Does January 2024 feel like walking through treacle? Of course, you always expected the first day back after your break to be a bit of a struggle. But surely by now, you think, you should be firing on all cylinders.
Yet, as the cold weather bites and the Christmas and New Year buzz fades far into the distance, it can still seem unexpectedly difficult to fully get back into work mode, even as we approach mid-month.
If that's how you're feeling, you're not alone. You'd be surprised by how many of us feel a massive sense of inertia at this time of year, making it challenging to regain the creative momentum we once had.
So, what's the best way out of your funk? We asked the Creative Boom community for tips on navigating the post-holiday slump and reclaiming the inspiration and energy needed to kickstart your creativity. In the article below, we share their best advice, and you can read the full thread on Twitter here.
Do you mainly work in pixels? Then, often switching to an analogue or physical medium can be what's needed to shake things loose and get your creative mojo firing again.
"Painting has proven to offer me something new, something more relaxing while escaping the drain of the digital screens," he explains. "I've made some thumbnails of works I'd like to explore – 20-25 in total – and if I get lost or distracted, I can always return to the thumbnails and get going on a new painting." Broadening this to general advice, he recommends, "Have a rough plan for personal work so you don't get lost. This type of plan will hopefully build that momentum, slowly but surely."
Indeed, planning is one of the big themes among the creatives we canvassed. That might sound counterintuitive if you think creativity is all about spontaneity and going with the flow. But in practice, that approach can be a little dizzying and draining for many.
Ross Middleham, creative lead at the Met Office, is among them. "I often get overwhelmed at the thought of the year ahead," he says. "So this year, I divided some blank paper into boxes of equal size. I noted all the tasks bouncing around, whether big or small. Then I slowly pieced together what was a priority."
Greg Findley of graphic and web design agency Mantra tells a similar story. "I'm working on a vision board with dream clients, projects, new skills and targets for the year," he reveals. "It's physical rather than digital – so I can see it in my workspace every day."
Illustrator Daniel Sulzberg takes a similar approach. "I spend a few days clarifying my goals for the year and then breaking those goals down into seasons," he explains. "Is this going to be a season of learning, building, networking, launching or creating? Once I know where the focus is, it's much easier to know where to spend my time."
Maybe, though, that all seems a bit overwhelming. In this case, our advice is not to force yourself to suddenly become super-organised. There's no point in trying to go at a pace your mind and body can't handle.
"Take your time to unwind back into it," advises Steve Price, chief creative officer for Formula 1 team Lkysunz. "Keep meetings to a minimum. Allow yourself as much time as you can to think. And remember, ideas happen at desks, but great ideas typically happen everywhere else."
Graphic designer and illustrator Charrish F, aka Olli Illustration, takes a similar line. "Honestly, my best tip is to not be hard on yourself," she says. "It's okay to ease into things and get back in the swing of things a little later. Even if that later is February. Do things one step at a time and praise yourself as you go."
And remember, you don't need to go through this by yourself. "Chat to others because the chances are you're not alone," says designer Berenice Howard-Smith. "Try some co-working for support. Don't go mad with meetings; ease back in. And new stationery helps: I've got a new ink pen!"
Here's another good thing about easing yourself back into work slowly. It can allow you to step back and think about the big picture.
That's something which is usually much more difficult to do mid-year when you're spinning multiple plates. But it's super-important to do otherwise. Ultimately, you can become rudderless, discouraged and overwhelmed by it all.
With that in mind, creative director Jesse Boyce suggests you: "Close all those browser tabs. Start a new to-do list and forget the old file. Write about your learnings from last year and actions that will address them. Contact a valued old colleague. Identify new focus points that excite you. And book your next holiday so you have a reward to look forward to."
If none of this seems appealing, and you still feel "stuck", then partially switching off your brain and doing something physical can often be the reboot you need to get everything working again. That's exactly what artist Mel Langton has been doing this January.
"I've cleared everything off my desk and notice boards, apart from my Mac and materials," she explains. "Now I'm starting with a clean slate and slowly adding back things that are still meaningful and relevant. A physical declutter has absolutely helped me mentally declutter and reset for new things."
Another way to ease back into client work can be to do a little personal work instead. Of course, if you try to do anything too grand, that can become overwhelming in itself. So Jonathan G, founder and creative director at Wondermake recommends you start small.
"Making small (Dribbble-esque) shots can be a nifty little creative win," he suggests. "Pick a project from last year that you never got around to chunking up. It's small, there's an existing style, and no client pressure. Time-box an hour. Don't overthink it."
Meanwhile, for added inspiration, why not give your ears a treat? "Get your top music on," recommends illustrator and graphic designer Rebecca Wright. "It cheers us up and releases dopamine, ready for 30-60 minutes of creativity, which leads to more dopamine!"
Alternatively, suggests web designer Mike Hindle: "Make use of the included audiobooks now available on Spotify. Make more time for long walks where your ideas can manifest and come alive."
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