Can projects recharge you? An approach to creative recharge

Issue 19: A paradox of choice in choose whether to rest or create

Friday seemed like the last day of school before winter break started. At work, we’re fortunate to have a winter recharge holiday program, so it means I have time off until January 3rd, 2021. In more precedented years I typically head north to Seattle and spend it with my family and friends. This year, like many other rituals and ceremonies, it’s going to be virtual. I tell myself that I’ll rest and relax, but who am I kidding? I know I won’t do that. Brooke LeBlanc posted this recently that hit home.

This button pressing paradox is my life. I’m a curious person who perpetually tinkers and makes. As I age, my body tells me rest and recovery is critical in order to do this. Can working on a project truly be relaxing, or are they opposing forces? It depends on what returns energy to you.

Finding what works for you

Every human has different needs. What works for me may not work for you. There are many variables in life that could inform how you need to recharge, such as what you do for a living, desires in life, social needs, et. al. You may be a person who needs complete disconnect in order to recover. I’ve discovered these key elements for me to feel recharged:

  • Outdoor excursions to get exercise in (going to the beach or hiking)

  • A lot of sleep, naps, and stretching

  • Creative release and deep work time

Starting with a physical recharge

Before all else (the other BAE), I begin with a palate cleanser from my work routine in order to mentally decompress. It usually takes me a few days to transition from a professional day work mode to working on my own things. I binge watch TV shows, play video games, etc.—a few days to do absolutely nothing productive.

Creative work requires a spark—something to invoke it. This often occurs to me when boredom is introduced, so I force boredom. This helps me get to the edges of thought which haven’t been recently explored. If this happens, I commence the creative recharge.

Creative release

If there is an idea in my head too long, it becomes occupied space and is a cognitive overload. Not being able to work on it induces stress for me—a yearning to explore. Similar to my journaling habits, the act of taking a thought and putting it down in a tangible format provides great mental relief, like defragmentation for my brain.

Keeping an idea list works well for me to quickly take a half-baked thought to work on something. For example, I have a newsletter idea list on GitHub for Proof of Concept. Having this aides me with having a fluid mental transition from doing nothing to swiftly working on something.

I spent some time writing a list of projects I could do in a week of unstructured time, and here’s are a few:

  • Lead time on this newsletter by writing a few issues

  • Spending some time to explore Swift UI and playing with prototype ideas

  • Write an investment thesis for my angel endeavors

  • Collecting inspiration for illustrations styles for my zine

  • Reading leadership books and review feedback to hone my craft

The key to creative recharge is doing something that doesn’t feel like work. Try writing down what activities you yearn doing that doesn’t happen at work. For example, creative coding brings me much joy. In my role at work these days, it’s extremely rare to do any design or engineering work. For someone who does design or code all day for working, doing that outside of works might feel too close to the workplace. Though I absolutely love my role at work and don’t miss being a contributor, having tiny moments sparks a bit of joy.

Ensuring rest and keeping a loose schedule holds burnout at bay. The recharge is during time off and that should be prioritized while allowing creative serendipity to creep in. Taking inspiring ideas and making is essential as oxygen for me. It’s therapeutic and not being able to do it can make me feel slightly depressed, especially during the winter.

It’s a privilege to have this and blocks of time like this is not promised. I’m thrilled to have a small block of time to explore a creative recharge. In essence, I’m pre-investing time for creative recharge to be even-more ready to return to work. Whether you choose to do nothing or something, I hope you have moments to recharge a bit.