Even the most innovative entrepreneurs feel “stuck” sometimes when solving business problems. Many small business owners who need some outside inspiration go to business events and mingle with other entrepreneurs, but that can backfire when you’re feeling uncreative. Between all of the networking and hyperactive pitching, it’s possible to leave feeling drained instead of inspired.
So what do you do if you feel like you’ve fallen into a creative rut in your business? Sometimes, turning to unconventional sources of inspiration can help. Here are five ways to regain your creative mojo.
1. Attend an event outside of your industry
When your schedule is packed, it can be hard to break away from the day-to-day to attend a conference or trade show, let alone one outside of your field. But spending time with people in other industries can be a good way to immerse yourself in new ideas you aren’t likely to hear about from colleagues in your own field.
At least once a year, and preferably two or three, make time to attend an event for professionals in a field outside of your own. If you’re in a traditional brick-and-mortar industry like real estate, head to an event for pros involved in artificial intelligence or automation. Run your own accounting business or a small law office? Pop into a trade show where you can immerse yourself in the latest fancy foods, tech gadgets, or fitness trends. The list of possibilities is endless, so pick one that seems interesting to you personally. The event doesn’t have to be more than an hour to expose you to new ideas.
By paying attention to how people in other fields are solving problems and challenges in front of them — or solving problems for their customers — you’ll get some fresh ideas on how to move your business forward. You may also meet some new potential clients you wouldn’t ordinarily encounter. (See also: 11 Ways Freelancers and Telecommuters Can Make Friends and Network)
2. Immerse yourself in the arts
Reconnecting with your imagination by enjoying art, music, or theater can be a fantastic way to spark new solutions to your most vexing business problems — or help you come up with new products. One business owner told me that playing piano and visiting art galleries gave him inspiration when designing technology involved in streaming music, for instance. My hairstylist recently told me he gets his creative juices flowing sculpting and cooking.
3. Learn a new discipline
It’s tempting when you feel “stuck” in your business to hunker down at your desk, but that can be counterproductive and tiring. Reboot your brain by doing a guided meditation (perhaps using an app like Headspace), trying a new yoga class, or signing up for a martial arts class. All of these activities will push you out of familiar patterns of thinking.
Ideally, pick an activity that requires so much focus and concentration you can’t think about anything else. For me, hot yoga does the trick. I sometimes wonder whether I should take the time out of my day to drive to the studio, given how long my to-do list is, but after I’ve spent an hour in a 100-degree room doing downward dogs, my mind is completely clear. Often, I find that the answers to work-related challenges pop into my head on my ride home from the yoga studio — or I realize that a problem that was worrying me isn’t as big of a deal as I thought and simply cross it off my “list.”
4. Go back to school
Even if you don’t have time to sit in a classroom, there are plenty of opportunities to take self-paced classes these days through online platforms such as edX and Coursera. Instead of taking the practical approach and taking a business course, consider studying a subject that interests you outside of your business. edX, for instance, offers classes such as the History of Chinese Architecture, Making Government Work in Hard Places, and The Science of Happiness. Studying almost any new subject will bring fresh ideas into your mind — and by extension, into your business. (See also: 10 Classes That Can Pay for Themselves)
5. Reconnect with your childhood
If there are kids in your life — whether they are your own or those of a friend who would appreciate some free baby-sitting — spend a couple of hours playing with them. Go to a park and let them dictate what you play, or bring over some crafts supplies or materials for a science experiment and put them in charge. Experiencing how they think, experiment, and solve problems will get you out of the “adult” mindset of doing everything efficiently and aiming for results. The more you can connect with the childlike side of yourself, the more willing you’ll be to try new, possibly messy, approaches at work. That’s a good recipe for getting unstuck.