Like many people struggling with mental health issues, getting motivated can be a challenge at times. For me, I basically have two modes — super motivated and completely unmotivated. Over the years, one of my biggest challenges has been finding ways to overcome this.

Looking at what stifles your motivation can reveal a lot of interesting things.

One of the first things I learned was a messy atmosphere contributes directly to me not wanting to do anything. This one is a vicious circle for me — I have this necessity to have everything in a particular place; it has to be organized, clean, and clear. When my family first heard this, they laughed. After all, I was the kid whose room was so messy I literally had to shovel a path to my bed and dresser at times.

What I came to learn was that when my mental health was bad, my drive to keep things organized and clean disappeared. Growing up, I was in a constant bad mental state, so keeping things clean was nearly impossible. How it becomes a vicious circle is it feeds back into everything. I get depressed, things get messy; things get messy, I get depressed.

I’ve also come to learn that as a creative, I crave an element of “mess”.

I call it my ‘creative chaos.’ In order to be motivated, I need a particular atmosphere, but I also require the chaos to fuel my creativity. Finding a way to balance that can be difficult, so this year, I decided to try a new approach.

Part of my desperate need to keep things organized is funneled into a day planner. It helps keep me focused and on-task. It has, though, also had the power to stifle both my creativity and motivation. Sometimes it’s because there’s too much going on. Others, it’s because it is just a culmination of endless lists. I get the important tasks done, but not so much the other ones.

I’ve had my eye on the Happy Planner by Create 365 since last year, so when they went on sale in December, I decided to jump on it. I picked up a cute planner kit, the ‘productivity’ pack, and some new pens, then dove right in.

I fell in love instantly.

When I sat down to work on the prep for January, it was like a breath of fresh air. A blank slate for me to set things up how I wanted, tons of material, and lots of goal-oriented stickers. But what really struck me was how relaxed it made me feel.

The time I set aside for my planner is typically later in the evening. I’ve found, since starting this process, it acts as a decompressor for me. Because I plan a week at a time, I typically use Sunday night to figure out the week ahead. It gives me time to reflect on what happened over the past 7 days, celebrate the items I did manage to accomplish, and set solid goals for the next 7.

Even though there is still a structure to my planner, it’s also creative chaos. Nothing has to fit a certain way; I just put things where they feel right.  Sometimes, I’m more methodical. Others, it’s like an explosion of randomness with a semblance of sense tossed in.

Taking this time to be creative at the beginning of the week, as well as setting tangible goals, helps me enter the new week more relaxed. Instead of feeling stressed about having too much to get done, I find myself excited about the things I plan on getting done.

When I start the week with a plan, with set goals, it’s a lot easier to avoid a sense of being overwhelmed.

The whole world doesn’t need to be fixed over the next few days. Every task on my to-do list doesn’t need to be accomplished. Instead, I can focus on the tasks I deemed important for this specific week. Some of those are items that are time-sensitive and need to be done right away, others are things that can be shifted and moved if necessary.

Instead of feeling crushed by all the pending things I want to/need to do, I see a clear path to accomplishing them.

Throughout each day, I keep my planner open on my desk, or near me when I am at home. I make everything vibrant and colourful, so it looks nice when I have it open. Having splashes of colour and creativity around me help inspire me, so that just adds to it.

What it does best, however, is give me a constant “checkpoint” throughout the day. I can plan my day based on the things slated to be accomplished. Checking them off as they are completed pushes me to the next task because I feel good about it.

I stop getting overwhelmed by what needs to be done each day because I no longer feel the pressure to finish everything on my to-do list.

I only need to finish what is a priority for that day.

Rather than making huge lists like I used to, I try to keep it to 1-3 items, outside of my daily work tasks. It takes away the possibility of feeling like there is too much to do, and if I can’t finish the tasks, it’s made it easier to bump them to another day.

It’s also fun to look at.

I try to find funny quotes and things that, overall, just make it pretty, bright, and colourful. It’s been joked that I require a ‘zen workspace’, and that’s not too far from the truth. I need things to be organized a certain way to keep me inspired, but I also need bright colour and fun. Even if I am in a workspace void of my “things”, my planner can serve as that.

In turn, all of these things motivate me to do more, as well as keep my creativity brimming. I feel more relaxed and ready to take on the day when I have everything down on paper.

How about you? What methods do you use to keep yourself motivated and your creativity flowing?

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