Does this sound familiar? You start a new creative project. Let’s say you’re writing your next book. At first, you’re energized, committed. Nothing will stop you! But after a few weeks, you hit a wall. Your routine just isn’t fun anymore. You’ve hit a creative plateau? What do you do?
In the beginning, you were excited. You carved out time in your busy calendar dedicated solely to your new project.
You woke up anxious to get started. You had so much fun as the hours flew by.
And that feeling lasted the first two weeks.
But, after a while, something felt not quite right.
You wound up stressed, frustrated, tired.
Why’d you even bother in the first place? How do other authors make it look so easy?
“I had a routine,” you say. “I wrote every day, first thing in the morning, just like all the books said.”
You tried to do the right things, but inevitably you got stuck.
Having a routine is incredibly important. There’s no doubt about that.
But what happens when your routine doesn’t work anymore?
A routine is defined as a sequence of actions followed; a fixed program.
But after a while, routines stop working…
Why do we get stuck?
We hit a plateau.
Surely you’ve heard of an exercise plateau? In the beginning, you’re rocking your new workout plan, feeling fantastic. You finally squeeze into that new outfit you bought on impulse.
But then, your body adapts to the program, and the benefits diminish.
The same thing happens with the creative routines in our lives:
Your daily writing habit slips and you hit snooze on your alarm clock, oversleep.
You schedule deep work sessions, but give up because daily work emergencies always crop up.
Your morning journaling habit falls by the wayside because, well…boring.
Hitting a creative plateau is why we lose steam on our goals.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot because it’s happened to me over and over. The newness of a routine works well at first but flattens out a few weeks later.
I thought something was wrong with me…like I wasn’t dedicated enough. But then I realized: it’s human nature.
Fitness experts recommend you switch your exercise routine every 2 – 5 weeks. I argue that you need to switch up your creative routines, too.
Here are 5 ideas to break past the routine blues and fast track your creativity:
1. Focus your routine on ONE game-changer.
Confucius said, “The man who chases two rabbits, catches neither.” He had a point.
Every January, I’ll write a long list of goals. I’m caught up in the new year frenzy, believing I can simultaneously write 5 novels while managing a business and also dropping 15 pounds.
When we take on too much, we set ourselves up to fail.
What is one thing you can focus on in the near term that will drive results?
For example, my number one goal is to write more novels this year. Therefore my routine is focused on writing new words and editing.
All other goals are secondary, and I make sure not to overcommit myself.
2. Schedule space in your calendar that’s sacred.
Often, routines don’t stick because we’re shoving them into parts of our day where they don’t belong.
Be realistic. Are you the type of person who can wake up at 4:30 am to write? Maybe try rising 20 minutes earlier first, then add more time after one week.
If you’re searching for more time to write, consider using Monica Leonelle’s 8-minute writing approach. Chances are, you can find at least 8 minutes somewhere in your day, make it a routine, and build on it from there.
Don’t let your routine becomes an afterthought. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve blocked deep work sessions on my calendar only to let non-urgent matters invade my space.
3. Make new habits stick by tracking your success.
I’m using an app called Productivity. I have no affiliation; I’m just a fan because it’s given me great results.
The tool is free and simple to use. You create individual habits and assign them daily, weekly or monthly.
Choose morning, afternoon, or evening. Swipe left to complete each task.
The app provides plenty of encouragement and rewards you for maintaining a streak.
4. Warn yourself about your plateau!
We’re human. Chances are we’re going to have luck with a routine and then need to switch it up after a few weeks.
That’s why I recommend putting a reminder on your calendar every two weeks to check in on your routine.
To decide if you’ve reached a creative plateau, ask yourself the following:
How many days in a row have I completed my habit every day? You can easily see this in Productivity app BTW.
What have my results been?
Am I still pleased with this routine?
Am I feeling stuck?
If the answer to the last question is yes, then it’s time to change up your routine.
By realizing your creative plateau is inevitable, you’re actually saving yourself time that otherwise might have been spent in a slump. How often have you forced yourself to keep going with a boring routine even though it’s not working?
5. Tweak your habits.
You’ve done the excellent work of starting your routine, tracking your success, and realizing when you’ve collided with a plateau.
Not to worry! You’re now armed with valuable information.
How can you tweak your routine to make it new and fresh and exciting again?
Consider changing up any or all of the following:
Location. Ever gone to a coffee shop and noticed you got a ton more writing done? Sometimes a change of scenery can do wonders!
Time of day. What if you work out or meditate before you write? Or switch from mornings to evenings?
Swap out your habit for something new. Then, come back to it. Maybe a small break is exactly what you need to refuel your energy.
Create a reward system. Base it on the number of days completed.
Check your why. Why are you creating art? Who will you help? Reminding yourself of your why can motivate you all over again.
Find an accountability buddy. A friend who shares a similar goal can give you an extra push.
Share your journey publicly. If you’re comfortable, share what you’re focusing on and inspire others with your dedication.
Reaching a creative plateau will happen continuously in our careers. By recognizing it, you can take action to change it.
Resist the urge to hunker down and “grind on through.” That’s only going to set you up to fail. Instead, follow the steps above to break past your creative plateau and keep creating art.
Do you have a routine that’s not working? Reply and let me know what it is and how you’re going to change it up.