In a way, each one of us is creative, and many of us are fortunate enough to be able to have creative careers as well. We are writers, designers, programmers, and creative tactical workers, and we chose the careers we did because we grew attached to the particular form of creative work we discovered.
Now, if only we could be creative — and genuinely enjoy that creativity — all the time. That creative focus we get now and then doesn’t last forever, and it most certainly doesn’t have an ‘on’ switch. All creative jobs, even those that we are passionate about, eventually end up becoming boring.
So how can we continue to stay engaged in our work? How can we reignite that creative spark we miss when we’re feeling discontent?
Related: 12 Ways to Avoid Blogging Burnout
1. Break routine outside of work
If there is an imbalance of focus at work, it often means there is an imbalance of focus in everyday life as well. Perhaps it’s because of another interest, or perhaps it’s a burnout. Whatever it is: there is a cure!
Keeping a routine can be a good thing; it can create focus and cause activity. After awhile routine can also cause just the opposite, causing a rut. Try doing something new or something that is the same in a new way to break out of a rut. It can range from something tiny to a major overhaul.
Need a few ideas?
- Take a new driving route or a new route when running, biking, etc.
- Wake up a bit earlier for a reflective start to your day or take a nap mid-day. Or, switch up your sleep routine for more energy.
- Go on a weekend trip.
- Take up a hobby to be included in a daily routine or a weekly routine.
- Discover a new place, locally or otherwise.
- Break a bad habit, or dedicate to creating a new good one.
- Outside of work, do more of any other interests that are catching your attention, and live them out.
- Create new social networks, or revisit an old friend; social with others you don’t see regularly.
- Discover a new and completely different type of creative outlet. If you code, then go paint; if you design, then go write.
If forcing a breakout from a rut isn’t working with some of these smaller actions, take a long vacation, and always remember that overworking to the point of a burnout shouldn’t be glorified! Removing completely from a current routine for a longer period of time may be just the cure. It can often lead to career changing perceptions and new ideas to get unstuck.
2. Beat mental exhaustion (often confused with boredom)
Some boredom to your day may actually be a good thing — it merely depends on how you define it. When we think of the concept of being bored with one’s work, we think of it not being engaging and interesting anymore, permanently or otherwise. If we go back to a more basic definition of boredom though, it’s easily noticeable that there isn’t a lot of it in our daily lives anymore.
“Having nothing to do and feeling anxious to do something.”
Why is it that we never feel that anxiousness to get moving anymore? Many of us only crave to do nothing, but nothing never seems to come. We really are always doing something, even if it’s not productive: television, phones, work, “research” for work, personal projects, social media, social engagements, music — the list goes on. When we have something we could be doing, we do it.
The art of doing nothing though – purposefully and until we’re utterly bored even – can do wonders for creativity. It can reignite a creative spark. Next time you feel the need to ‘fill the time,’ try filling it with sitting, lying down, meditating or simply daydreaming.
Additionally, strive to add more quiet and less ‘doing’ daily. Take walks without music, turn off bright screens when it gets dark, or spend some time each day in complete silence. Strive for a generally healthy lifestyle as well in terms of food and exercise; doing so can help keep a focused mind.
Take more breaks, get more done.
3. Discover or do something new in current projects
We can do quite a bit to bring on new creative projects, and make our lives more interesting and more perceptive to getting into a creative focus. Yet, while one can make progress towards those goals, there are plenty of unfulfilling projects that need to get done regardless. Sometimes, to make a living, you simply need to do what you have to do.
That doesn’t mean you need to accept an un-engaging project’s misfortune. Instead, try a few of these ideas while having to work on it:
- Complicate it! Learn something new while working on the project or while doing the task; go above and beyond to find a more creative way of doing it. The bare minimum and doing only as your told breeds no engagement from you.
- Take it as an opportunity to try a whole new technique. Experimentation is growth after all, and it sure captures creative focus as well.
- If the project or task is too straightforward to really give it any creative justice, be creative in your process, or create a tool or system in your time spent on the project to make future related tasks a far better experience. Can you discover, tweak, or build from scratch a tool that will do that work for you in the future? What about a process that will take away the annoying or bore-some parts of the project?
- Break routine in the way you work as well. If you’re stuck in software and staring as a screen all day, do more tactical work. Draw out a solution, or try out a new tool.
4. Outsource negativity and boredom — or get rid of it altogether
You may have noticed a trend: we’re figuring out the source of the discontent and smashing it. One of the biggest creativity klllers — negativity — can destroy a creative vibe in one project as well as every other aspect of creative work. If only we could go about our daily lives with no negativity whatsoever, right? We can, though, take some actionable steps to deal with or prevent negativity surrounding work.
Discover sources of negativity in your day: an annoying or rude person, a rushed morning, a longer-term problem that needs addressing? Also, take a moment to write down which tasks or types of projects you do regularly that are boring or frustrating.
If possible, take normally boring tasks off your to-do list in the future by outsourcing them, creating or finding tools, or systematizing the process to get through them quicker. Solve other areas of negativity throughout your day in ways that they need to be handled. A calmer mind leads to creative thinking, always.
5. Tweak your entire career focus or direction
It may be that the solution is more radical. If not just in a rut, it may very well be that you’ve grown out of the role you are currently playing. And that’s ok.
Maybe you need a new job or a shift in a role. Perhaps its a matter of taking on different types of projects. Perhaps its taking on more responsibility …or less — changing your focus away from work altogether for the time being.
If all else fails in the search to re-ignite the creative spark, explore different options and re-discover what you would like to be doing creatively – changing creative and work focus is a creativity process in itself.