We have all experienced it: That disconcerting moment when you sit down at your desk and you’re overcome by an uncertain, disorienting fog.
I’m not talking about the gray mist outside your bedroom window, but rather that murky brain fog that wafts around your head and won’t easily lift. Some call it writer’s block, but it doesn’t just happen to writers; it can happen to anyone who finds him or herself in a creative slump at work. And it usually ends up leaving you incapacitated and unmotivated. Many throw their hands up and walk away, rather than facing their hurdle head-on.
But there’s a silver lining. Every entrepreneur goes through this from time to time — so you’re not alone. And the faster you can learn to clear your head, the quicker you can get right back on track, conquer your workload, and come up with fresh new ideas to innovate and excite.
Here are nine tips for exhuming that sunken creative treasure or hidden motivation:
Are you getting enough water during your day? It’s funny how something as simple as water can make a huge difference in one’s mental clarity. In fact, the human brain is made up of 90 percent water. In other words, the less water you supply it with, the less it’s able to perform adequately and the more fatigued you may find yourself. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses a day.
2. A messy desk is a messy head
You may not realize it, but physical clutter also clutters your headspace and slows down your concentration and energy. Think about it. Even on the periphery, excess items such as water bottles and loose papers around our workspace can begin to impede our focus by impairing our senses subconsciously. Spend 15-20 minutes cleaning away all of the unnecessary things around you, and watch how much quicker you can get your work done.
3. Take a hike
Not only can a nice, brisk walk clear your head and stimulate new ideas through a different setting, but it also gets blood circulating to your brain. Even a 10-15 minute walk can make a major difference in fostering your creative spirit.
4. Stop stressing
One of the worst things you can do when you encounter a mental block is begin stressing yourself out over it. This anxiety can in fact worsen it, by slowing down your ability to get proper oxygen to your brain, and by triggering your body’s “fight or flight” response — blocking the flow of creativity. Another term for this is “analysis paralysis.” You can become so trapped in a cycle of over-analysis that you can’t make a decision.
5. Trigger the sweet smell of success
Michael Stipe had it right when he sang “light a candle, light a votive.” Our olfactory system, which controls our sense of smell, is our most primitive sense. It shares the same part of the brain that affects our creativity, so it’s no surprise that something as subtle as a particular perfume smell can trigger a memory from 30 years in the past. Whenever you encounter a creative rut, try lighting a scented candle or a stick of incense to really get your creative juices flowing. My personal favorites are India Temple Incense or Voluspa candles.
6. Write, right?
You may be thinking, “That’s exactly what I’m having trouble with, you idiot!” Fair enough. But sometimes, one of the best tricks is simply getting thoughts on paper. Write about last night’s dream. Recount a childhood experience in your journal. Craft a letter to a friend about what you’ve been up to. This stimulates your brain within the confines of easier-to-come thoughts. Putting your fingers to the proverbial metal might help to spark your memory or a connection between two ideas, which could result in a new thought process.
7. Reading is fundamental
Just as writing your thoughts down can unlock a new doorway in your mind, reading can have the same effect. It’s amazing the power that reading can have on incubating thoughts, whether it be an article or an entire book. You may find yourself captivated by someone else’s experiences or find insight in some useful factoids that give you a whole new vision.
8. Play that funky music
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t enjoy music. It’s no wonder music is so popular. It inspires us. It makes us feel. It gives us a soundtrack to our very thoughts and emotions. And it also helps us to remember information through repetition. By stirring up emotional sediment and increasing the flow of our river of thoughts, it may just be the trigger you need to find new motivation.
9. Meditate on that
Just as clearing away the clutter on your desk is important in improving your mindset, clearing away the excess clutter in your head is just as essential to the creative process. You can do this through meditation. By taking just a few minutes a day to sit in a comfortable spot and clear your head of thoughts, you may find that a new source of energy and increased clarity.
Steven Le Vine is CEO of the premier Los Angeles-based lifestyle and entertainment PR and consulting firm, grapevine pr + consulting. He has represented some of the biggest names in music, fashion, film, and TV, since 2006. Le Vine is a regular commentator for Forbes and Entrepreneur, has been named a “Rising Star” by Global Business Magazine, and was recently honored with a “Power 30 Under 30” Award by the Apex Society.