretty tough to get to that place—or anywhere near it.
So this week, we asked the InVision community to share their creative rituals—little things that help them feel more focused, happy, and productive. Here’s what they had to say.
“Several things help me tune myself to the creative mood:
- My desk is my solitude space, and I try to make it extremely comfortable and cozy. To me, this means it should be loaded with items—paper and sketches, an abundance of pens and markers, sticky notes, books, and some maker’s things like Play-Doh or DIY “grabber.” Everything I can sketch on, crush, or stick together is welcome there. I don’t know why, but having a mess around you can free up your mind and help you think more broadly and creatively.
- I try to isolate myself from the rest of the office space to be one-on-one with my current work. As such, once I sit down, I turn on the desk lamp—its yellow warm light separates my desk from the rest of the world and somehow makes the entire space calm and tranquil. Next I put my headphones on and turn on Pandora’s classical music channel. I prefer music without lyrics, and the music should be just loud enough to eliminate ambient noise and colleagues’ conversations.
- Before I even sit down, I need to know which task to work on; otherwise, procrastination is inevitable. So I typically try to plan the following day before leaving the office. I leave notes on the desk with the most important tasks I need to accomplish that day. This way, once I sit down, I have a greater chance of avoiding distractions: I simply look at the first task on the list and start from there.
- When I feel stuck (I don’t have any more ideas, or I don’t like everything I have just made), I try to take a break and go for a walk, even if it’s just around the office. During this break, I’ll continue thinking about the projects or I can talk with someone about them and receive feedback or get inspired by others.
- I grab a big mug of hot, unsweetened chocolate! It just makes me optimistic and happy.”
“Procrastination is inevitable if you don’t take time to plan out your day.”
–Anna Iurchenko, UX Designer at Stanfy
“In order to get in the best creative space possible, I need my physical tank on empty. Meaning, that high we feel after a tough workout or long grind (think long weekend hike or biking adventure). When my body is calm, my mind feels prepped to focus.
Pair that with a refreshing drink and an album that gets my head bouncing, and I’m in the zone. There’s nothing better than finding that elusive flow.”
–Chris Arnold, Authentic F&F
“The most important part of my creative ritual is my notebook. After gathering research and sources of inspiration, I launch my ideation by removing myself from my computer and grabbing a pencil. My notebook is full of quick sketches, layout wireframes, and UX flow schematics. Getting things out of my brain and onto paper, regardless of whether they’re good or bad, helps to clear up space for ideas to flow.
Music also plays a huge part in generating my creative space. I’ve found this space most often through instrumental, usually electronic, music. It helps me to establish a rhythm by which to work and drowns out any other talking or noise around me. The more beautiful and spacious the music is, the more I feel my mind can stretch out. Boards of Canada, Radiohead, and Moderat are some of my defaults.
“Push yourself to have creative outlets outside of your day job.”
Furthermore, I push myself to have creative outlets outside of my day job. I run an Etsy shop and participate in local art events as BAMFaktory, an “art-nership” I started with my partner. Painting and airbrushing helps me keep emotional balance and allows me to freely express myself creatively, without the judgement inherent in the review process one faces as a professional creative.
If I do need to clear some creative blockage, I walk on a trail to clear my mind and reset.”
–Samantha Soper, UX/UI Developer at Golfsmith International
“When I go into creative mode, I usually start by setting up a proper environment. Silence is a key factor for good creative work. Concentration and deep thinking are crucial for coming up with new ideas. Often, I do my best work in the train during my one-hour morning commute—no internet connection, no distractions, just me and my computer and, sometimes, a delicious cup of flat white coffee.
“Silence is a key factor for good creative work.”
When there’s no decent space at work, noise-cancelling headphones are a nice way to deal with a noisy office. Sometimes during summer, I’m lucky enough to enjoy a lonely space at the rooftop terrace. After finding a quiet space I normally mute or switch off my mobile devices and close all distracting apps, like email and chat. I grab a glass of water and set a timer to take a break. Short breaks during the creative process are as important as the work itself. Eventually, when I’m satisfied with my output, I approach colleagues to get feedback and inspiration to take on a second round.”
–Nikkel Blaase, Product Designer at XING
“My day always starts with some cold water and a hot latte as I check out fresh inspiration from the Panda Chrome extension and my favorite newsletters (especially Hack Design). During my commute, I read articles I’ve saved to Pocket—no wifi connection means solid, noise-free reading.
When I get to work, I write a plan of action with the most time-sensitive task listed at the top of the list.”
–Darshan Gajara, Product Designer at Wishberry
“I live in Los Angeles, so I have a lot of time to kill on my commute. Every day I usually listen to some guided meditation followed by an audiobook. Don’t worry, I’m not driving with my eyes closed—I just work on my breathing and think about what I’m grateful for. This clears my mind for the audiobook, which gives me an opportunity to visualize the story being told. By the time I’m in the office, my creative muscles are warmed up.
While I wireframe, I get up and take 15- or 20-minute walks. It doesn’t matter if I’m stuck or in the flow—I force myself to take breaks because I’m the type who will sit there for 12 hours straight to get something done. Taking breaks helps prevent burn out and keeps you from hitting a creative block.
I tend to be more creative when I’m happy and positive, so every day I write down one thing I’m grateful for.”
–Michael Sueoka, Head of User Experience at The Mobile Majority
“I have a couple creative rituals that I use depending on the time of day and type of design work I’m doing. When I start my normal work day, I grab a cup of black coffee, plug in my computer and monitors, and do a 10-second dubstep drop dance party. (Dubstep drop: That moment in the club when the music builds and builds, then everything goes silent for a second, then the bass kicks in and everyone goes crazy.) It started out with just me and my PIC, but now the whole development room joins in—it’s a great way to get the creative juices flowing.
“Every week, find a way to ‘reset.'”
But my favorite and most effective creative ritual is surfing. There’s no better inspiration for me than sitting on top of the water, looking out over the ocean, searching for that perfect wave. There’s so much beauty in nature that it’s almost cheating. I have a “weekly reset” surf session with a good friend and fellow dreamer where we sit in the water, clear our minds, and talk about our goals. This helps remove the clutter from my mind so my creativity doesn’t get stifled by day-to-day tedium.”
–Daniel O’Sullivan, UX Designer at Archetype SC
What’s your creative ritual?
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