4 Ways to Break Out of a Creative Rut

Here's a useful exercise to lift that creative block.

learn more about Marty Fukuda

By Marty Fukuda


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To succeed as an entrepreneur, it's critical that you consistently develop resourceful solutions to solve difficult problems. Being stuck in a creative rut can jeopardize your ability to lead effectively. This is particularly problematic since no one is "on" 24/7. At some point, you will find yourself in a fixed routine that just isn't working. Here are four ways to break out of an inspiration dry spell.

Related: Remembering Prince: What The Purple One Can Teach You About Creativity

1. Change your routine.

In many ways, maintaining a consistent schedule is your friend. A sleep expert might tell you to wake up at the same time every day. Elite athletes maintain identical habits before they throw a pitch or shoot a free throw.

While routines are great, and probably necessary in many areas of our lives, they can also inhibit our creativity. Sometimes, all you need to boost your innovative juices is to change things up a bit.

For instance, a shift in your schedule might be just what the doctor ordered. Cancel your first meeting tomorrow, and get an extra hour of sleep. Perhaps all your mind needs is a little rest to access untapped ideas, or you could try reading something new.

Do you always visit the same news website? Watch the same morning show? Or read the same newspaper to start your day? Instead, go to a different site; flip the channel; or read a different paper. A fresh take and a different perspective may jog new thoughts and visions.

2. Shut up.

As the boss, you're likely bombarded throughout the day for your opinion. That may be flattering and prove that you have a track record for making good decisions. However, constantly doling out responses can also lead to a creative drain.

You may be tempted to do what you've done before. Decisions may become predictable and uninspired. You give so much advice that you have little time to formulate new ideas, and you just observe and take in the world. But . . . don't.

Instead, from time to time, remind yourself that the best way to learn is to listen and watch. Allow your thoughts to ruminate.

Related: How to Find Your Passion in 5 Creativity Exercises

3. Force yourself to come up with 100 ideas.

When I find myself with a shortage of ideas, I revisit an exercise I learned in school. I'll make a list of 10, 50 or 100 ideas on a sheet of paper. The number is irrelevant, as long as it forces you to really stretch to reach it.

Any time I've sat down and utilized this process, I've quickly scribbled down a number of my usual suspects. The concepts often aren't new, original or particularly impactful -- or else I wouldn't be doing this exercise.

After I exhaust my initial wave of thoughts, I am typically at a loss for more creativity. However, the key is to keep charging forward and not overanalyze anything you jot down.

Nothing should be too crazy, unobtainable or nonsensical. Just write, and move on to the next concept. By sticking with this exercise and not stopping until your target number is achieved, you build creative momentum. When you're finished, stop and evaluate your list. You'll be surprised at how often this process unleashes ideas that wouldn't otherwise have been unearthed.

4. Travel.

What often puts us in a rut is too much repetition. We have the same schedule, including seeing the same people, taking the same route to work and eating at the same restaurants. The beautiful thing about travel is that it takes us out of our comfort zone.

Exposure to new cultures, people, sights and even languages causes our mind to expand and adapt, tapping into new mental resources. If you can afford to take the time, hop on a plane, and explore the world for a week. Should the thought of a week away make you shutter, try a quick weekend getaway accessible by car. Even a couple of hundred miles of distance between you and routine may be enough to spark some fresh ideas.

Related: Why Creativity Can Be a Curse for Entrepreneurs

The key to getting out of the monotony is to take action. Change up your daily rituals. Force yourself to brainstorm ideas. Travel, or just stop talking, and start observing. Don't let the rut stop you; let it inspire you.

Marty Fukuda

Chief Operating Officer of N2 Publishing

Chicago native Marty Fukuda is the chief operating officer of N2 Publishing, overseeing operations at its corporate headquarters in Wilmington, N.C. He first joined the company as an area director in 2008 after working in the direct sales and print industries. 

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