Everyone knows what it's like to get stuck, whether you are trying to solve a problem or do something creative. Sometimes you have to sit there and tough it out because you're still in the process of coming up with an answer. But there are times that hammering away doesn't help. Here are ten things you can try to shake loose and clear your mind for another round.

Take a shower

If you've been in a particularly intense bout, you may have skipped some basics of living, like taking your regular shower (or maybe even sleep and food). Jump in the shower and change into fresh clothes. It offers a good reason for a break and will make you feel human again. Added benefit: People often find the confines of a shower to be relaxing and conducive to creativity and problem solving, so as you step out, you may already have the solution you need.


In intense periods of work, you may be cutting down on the usual amount of sleep you get. But you're not really gaining productivity because when you're tired you're less effective. Try a brief nap and let your subconscious work on whatever you're facing (as it often does the yeoman's share of the creativity and problem-solving).

Go for a walk

Exercise lets you work off some stress and stop obsessing over a train of thought that hasn't been useful. The reason walking is particularly good is that you don't need a change of clothing, gym, or equipment.

Redefine the problem

Sometimes you get stuck because you've insisted on looking at a situation in one way. A simple example is that you run a company and are trying to find ways to improve your profitability. If you keep focusing on cutting costs, you may forget that you could also increase sales of add-on goods, raise prices on key items, break into new markets, or develop additional products. Many problems are the same, with multiple aspects that can all affect the result you want.

Redefine the context

One aspect of getting stuck in a task or problem is that you get too close to it for too long. Another way of making room is considering how you might solve it in other circumstances. I literally used this technique in writing this post, as I thought about how someone might solve problems in a process of innovation. Several of the techniques I mention, including redefining the context, came from that.

Switch to a mundane task

Shift among different types of tasks and take up something that needs to be done but is more rote and requires less active mental energy. It's like slowing to a jog after some sprinting to recover.


Stop directing your mind and let it wander for a while. Big problem solving often happens on a subconscious basis. So get out of the way and let it get to work.

Take a break

Just walk away, Renee. Get away from the spot of your present obsession and don't beat yourself. Hit the bathroom, get some coffee, or go look out the window for a bit. You'll return feeling refreshed.

Talk things out

There no reason for you to assume that you must do everything yourself. Talk to a colleague, friend, or expert. The other person may have some insight, or in the process of discussing the issue you may have an insight as you take the view of an outsider describing the situation.


How often do people sit at a desk, repeatedly going over something and getting nowhere? Do some research and get more information that might help you find a solution -- or let you find one someone else had previous discovered?