As an entrepreneur, I can tell you that starting, running and building a business goes well beyond skill, dedication and knowledge. Entrepreneurs and other business leaders must have tons of creativity for remaining relevant, for cultivating client relationships and for overcoming obstacles. And when we get too close to the forest of our own enterprise, it’s often challenging to see the trees clearly. That’s when we could find ourselves stuck in a creativity slump.
But not to worry. There are some simple strategies for sparking your creative flame:
1. Check in with your mission statement. Mission statements are often written and then forgotten. Keeping yours on hand for regular review keeps your mind focused on the “why” you’re in business. When you’re clear about the why (i.e., why your customers need what you provide), then it’s easier to come up with the “what” (i.e., what you provide, generated through creativity). If you don’t have a mission, now’s a good time to write one.
2. Find inspiration from your clients. I recently heard a couple of successful entrepreneurs talk about where they find inspiration. They each said that when they are feeling stuck or frustrated and feel that they can’t come up with a single ounce more of creativity, they call their favorite clients and spend a few minutes chatting. Doing so reignites their creativity.
3. Read. Personally, I don’t read anything that doesn’t serve my ability to better serve my clients, simply because I don’t dedicate the time to pleasure reading. And often I find inspiration in my daily practice of reading interesting pieces on the web. However, sometimes that’s not enough and I have to read outside of my comfort zone to ignite my creative spark.
4. Schedule a meeting with employees to bounce ideas around. Your employees know your business from a different perspective than you do. Having regular idea-generation powwows keeps the flow of inspiration and creativity going. This also gives your staff a sense of ownership and lets them know that their voice and ideas matter and are vital to the enterprise’s success.
5. Take a day or even a few hours off and go somewhere that inspires you. Stepping away from your office for a few hours or ideally a whole day sends you back to the office with a fresh perspective. Spending that time in a place that inspires or calms you is optimal for this purpose. For me, that place is the beach.
6. Schedule a meeting with a colleague to talk shop. When I really feel stuck, I call upon my friends who are also coaches. And every time I do, I walk away with so many new ideas that I often have to jot them down in my phone so I don’t forget them all.
7. Take a vacation. It could be that your creativity is locked up because it’s been way too long since your last vacation. It might not be a good time to take time away from the office, but even an overnight stay at a resort nearby could be just enough to refresh you and your creativity.
8. Disconnect. The idea of an entrepreneur disconnecting from her work even for an hour per day or for a full weekend is enough to send her into therapy. But, one thing I’ve learned is that when I take some time to disconnect from my work, that's when the floodgates of my creativity reopen. There is something very powerful about creating space between our work and ourselves. It almost feels like magic.
9. Solicit advice from unlikely places. Sometimes someone who is not at all connected to our organization or even to our industry is the best place to find inspiration. Personally, I do this a lot and I find that my best ideas on how to drum up new business come from the most unlikely places and people.
10. Meditate, pray or exercise. You don't have to be a religious type or even spiritual to get the benefit of these soulful practices. (Calling all atheists!) Exercise can have a similar effect. When we try too hard to generate creativity, we can actually block it more. Being in silence for a few minutes a day in whatever capacity feels comfortable can unblock our creative juices because stillness slows down our thoughts and clears the mind. For me, running without music—to the beat of my own breath—has a similar effect on me as my mediation practice.