It’s not just artists who need to be creative in their work. When you’re a business owner or an entrepreneur, your bread and butter is likely to be your ideas, whether your next big thing is a new project, product, or branding strategy.
But if you’ve been doing the same thing day in and day-out, you might find your usual creative spark fading. Don’t bang your head against the wall (or the desk—or the conference table) trying to come up with a brilliant new idea for your business. Push through your creative block with a few of these tips, and you might just find yourself overflowing with creative energy:
1. Build a New Morning Routine
You might not be a morning person, but you likely have a regular morning routine, especially if you happen to be an entrepreneur who works from home or has a long commute. While most rely on their morning ritual to fully wake up, sometimes that creativity comes to the less-awoken (or, at least, the more unkempt). Instead of going through the motions—showering, brushing teeth, the usual—try going straight to your desk or dining room table, cracking open your laptop or notebook, and jotting down a few ideas. Even if you’re wedded to your six-step skin care ritual, you might find a little jolt from shaking up your routine at the office with small changes, such as switching up your usual coffee run or taking a different route to work.
2. Catch Some Zzz’s
In this case, snoozing definitely doesn’t mean losing. If you’ve been pouring over a problem for the past several weeks, you and your team are probably suffering from lack of sleep. Research indicates that sleeping on some of your best ideas can help more to come, not to mention it can help you retain facts and memories. Don’t stay up past bedtime waiting for inspiration. Turn in early as many nights as you can. And when you do hit the hay, try to shut off screens—you can improve your quality of sleep by maintaining good sleep hygiene, and that includes cutting out the time spent scrolling on your phone before bed. A good way to monitor your screen time is to use a screen time tracker app like Moment.
3. Practice, Practice, Practice (and Then Practice Some More)
Practice makes perfect, so they say—and they’re right. Sometimes the absolute best thing you can do to get unstuck from a major creative block is to make a practice of your work. Take time each day to write down a new idea or ask your team to brainstorm one new strategy a day. Even if you’re not feeling the spark of inspiration, it helps to schedule time every day to come up with new ideas, rather than waiting for a thunderbolt of new creative energy. Bonus, too—practicing creative thought every day will help you even in your off hours.
4. Keep an Idea Notebook
Sometimes you’ll be shopping at grocery store, other times you’ll be putting gas in your car for your commute or you’ll be out on the town with friends. A genius idea can hit any time, especially if you’re working in time for creative thought every day. Carry a pocket notebook with you to jot down your big ideas on the go, from brunch to business meeting.
5. Think Outside the Box—But Get in the Box, First
You’ve probably heard of thinking outside the box, and if you’re an entrepreneur or business owner, you’ve likely done plenty of your best thinking outside of the box. But you can’t always reinvent the wheel—sometimes you’ll find the best idea is something solidly within the box, a solution that easily solves consumers’ day-to-day problems. Build on useful ideas you know work, and go from there.
6. Try New Things
Another way to come up with new, fresh ideas? Trying new things yourself! Stretch yourself and take a class in something you’ve always wanted to try. Take some gal pals out on an adventure, or try a wine and painting night at a local studio. Go sky diving, learn a new skill, or just try a new bar or a restaurant that you’ve been eyeing. Where you can try many things for half the cost to bolster your creative thoughts. You’ll find the more you push yourself, the more new ideas you’ll have.
7. Try Mind Mapping
Having you and your team’s ideas organized visually can help you come up with new solutions and new concepts for your business. Maybe this year is the year you purchase a drop-shipping fleet or decide to host online seminars. Using mind maps, word association, post-it boards, and even online tools can help you fill in the cracks in your knowledge, and help you think of new approaches to your business model.
When all else fails, strap on your sneakers and hit the pavement. Exercise helps the brain and the body, improving cognition and focus. So it should be no surprise that a short run, weight training, or really any kind of sustained exercise can help you shake out some of the cobwebs.
9. Bounce Ideas Off of Friends and Mentors
It never hurts to ask for a little help. If you’re having trouble connecting point A to C, then you might find it useful to bounce some of your preliminary ideas off of colleagues, friends, and mentors. Ask those in your field if they wouldn’t mind grabbing a cup of coffee, or ask a girlfriend to grab a quick cocktail. Brainstorm ideas with them, or map out some of the ideas and logistics around your current projects. Even a friend with a completely unrelated business might have some useful advice for you as you’re starting to generate ideas for your business or for your products (and hopefully, they’ll help you with generating a little revenue).
10. Don’t Force It
At the end of the day, make sure you’re looking out for number one—you and your business! Having a regular creative practice can help you and your business thrive, but you’ll always want to make sure you’re not only taking breaks, and taking time out of the day to treat yourself.
Sam Casteris is a small business owner and freelance writer operating out of Phoenix, AZ. You can find more of her work on Contently.