Article by Tammy Danan
We've all been there: You're on deadline, but your mind refuses to get going. The phenomenon goes by many names, including "writer's block," "creative block," and "dry spell." I call them "blank moments."
Because of the many blank moments I've encountered in my life – and the intense level of procrastination I've faced – I've learned how to harness each blank moment to still make it count.
1. Acknowledge It
Two of the worst things you can do during a blank moment are to deny it and/or to run away from it. Ignoring your blank moment will only deepen the rut of inaction.
Instead, you should acknowledge your blank moment. Recognize its existence. Don't be afraid to look yourself in the mirror and say you're having a bad day. Admit your mind isn't working and you feel like you're going to lose it. You won't lose it.
The more you acknowledge these blank moments, the easier it will be to handle them. Even the biggest names in entrepreneurship face blank moments. We all do.
2. Set a Time Limit
Once you've acknowledging the crazy cocktail of creative's block, anxiety, and overwhelm, be patient. Address your blank moment. Tell it that it can stay, but only for two days. After that, it's time to go back to work.
You can't erase your blank moment on sight, but setting a time limit allows you to gain control over it. Give yourself permission to dwell in your blank moment, but know that you can't do it forever.
3. Find the Lesson
Don't sit on the couch waiting for the aha moment to strike. Let your mind wander. Let it go on a scavenger hunt through random thoughts. Let it learn from thinking rather than experiencing. Let it experiment.
When you're up for the challenge, think about the blank moment itself. What was going on before it arrived? What were you working on? Maybe you spent too much time on a soul-sucking project and now your brain needs some deep recharging. Scrutinize the situation. In moments like these, there are hidden lessons everywhere.
4. Hit the Road
Sometimes the best way to deal with blank moments is self-care. Traveling solo is one effective way to be kind to your mind, body, and spirit. Travel far and travel alone. Remember the two-day time limit? Spend it alone in a new place.
If your blank moments are occurring more frequently, heed the gentle reminder that you're pushing yourself too hard for too long. You might not be productive in the work sense, but by forcing yourself an inch outside of your comfort zone, you can grow out of the blank moment and restart the creative engine in your mind.
5. Make a Changing Productivity List
Staring at the same project hoping for traction will only frustrate your mind and stress your spirit. You've already accepted that it's "one of those days," so shift gears. Pull out one or two side projects you're passionate about. Spend some time on those. Work on them interchangeably with your main project. This will keep your mind busy with a different form of creativity, which will help you jump out of your rut.
6. Embrace Your Limitations
There are ways to trick your mind and body into jump-starting your creativity, but there are also instances when you just have to sit, breathe, and accept your limitations. Experience has taught me that no matter how hard you try to make those blank moments count, you'll only end up feeling more frustrated if you allow your ego to balloon.
Check in with yourself from time to time. Remind yourself that you're not Superman or Wonder Woman. You have limitations, and one of them is not being able to eradicate blank moments. Accept your blank moment, give it a little time, and then slowly work your way out.
You have the power to bring back your creativity and productivity. Learning how to make the most of blank moments takes time. Don't beat yourself up if it doesn't work the first two or three tries. Simply knowing you possess the power will keep you from the gloom-filled thoughts that may try to interfere. You can come out of the rabbit hole any time you want.
Making the most of blank moments is about learning how to harness them. Sometimes that means doing nothing at all. Using the down days to remind yourself of the beautiful things – like the fact that you're capable of bringing back productivity – is just as productive as "doing" something.
A version of this article originally appeared on SUCCESS.com.
Tammy Danan is a freelance journalist and a poet passionate about covering social issues. She also writes about culture, relationships, and lifestyles. When she's not working, Tammy is painting, playing with the coffeemaker, or figuring out her next tattoo design. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.