Creativity can be a roller coaster, plunging and rising in what feels like a terrifyingly unpredictable path. When you're at the bottom of the hill, though, you're not stuck. You have the energy inside you to get to the top again. You just have to unleash it.
1. Take a walk.
If you're a typical leader or entrepreneur, the areas of your brain that are responsible for decision making, such as the prefrontal cortex, are running at full steam much of the day. They need time to downshift. When they do, other areas of the brain associated with creativity can ramp up and steal the show for a while. Research by David Strayer suggests that a simple 30 minute walk in nature can prompt this shift, increasing creativity by as much as 50 percent.
2. Do something mundane.
While you might be tempted to throw yourself into as many creative tasks as you can to get juices flowing, you might be better off doing a boring, uninteresting job. As my Inc colleague Jessica Stillman discusses, studies have revealed that even something like doing the dishes--like Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos both do--can be a great stress reducer, getting you into a better frame of mind for more creative thinking. It allows your mind to wander and explore, as well, which helps you come up with unusual-but-awesome connections between ideas that you otherwise might not make.
3. Look at past work and get feedback.
When creativity dips, it's easy to get discouraged with yourself and stress out that you can't produce. Reflecting on what you've already done can remind you of the pattern of success you've had and remind you of your overall consistency. Feedback from others serves the same confidence-building purpose, and it helps you see creative strengths or potential paths that you might not have considered before.
I'm not talking playing Candy Crush on your phone. Creativity-boosting play is hands-on, where you build things and break the rules about what "must" be. It gets you taking in sensory feedback that you probably don't normally focus on through the day, and it offers a safe way to take and get more comfortable with risk. Grab some Legos, volunteer at a school or daycare, or actually join in the next time your kids ask if you'll be Agent Gorg and help save the planet Renigon.
5. Switch what's around you.
When we're in a familiar environment, we tend to drop into old habits and ways of thinking. Switching up what you see, hear, etc. and have access to can challenge those methods and tendencies, forcing you to adapt and notice other things.
6. Do some inner work.
Sometimes creativity stops flowing easily because we're distracted by other things. Maybe we're worried about making the mortgage this month, for instance, or we can't stop wondering whether a coworker's comment was intentionally hurtful. Take a minute to breathe and acknowledge what's going on in your life, whether that's through journaling, talking to a trusted friend or other techniques. While some issues won't have an easy solution, sometimes simply being able to pinpoint them and admit to yourself that they're affecting you is enough to let you relax a little.
7. Spend time alone.
Yes, feedback is important. But when we are overwhelmed with too many options or opinions, we can freeze up. Get away from others long enough to hear what you want, who you are, what you expect. This makes it easier to try different things without worrying so much about whether what you attempt is "right" or "wrong".
8. Try something different.
Creative blocks sometimes happen because we're forced to do the same kind of job over and over again. After a while, we start to feel like we've already tried all the alternatives we can, so we hesitate. Do something that's not related to your usual responsibilities to give yourself a break, discover new skills and see things from a new perspective. For example, if you normally code for your company website, joining a community theater can expose you to public speaking, design, construction and more. The bigger idea is simply to challenge your ingrained concept of identity and to break the belief that you can express yourself in only one way.