We’ve chatted before about the routines we all have – those comforting autopilot steps that get us through hours each day. But there are times that the routine gets in the way of getting something done. When you’re trying to come up with a creative new idea for a client’s marketing campaign, or solve a knotty programming problem, or rework your schedule to allow for more flexibility, just trudging through the same old routines is probably the last thing that you need.
But what do you do when you need to leave the routine behind for a bit and stir up your innovative juices? Creative Think‘s Roger von Oech famously referred to “a whack on the side of the head” but generally you’d be well-advised not to take that literally. Here are four ideas on ways to shake yourself up without risking cranial bruises.
1. Engage your physical side. Too many web workers (your humble author sadly included) exercise their gluteus maximus more than any other muscle. Get up out of that chair, go jogging, get out to the gym, take a swim, bike around the lake, shovel manure for an hour, do something. Working up a sweat gives your subconscious a chance to idle for a while, and as a bonus, it’s good for your body.
2. Clear the decks. Sometimes you may find that you’re slipping into your routine as a way to avoid focusing on a knotty problem. In that case, ask yourself how much of your routine you can simply skip for a day or two. Do you really need to read all those blogs today? Can the filing wait? Is instant coffee in the kitchen good enough? Slash your schedule to the bone and force yourself to spend time with the work that you’re avoiding, instead of letting the tedium expand to fill the time available.
3. Get some random input. One reason web workers get stuck in mental ruts is that we don’t get enough outside stimulation: we’re often working alone in the same tiny office day after day. If you get the feeling that your brain is a hamster trapped in a wheel, take fifteen minutes and feed the hamster something new. If you’ve got a library or bookstore close by, walk in and take a book off a shelf at random and read a few pages. If you’ve only got the internet, then the random Wikipedia page is only a click away. One caution: set yourself a strict time limit for this sort of thing, or you can find yourself spending all day surfing around Wikipedia.
4. Rearrange your schedule – You’re a web worker, supposedly one of the most flexible workers in the world. So what are you doing stuck in the same routine day after day in the first place? Take a day off to evaluate that routine and shuffle it around. Maybe you’d do better reading and answering email in the evening, or taking a siesta after lunch each day, or breaking up the week with a midweekend.
What are your own best tips on ways to get the creative juices flowing when you’re stuck in a drab sameness?