The Four Circles of Creative Hell [comic]
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The Four Circles of Creative Hell [comic]

Post Author - Mart Virkus Mart Virkus Last Updated:

Even the notoriously uninhibited creatives can benefit from time tracking – be it for billing their clients or for improving their time management skills. But they have to be careful not to mix up time and results.

You can’t force creativity – and there is nothing worse for the artist than a clock mercilessly ticking away. Toggl can seem pretty harsh when it comes to telling you where your time really goes, but it’s only tough love.

Chances are you’ve visited these circles of creativity hell. Here’s how to dodge the fall (and how to take it like a champ if you do trip).


1. Initial (over)excitement about being productive

time is depressing toggl 01

This phase is characterised by excitement over the perceivably positive activity of time tracking, as well as overenthusiastic appreciation of any aesthetic solutions offered by the application. However, it is critical in this phase not to idolise the ticking timer – no matter how neat it looks. Let it do its job, while you do yours.

The lesson: Start the timer, then LOOK AWAY.

2. Continued fixation on process over substance

time is depressing toggl 02

For people with a wandering mind, the ticking timer seems to carry authority disproportional to its role. Getting stuck staring at the timer might force a false perspective that measuring time is more important than measuring results. It is not. Do your work first, check your stats later.

The lesson: Track time, but measure work.

3. Acute awareness of time as an unstoppable & unforgiving force

time is depressing toggl 03

Nothing brings the hammer down like a ticking timer on top of a blank page. While having sat for ages without doing anything might seem depressing, you can turn this around by acknowledging that sometimes you just need to drop what you’re doing and move on.

The lesson: when the timer hits 20 minutes and you’re doing nothing, change tasks.

4. The Shutdown

time is depressing toggl 04

If you fail to heed the warnings and push past the 20 minute mark, you’ll soon enter productivity twilight zone. Also known as the “what am I doing with my life” phase, it acts much like a black hole by crushing everything you enjoy about your work into a very unremarkable looking speck. This phase can last for hours (and it will feel like days).

The lesson: if you’ll be doing nothing, make sure that nothing is something that makes you happy.

Just remember that most things in life can ultimately be fixed with Netflix and ice cream.


Not depressed yet? Hubspot can fix that with this infographic here.

Do you have a secret weapon against creative block? Please, do let us know in the comments.

Mart Virkus

Mart has a background in anthropology - a discipline which has turned people-watching into a science. He most enjoys working on projects that make you go from “that’s stupid” to “hmmm”.

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