How to be inspired by where you are

Working from home save time and money on meals an transportation. My familiarity with my desk means it takes me less energy to get into deep work. But sometimes I need to shake things up a bit when the air gets stale.

Explore art galleries and museums. Explore what other artists are making. Find out what interests people. Instead of going to the movies, take your friends to the art gallery for a change of pace. If you’re lucky, you’ll come across free exhibitions. 

Learn something new or brush up old skills by signing up for workshops. Not only that, but you’ll also meet interesting like-minded people who are into the same things you are. Observe what it takes to run a workshop. What makes someone sign up for a workshop? What sort of things are people interested in learning? What does it take to market such an event? How much would people pay for these sort of things?

Visit a co-working space. Some coworking spaces have free days on the first Thursday of every month. Take the opportunity to try out hot desking and see if it’s something that works for you. Chances are your city has several coworking spaces within close range. I try out different ones to check out the crowd. 

Volunteer at events. Volunteering at an art festival gave me some insight on what it was like in the art industry. I later went on to spend a year working at the said art festival. Again, it’s one of the better places to meet people. I’m still in touch with the people I volunteered with.

Always have your name cards with you. You don’t know who you’ll end up meeting, even at family gatherings. 

Attend networking events. Like workshops, networking events are where you meet like-minded people. But this time, they are people who are open to getting pitched to. Think about how you want to introduce yourself. Be open to suggestions. Be interested to be interesting. Are there any people you can collaborate with? Think about how you can work together to benefit each other, rather than just to hire.

Talk to people who aren’t in the creative industry. If you’re a designer, talk to your friends who aren’t designers to learn more about they do. Ask them what they’re passionate about. You’ll find out that even accountants can teach you a thing or two about creativity – or at least how to keep your finance in check. 

Even so, inspiration means nothing without hard work. “Inspiration exists,” said Pablo Picasso, “but it has to find us working.

In defence of diary writing

Why bother writing if no one is going to read it? What do you even write about? The answer is, you can write whatever you want. Your diary belongs only to you.

Keeping a diary lets you express yourself freely. Without the distraction of likes and comments, you won’t have to worry about how others might react. When you put other people out of the equation, you can truly be honest with yourself.

Writing can help you out of a rut when you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed. Doing a brain dump — writing whatever that’s in your head frees up your mind to solve problems and hash out ideas.

Your diary can be an outlet. Angry-tweeting about the driver who cut you off in traffic might make you feel vindicated, but you wouldn’t feel any better the next time you had a bad day. Writing a diary allows you to reflect privately and in my own time.

You don’t have to perfect your diary for public consumption like you do with a blog post. Write about your dreams and fears, no matter how silly they may seem. A diary doesn’t have to be coherent . One of my entries simply reads (in all caps no less),


It might take a few attempts before writing comes easily to you. The place to start is with easy writing prompts.

  • Write a list of things that inspire you — books, films, even paintings
  • Write about a struggle you recently overcame, and give yourself due credit
  • Write about your earliest memory as a child
  • Write about all the nicknames people have given you
  • Write a letter you’d never send in real life

Writing is the best way to learn about yourself. Keeping a diary is the place to start.

February links

Interesting links on habits and creativity I’ve come across this month.

Video: It’s not you. Phones are designed to be addicting.

Everything from the refresh feature down to the colour of the icons on your phone was designed to be addicting. Understanding why you’re is the first step to regaining control. Read my post on stepping back from social media.

Article & Podcast: Five Habit Tracker

What are the five habits that will have the greatest impact on your life? Sean McCabe and Ben Toalson discuss a developing impactful habits and coming up with metrics for measuring those habits.

Article: Iceland’s Population Is Staggeringly Creative. Why?

One in four people in Icelanders work in a creative field. A recent study explores the driving forces behind the creative community.

Article: 13 Things That Will Happen When You “Level-Up” As A Person

“Leveling up” as a person should feel good, but it doesn’t. In fact, you may feel more discouraged than ever. Enjoy the lessons you learn.


Stepping back from social media

Every morning at 7.30 am, my phone alarm would ring. I’d reach over and grab my phone, dismiss my alarm and swipe through the laundry list of notifications on the screen. Half an hour later I’d find myself envying over my friends’ holidays on Instagram.

I wouldn’t even know how I got there. I just ended up starting the day with a raging wanderlust and guilt over my envy. It had become second nature to wake up this way.

Alcoholics have the urge to drink first thing in the morning. The obsession for alcohol haunts them from the moment they wake up until they return to bed. While I didn’t consider myself obsessed with social media, it was the first thing I’d consume when I woke up and the last thing I looked at before falling asleep.

Allergic to boredom, I became addicted to scrolling endlessly through social media, despite being able to point out exactly why they were so addictive.

Endless scrolling. Push notifications. Social validation. I fell for it all.

I was unwilling to entirely remove social media from my phone as I still needed them for work. I did the next best thing. I turned off push notifications and set Instagram, Twitter and Facebook icons as hidden. It’d take me the extra steps of toggling hidden apps for me to access them.

The slight inconvenience bought me a few vital seconds to decide whether I wanted to get up, or be enraged by some troll on Twitter who wasn’t even trolling me even before taking my first step of the day.

I chose to get up almost every time.

Next, I downloaded an app called Forest. You “plant” virtual trees in your phone. If you use a blacklisted app, your tree dies. It’s exactly as adorable as it sounds. It’s mainly a productivity tool that teaches you to focus but I also use it to improve my sleep. I plant a tree right before I sleep so I resist the urge to play with my phone before sleeping.

Forest collaborates with Trees for the Future. As you earn credits by not using your phone, you can eventually plant real trees. To date, Forest has planted over 200,000 trees.

I also started wearing a watch after a few years of relying on my phone for the time. Most watches caused my CTS to flare up but my secondhand smart watch was light enough to be unobtrusive. I steadily grew more comfortable being away from my phone.

I still browse social media on my phone, but it is no longer unconscious. With my newfound free time, I’ve become more productive. I even got more reading done despite setting the low, low goal of reading one book in 2018.

What are your social media habits like? Do you need to take a step back, or are you doing great right where you are?

How to start reading again

With distractions constantly available at our fingertips, it’s getting more difficult to concentrate on good old-fashioned reading. Here are several ways to get through the stack of books on your nightstand.

Know your purpose. Are you reading for leisure, or are you reading to learn? Are you enjoying this novel or are you dragging yourself through the pages? If you’re not getting anything from a book, drop it. Knowing why you read helps you decide whether or not to move on to your next book.

Set a yearly goal of books to read. Set a low goal and exceed it by a mile, or set a high goal to strive for. I’m being cheeky this year by setting my 2018 reading goal to just one book. I completed it in January with Deep Work by Cal Newport.

Buy less books. Ironically, you don’t need more books to read more books. Look around you — you probably have too many. Go through your bookshelf and pick two or three books you never found the time for.

Refresh your library for free. Go to the local library or book exchange. Donate or exchange the books you’re not reading anymore — they deserve to be loved by someone else. It’ll be exciting to have new books to read.

Replace social media with books. Keep e-books and audiobooks on your phone so you can read on the go. Develop the habit of reading whenever you have a few minutes to spare. Many purists say digital books aren’t real books. However, if they still require effort and concentration, how can they not be real books?

Try a book summary app. If you really don’t have time to read, Blinkist sums up popular non-fiction into ten pages or so. If a summary resonates with you, make time to read the full book.

Set aside time to read. You can read on your commute to work or in bed at night. Reading is a great way to wind down before falling asleep. Audiobooks come in handy if you want to read while getting things done.

Don’t read too many books at once. You could limit yourself to a physical novel and an e-book you can read on the go. If that’s impossible for you, that’s okay too. I’m reading five books at the moment.