We’ve all been there. You sit down at your desk, intending to be productive, but you just … can’t. You look over your to-do list, trying to find the motivation needed to get started, but taking the first step seems as insurmountable as climbing Mount Everest. There’s no getting around it -- you’ve been hit with a massive case of creative burnout.
If you work in a creative field -- or actually, any field, since all work requires some level of creativity -- this story of burnout probably sounds familiar. Getting unstuck when you’re in a creative drought may seem daunting, but it can be done. The following are a few ideas to help you break through your burnout:
1. Take a break
Taking time away may sound like the worst possible idea when you’re already behind on your work and facing looming deadlines. However, it can be exactly what you need to get unstuck. Studies have shown that the brain’s resources drop after a long period of focus, which hinders overall performance. Even a brief time away can restore the brain’s ability to think creatively.
That said, if you’re going to take a break, it’s important to actually get away. One key element is to get away from screens, including TV, Facebook and even LOLcats. While switching to these diversions is better than no break at all, it’s more efficient and helpful to get up, move around and get some fresh air. You may even find that as your brain has time to relax, a new idea for your work will suddenly come to you!
I personally love to go for a run when I encounter a creative block. It gets my endorphins going and blood pumping, and when I’m done I feel ready to tackle anything. Running isn’t the only option, of course. Any type of exercise can be helpful for resetting your mind. Try lifting weights, attending a yoga class or going for a hike.
A complete change of scenery and activity is a powerful way to boost your creativity. Take the example of Haruki Murakami, a spectacular novelist who connected his physical activity with his creative work. Keeping his body in great shape has helped him to craft a career that’s lasted over 30 years.
3. Create an inspiration file
When you come across something that inspires you or makes you think in a new way, save it! You can create a Pinterest board or a paper file, but however you do it, keep that inspiration nearby. Whenever you feel stuck, unmotivated or aren’t sure what direction to take, go through that file.
If you’re not sure where to start, the web is full of sources for creative inspiration. Your favorite magazines, novels and even your friends can be great resources to help you power through a period of burnout as well.
Related: 10 Ways to Recharge
4. Change your work environment
A change of scenery can be exactly what you need to kick start your thought processes. Do you normally work in an office? Try working outside, at a park or even at a coffee shop. Set up at a local mall that offers wi-fi. If you can’t leave the office, even moving to a new conference room for a couple of hours can help you better focus.
If you absolutely can’t move to a different location, try changing your desk. Perhaps a standing desk would help you see things differently, while adding a plant could help brighten your mood. You could even swap your chair for a balance ball for a few hours. How your desk is set up definitely affects your mood, so think through this one carefully.
5. Consider a total reset
The tips above might be enough to help you if your burnout is temporary in nature. But what if you find yourself having to fight off the condition over and over again?
If you can’t quite shake your creative burnout, consider that your body and mind might be telling you that you need a bigger change. In these cases, listening to your gut could reveal that you’re in the wrong situation altogether -- one that no amount of burnout management will be able to salvage. Making major changes in light of this realization isn’t easy, but hitting the reset button and moving in an entirely new direction might be the only way out of your burned-out state.
Obviously, these suggestions are only the tip of the iceberg, but they’re ideas that have all made a big difference for me. Give them a try to see if your burnout can be resolved, but don’t be afraid to confront larger issues at play if taking a break, changing your environment, getting some exercise or getting inspired don’t make a dent in your creative burnout.