I recently found myself in a bit of a creative rut. Or maybe it would be better described as just a rut generally—I didn’t want to work, I had trouble innovating and coming up with new ideas, and I didn’t really like anything I was creating.
Have you ever found yourself in a similar season?
While I’ve certainly found myself uninspired before, this was different. It was longer, and many of the smaller tricks I’ve learned over the years weren’t pulling me out of the pit. Of course, 2020 has been a year unlike any other. When the shutdown was announced in early spring, we decided to really kick it into gear. We created a lot of content, released templates, hosted Facebook Lives in our group, and committed to podcasts and trainings in other groups. And that doesn’t count my responsibilities for my other business, Till Agency.
I had, mistakenly, assumed things like rest would inevitably happen. We were locked down—that means we’d have to rest, right? In some ways, sure. But mostly I was just in this cycle of hustling thinking that this season was going to be a sprint. It wasn’t—but you already know that.
Typically I’d snap out of the rut by trying to find a good business book or break up my day by getting outside a little bit. Those and similar hacks usually help me get the wheels turning, but none of the old tricks were cutting it.
Fortunately, I finally snapped out of it, but it required a different kind of effort than usual. Here’s how it happened.
5 Activities That Helped Me Get Inspired Again
First and foremost, I needed to take a little time off. It turns out that businesses (typically) don’t fail and life doesn’t come to an end if you take a few days to check out. I’m always surprised how much better I feel after not being tied to email or social media for a few days—even better if you have a few days to spend with friends and family.
Rest also required intentionality, especially during a season when we’re more confined. Getting out and gardening, finding a new project to work on (see below), and finding more “active rest” activities has been good for my mind. Watching television in the evenings while scrolling on my phone, on the other hand, turned out to be not so restful. Active rest activities that engaged my mind helped me clear my mind of work for extended periods of time.
Drastically changing up my routine.
It turns out that what I needed more than anything was a change in routine. Taking some time off to think through those changes and put together a plan was helpful. I had decided that I was going to start getting up at 4:30 in the morning, which meant that I’d have to be in bed by about 9 p.m.
Getting up at 4:30 meant I could get in some quiet time, about an hour of work, and an hour or so workout… all before Jack wakes up. Mornings have always been the most productive part of my day, and having extra time tackling bigger projects like content creation first thing has been creatively helpful. It also meant limiting time in front of the television in the evenings, which was an unintended positive.
The challenge of getting up early was motivating, too. It required more discipline to get to sleep earlier. And if I was going to get up earlier, I knew I better had a plan for what to do with that time. That added productivity helped motivate me for the rest of the day.
This ties into “drastically changing up my routine.” I’m generally a pretty active person, but finding a new purpose in exercise has really given me something to focus on during the day other than work. I got back into a running routine in early spring around the beginning of the lockdown.
It was good to just get back into things, but I realized at some point that I really needed a plan. Another tendency of mine is to think that only long, arduous workouts “count.” A well-designed plan should have some element of rest or recovery built-in. I picked up a ½ marathon training program and lifting template from a company a friend told me about, which added a much-needed structure to my exercise routine.
Regardless of the specifics of any plan, I’ve found that working out first thing in the morning typically leads to better days. There’s something about getting a good workout in before most people are out of bed that’s motivating. Then, of course, there are all the physiological and psychological benefits of exercise.
Find a Project
Having a project to get excited about gets me creative about other things in life, too. There’s probably some science out there that explains why that’s the case, but I assume it has something to do with the idea of active rest I mentioned earlier.
The project I found is actually business-related, but not related to Till Agency or ‘Davey & Krista.’ Because it’s very different from those two businesses, there was some excitement in the novelty of brainstorming ideas and thinking through different ways we can get the project off the ground (Excited to share more specific information about that project!). If you haven’t picked up on this theme yet, I’m a firm believer that things like renewed discipline and creativity in one area of life lead to discipline and creativity in other areas, too.
Talking about it.
This is probably the hardest part for me when it comes to getting out of a rut. I just don’t want to talk about it. At least part of that is due to not really understanding exactly why I’m in the rut myself. Regardless, I’m always surprised how much better I feel after taking the time to chat with Krista or picking up the phone to call a friend.
Rest was crucial for communication, too. It’s more difficult for me to have the patience to talk about such things when I feel like I’m “expected” to be productive. Ironically, I’m not very productive in such ruts, and it’s not like I have a boss telling me what to do every day. Anyways, having a few days off with friends gave me the space to chat about what was going on.
Remember to Keep Going
There’s a certain kind of workout that’s often referred to as a “chipper.” Typically it includes a massive amount of repetitions that need to be “chipped” away at. The wise course of action is typically to tackle it at a steady pace and to “just keep moving” rather than sprinting through it. (Forgive me for going all ‘meathead’ and continuing to talk about exercise.). This rut reminded me of that kind of workout.
What was interesting about this rut was that I came out the other side without knowing what specifically got me out of it. I don’t think it was any one thing, but a culmination of the above tips (plus some). One of the takeaways for me was that it’s important to “just keep moving” forward. I might not have felt 100% after getting back into a routine that I knew was better for me, for instance, but it was a step in the right direction—one that eventually helped get me there.
My guess is these kinds of ruts look a little different for everyone, but I hope that some of this provides a helpful framework for you if you find yourself in a similar situation.
Have a tip you’d like to share? Drop it in the comments section!
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