There’s nothing that puts a damper on your creativity quite like feeling burned out. As the owner of a digital marketing agency serving enterprise clients around the world, I know how tough it can be to have to be creative at a moment’s notice -- especially when you’re swamped with other work. And while a modern work ethic tells you to just power through it, that usually doesn’t get the creative juices flowing.
Related: How to Avoid Burnout in Your Team
Ready to try something different? Here are eight proven ways you can get creative when you’re feeling burned out:
1. Take a break.
For starters, take a tip from Tim Holmgren, founder of NewsMeister, who told FreshInfo: “If you are unproductive or spinning your tires on a problem, take a break and enjoy yourself. Once you have that nagging idea in your head or solution to your problem, get back work.”
You may be one of those people who feels like they don’t have time to take a break, but it’s probably exactly what you need to get more done in the long run.
Research has shown that brief diversions improve your focus considerably. So if you’re feeling blocked, step away from the computer for 20 minutes, do something relaxing or entertaining, and then give it another go.
2. Find a new approach.
For many, getting creative is all about the method. It’s possible that the way you normally tackle a task is driving you into the ground. One way I implement this is that, while I typically draw up detailed outlines for a project before beginning, I’ll skip this step and just start working if I’m feeling burned out. If you’re one of those people who never makes a plan, then create one.
See if trying a new approach helps get your creative juices flowing.
Getting away from your desk and doing something that gets your heart pumping is a great way to get the creative juices flowing later on.
And research shows that you shouldn’t just do it when you need a creative boost -- people who regularly exercise think more creatively than those who don’t as a baseline. Use exercise as a method to avoid creative burnout altogether.
Businessmen and investor Richard Branson is a huge proponent of exercise, stating on the Virgin Group’s Blog:
“I’ve found that it’s not a good idea to dive straight into work when you wake up,” he says, “so I dedicate my mornings to exercise and family time. It helps me clear my mind and energizes me for the day ahead.”
4. Read or watch something creative.
It may sound overly simplistic, but sometimes, the best way to get inspired is to immerse yourself in creativity. Even if your task is writing, listening to music or reading poetry just might be the inspiration you need to spark your own.
TED Talks are one of my favorite options for this. In particular, check out the program’s “Creativity” category.
5. Stop worrying about it.
Being a self starter is the name of the game in the entrepreneurial world, which makes you more prone to beating yourself up when you stall. For whatever reason, the creative spark isn’t coming, so you guilt trip, stress and worry about it.
Although I’m definitely guilty of this from time to time, bringing up these emotions will only make the situation worse. Stress is a notorious creativity killer. So if you find yourself getting worked up about the fact that you can’t work, try taking a counterintuitive approach: Tell yourself it’s fine.
Relax, and promise yourself that your creative spark isn’t gone forever. Once it’s back, you’ll catch up.
6. Eliminate distractions.
The more distractions you have in your workplace -- whether it be background noise, visual stimuli or the whole of the internet flashing up on your desktop every eight seconds -- the more likely you are to get pulled away from your creative zone.
All these stimuli work together to not only encourage you to procrastinate but to wear down your focus when you genuinely are trying to work.
When I’m feeling burned out, I turn off the TV and radio and close down my extra browser tabs. If you really can’t control yourself (and trust me, I’ve been there), consider shutting off your router except for when you really need it.
7. Change your environment.
If you usually work in the same place every day, this might be a part of the problem. If you really want to be inspired, then sitting in the same mundane, predictable environment won’t help you. Try taking your work someplace new, to a place with novel sounds, smells and visuals. It may be as simple as taking your computer out of your office and onto your porch or heading to a coffee shop to work. If I can, I’ll try to work on-site with a client for a real change of pace and to strengthen our relationship.
If you can swing it, Daniel Barnett, founder of Worketc, recommends trying a new city, telling FreshInfo: “It is a total cliche but a change really is as good as a holiday. I still feel like I am achieving and moving forward and the novel environment gets the brain buzzing again.”
8. Keep trying.
The only way to 100 percent ensure that you’ll never overcome your creative burnout is to stop trying. I recommend trying all the above tips first, but after everything's said and done, you just need to keep showing up.
Creative burnout is caused by a combination of factors that you may not always be able to identify -- or fully resolve, if you’re in a creative profession. But if you keep trying, eventually, some amount of creativity will start creeping back.
Just make sure you’re there to take advantage of it.
What other steps do you take to battle creative burnout when it strikes? Leave me a note below with your best tips and tricks.