8 Things you're doing that are hurting your focus + creativity

You know, there are a lot of books and articles out there on how to make your life easier. But not everyone wants that kind of information. Some people like to make their lives harder, keep themselves from reaching their dreams, and then complain about how they can't ever get anything done. Can you lose your creativity? Absolutely. Let me show you how.

You know, there are a lot of books and articles out there on how to make your life easier. But not everyone wants that kind of information. Some people like to make their lives harder, keep themselves from reaching their dreams, and then complain about how they can't ever get anything done. Can you lose your creativity? Absolutely. Let me show you how.

Let's jump right in.

01. Avoid developing a good system.

One of the best ways to make your life harder is to not have a system of doing anything. Don't have a system for keeping your inbox clear, don't have a system for social media, don't have a system for getting dressed in the morning, don't have a system for getting out the door on time. Just nix systems altogether. Do not bother trying to find methods that work for you, reduce your stress, and keep your mind clear for creativity.

Just don't.

Keep doing things half-assed. Keep working harder than you need to on things that aren't even important to you. Waste your time on things that don't matter so that you don't have any left to devote to what does.

02. Make a mess trying to clean up a mess.

My dad's a big fan of this one.

Once, he decided to "deep clean" the living room. His method was to take everything out of drawers and set it on top to sort through later, move all the furniture to the other room to mop better, sweep all the soot from the fireplace onto the hearth to vacuum up, take all the VHS tapes (1990s) out of their stand to sort through, and on and on. What was once a reasonably tidy room became a disaster for weeks because he made such a mess trying to clean the living room that he couldn't get the living room clean again. Needless to say, I learned housekeeping from other sources.

A good way to make your life harder is to work like my dad did. Destroy your living room all at once, and then "deep clean it" little by little until it's how you want it. Don't worry about the added stress and exhaustion you'll feel having to look at that trainwreck in the meantime. It'll be worth it for the finished product.

Assuming you ever finish it. (PS, my mom ended up cleaning the living room.)

03. Keep trying things that don't work.

I like to call this the U.S. Political System method.

Just kidding!

Say you tend to go to bed at 1:00am, snooze three or four times beginning at 6:30am, drag yourself out of bed at 7:15am, and slog through your day at work with so little brainpower that by the time you get home, you couldn't work on your Magnum Opus if your life depended on it.

That's cool. You do you. This routine might not be working for you, but changing takes too much effort. Or maybe you just don't have the energy to think about it because you're doing things that don't work. Whatever the cause, the result is the same. And that's okay with you.

04. Daydream instead of work.

I get it. I have dreams, too. It's nice to think about the future, about what it'll be like when you've got your masterpiece in hand and everyone loves it. But that's the problem: It's so nice to think about that it can make doing the work exhausting in the meantime.

Do visualize your success if it helps you, but don't get so wrapped up in the what-ifs and could-bes that you forget to actually work.

05. Take advice from no one... or everyone.

This is especially important if you ask for the advice first. People love giving advice and having it ignored, so if you want to not only lose your creativity, but also perhaps the respect of people you like, ask them for their advice all the time, and then don't take it. Bonus points if you ask for the advice, don't take it, and then make them sit through a lecture on why it's not the right advice for you. Extra bonus points if you make them feel bad for offering the wrong advice.

You might also think you know what's up from the very beginning. Maybe you are a legitimate expert in this field, and that's great. But we are all human. Every last one of us. Even the politicians.

Humans make mistakes. We get blinded by our personal biases and preferences. We lose sight of things. Sometimes consciously, sometimes not. A (qualified) second opinion is a good thing. You don't have to take their advice 100% of the time, but they can at least point out things that may have slipped your notice.

06. Be afraid.

Reaching for something you dearly want is terrifying. What if you screw it up? What if you achieve that beautiful, perfect goal, but it's not what you expected? What if your creation isn't what other people expected and they don't like it? Fear is easy. But let me share another secret with you, courtesy my absolute favorite book in the world, Dune:

Fear is the mind-killer.

Don't let it control you. Don't let it affect you at all. Acknowledge your fears and then choose to ignore them. Write them down if you want, and then burn the paper. Be like a Bene Gesserit from Dune and make this your mantra:

I will not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

— "The Litany Against Fear," Dune, by Frank Herbert

07. Say "Yes" to unnecessary things that drain you.

You hate the book your book club is reading right now, and everyone there is a jerk anyway, but you keep going. Maybe you hope the next book will be better. Maybe you hope that jerk who always takes over the conversation will finally get a clue. Maybe you just don't know how to say now. Whatever the reason, you hate that book club and yet you're still going.

When you get home from your book club, you look at your own unfinished novel, or your baby business, or your foodie blog, and you feel exhausted. You love your little project, but whenever you think about actually putting some work in, you just don't have it in you. Your book club is sucking the life out of you.

Maybe it's not a book club for you. Maybe it's babysitting for your sister who never says thank you, or taking on an extra project at work because no one else volunteered. Maybe it's cooking dinner every single night when your spouse could pick up Tuesdays and Thursdays.

What annoying or exhausting commitments do you have right now that you don't really need to do?

What can you do to get one (or more) off your plate? Sometimes it's as easy (or as hard) as telling someone you like 'No'.

And saying No is okay.

08. Make excuses.

The previous 7 steps are nothing without this one.

If you truly want to lose your creativity, the most important thing you can do for yourself is make excuses for why you can't, aren't, and won't achieve your dreams. Life is a long, hard, slog, and it's perfectly understandable if you decide that creating your Magnum Opus isn't worth it.

But if you really want to do it properly, keep telling yourself you're working towards it, while not actually doing anything. And then tell everyone else all the reasons you just haven't been able to do anything to actually work on it. It makes a good story, right?

Sometimes, the hardest person to convince is yourself. And that's why you are who you should start with.

Pay attention to the thoughts you have when you're choosing not to work on your goal. Listen to the words your mind uses to rationalize it. What do you tell yourself when you're trying to convince your brain that it's okay not to put in the work today? Are you tired, overwhelmed, bored?

All of these are valid excuses, but more importantly, they point you towards the true problem.

Why are you making excuses?

Only you can answer that question. Once you've acknowledge it in yourself, then you can fix the real problem and stop making excuses.

Lost Your Creativity Yet?

It all comes down to making a mess where there wasn't one before. Don't do that. Little messes are one thing. It's easy to make them huge ones if you don't put a system in place, ignore good advice, make excuses, and so on.

But you don't really want to do that, do you?

Nah, I didn't think so. And I don't want you to, either. I want your creativity to flourish.

I want you to take the leaden weight of your overwhelm and transmute it into the gold of your Magnum Opus. Don't let yourself fall into any of the 8 traps above.