Yesterday, I was coaching a client who has been in a rut for several weeks.
Sure, she was getting work done; however, she did not feel as though any of it was particularly inspired. She reported constantly feeling tired, stressed out and like the past few weeks was just a bust for her.
Have you ever felt that way? Like suddenly your mojo was gone and, no matter how hard you tried you couldn’t get it back?
My client was beginning to panic because her business relies heavily on her ability to come up with new ideas (not to mention the motivation to execute them), and she was fresh out of both. Because she did not want to go another day feeling this way she begin thinking of ways to pull herself out of her rut. So she did what any desperate person would do:
She got a haircut. For context, please note that she said, “I am not a haircut person”. She has been going to the same salon since she was a teenager and typically only books an appointment when her hair gets to an unmanageable length or a level of split ends that makes public appearances embarrassing.
She suddenly had an undeniable itch to cut her hair so she booked at a salon she had never visited and asked if they could fit her in. She did not get anything drastic– just a few layers and some great styling– but she said that she walked out feeling like a completely new person. Ideas began to flow again. She said that it was as if her creative genius had been taking a nap and she finally awakened refreshed and rested.
I remarked that what she described as “searching” for her creativity basically consisted of waiting around and wishing for its return (not an effective strategy). She admitted to simply walking about in her rut without changing a single aspect of her behavior.
In case you might be in a rut or should you ever lose your mojo in the future, I put together five simple strategies for getting out of a rut. I challenge you to try one of them out and see what happens. Even if you’re not feeling particularly uninspired at the moment, I think they are all great strategies to enhance your creativity and your overall mood.
1 . CHANGE YOUR ENVIRONMENT
When what we see in our daily surroundings — our homes, our offices, our bedrooms — remains stagnant over time, inevitably how we feel in those environments can become stagnant as well. So, rearrange your office. Cut your hair. Work from a different part of your house. This is all about changing what you see so you can change how you feel. The newness will become stimulation for your mind.
2 . CHANGE YOUR ROUTINE
The logic is the same as above, but the execution is slightly different. Perhaps it is not your surroundings that feel stagnant, maybe it’s just that your days and weeks are starting to run together. Try a different coffee spot. Wake up a half hour earlier. Don’t check your email until you have completed at least an hour of brainstorming in the morning. Changing up your schedule could be just what you need to feel excited about your work again.
3 . EXERCISE
I KNOW. Listen, I realize that lots of people hate exercise. But you cannot deny how it feels when you have sweated your buns off for an hour and pumped your body full of endorphins. I think part of it stems from shifting focus from the mind to the body. Your brain will welcome the break and inevitably you will start feeling like your inspired self again.
4 . DRUDGE THROUGH THE DRUDGERY
This is a phrase used by my friend and I replay it in my head so often that it probably deserves its own email. Sometimes when I’m feeling uninspired, I avoid my work like the plague. I come up with reasons why I cannot write or design because I hate the feeling of producing work that is not up to my standard. But honestly, one way to get to the other side of a rut is to just PRODUCE your way through it. To write so much bad stuff or design so much bad stuff that you get to the good. It is why I create a gazillion logo concept ideas — most of which suck — in order to find the gem that is waiting past the drudgery.
When all else fails, create your way through a creative rut.
5 . TAKE THE PRESSURE OFF
I wish I could say I’m one of those people who really thrives under pressure. Unfortunately, I put a ton of pressure on myself, so when I’m met with outside pressure I tend to shut down. When I’m focusing so hard on writing that awesome blog post or creating that perfect website, my creative juices sometimes head in the opposite direction of my focus. I have found that if I take a break and focus on something that is fun and low pressure — like creating a fun blog graphic, writing a non-nonsensical story in my notebook, etc. — it helps restore flow to my creative energy.
I hope some of these strategies will prove helpful for you to keep in your back pocket.
Watch Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on Your Elusive Creative Genius:
It is a great way to start. It is especially apt when we are talking about that fickle thing called creative inspiration.