When I was in art school studying painting, the question students got asked most often is “who do you look at?”
In other words, "what other artists do you study for inspiration?"
There we were trying to learn how to make our own path in the art world and yet always getting asked who else’s work was fueling our approach. It became obvious that this was critically important to pretty much every professor I studied under.
Now as a freelance photographer, and a full-time producer for a video company, if you look at my calendar, at 9:30 am Monday-Friday is a 10-minute slot labeled “Get Inspired”. At a certain point I realized that whenever I did study other people’s work I admired, it was virtually ALWAYS profitable. I’d come away with new ideas, and usually a healthy discontent for my work coupled with a strong desire to do better, more innovative work.
But like anything that you know is good for you but doesn’t come naturally (like eating healthy), it has to become a discipline before it can become a habit.
If you’re like me, you sit down to begin work each day with a ton of stuff demanding your attention. I often look at that 10 minute slot on my calendar and go “ehh… I've got work to do I’ll get inspired another time”. There’s a constant pull to merely meet the demands of the day, and that stuff is necessary to do. But if all you do is complete the task list of current demands, without making time to push forward, innovate and grow the company within your individual sphere of influence, you’ll be left in the dust by the people and companies who do.
Maybe getting inspired to you means perusing Pinterest, or watching videos, or flipping through magazines. Or maybe it's researching other companies in your industry and studying their work. As long as you do it with purpose, that IS work because it will inform the work you do tomorrow while the work you’ll do today waits 10 minutes.
My challenge to you would be to commit to spending 10 minutes every day for the next 2 weeks sourcing new ideas. Study what inspires you. Literally put it in your calendar. Seek out people’s work who you feel is better than yours, and ask yourself “what makes this great?” Then find areas where you can allow that influence into the things you put your hands to.
If you have a boss, he or she will thank you. If you are your own boss, you'll be like "Hey, self, you're doing a great job. Thanks for coming in today."