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What To Do When You Run Out Of Ideas

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What To Do When You Run Out Of Ideas

stress

    It’s happened to everyone at one time or another. You’re going along, producing and feeling creative, and then, suddenly, you run out of ideas. You’re stuck. You search high and low for inspiration. You look back on your earlier work, searching through your past ideas, trying to locate your muse, looking for something to trigger a creative explosion. But it’s all for naught. You’re blocked.

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    Regardless of what business you’re in, there’s always a need for creativity. Maybe it’s in how you present your products and services to your potential clients, or maybe it’s the products and services themselves. Either way, you need help getting out of that creative rut.

    First, Know That You’re Not Really Out of Ideas

    Sometimes when people get stuck, they worry that they’re going to be stuck forever. What you need to know is that your brain is a virtually endless source of ideas. You’re constantly feeding input into your brain, constantly giving it new information and stimulation. You practically can’t avoid it. So take a deep breath and know that this rut isn’t permanent.

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    Reduce Your Stress

    Sometimes stress and anxiety can get in the way of creativity. And when you get even more stressed because you can’t come up with new ideas, you make the block even stronger. Now’s the time to relax and reduce your stress. Mediate, try yoga, get some exercise. Hey, if foosball is your thing, go do that. Whatever it takes. Sometimes it takes just a little bit of stress relief before you suddenly get the old creative juices flowing again.

    Just Walk Away

    Sometimes the best thing you can do for your creative rut is to walk away. Staring at the problem won’t help you. In fact, it may very well exacerbate the situation. So walk away.  Literally. Take some time off and enjoy life. New experiences and meeting new people serve to rejuvenate your spirit and revive your creative flow. So walk away, let your brain take a rest from trying to figure it all out, and experience something new. You may come back with a wealth of new ideas.

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    Feed Your Brain

    One of the best things you can do to keep your own creativity flowing is to give your brain some good, solid input. Read great books, listen to great music, go outside and garden or just sit and listen to the birds or traffic (this one may be a little location-specific). Or do something crazy (insert appropriate disclaimers about legalities and safety here) and give your brain a totally new kind of stimulation. What works will be different for everyone, but the point is to provide your brain with the richest input that you can find.

    Look At Your Industry

    Sometimes it’s as simple as looking at your own industry. If you’ve been a little lax about keeping up lately, take some time to read up on current trends and the happenings in your industry. What are people in your field talking about? What are the biggest topics and the most significant concerns for your potential clients? Finding out what these issues are and what the top people in your industry are saying about it can stimulate you to think of your business, your products, your services, and your presentation in a new way.

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    Look At Your Competition

    While you’re stepping away from your own work, that doesn’t mean you have to step away from work entirely. Take some time to review your competition. What are they up to and what kinds of products and services do they offer? How do they package things differently, and how do they present themselves differently? Look for innovators and analyze what they’re doing that’s new and different and how they’re finding ways to blaze new trails, then model their behavior so you can blaze new trails of your own.

    Look Outside Your Industry

    Sometimes industries can get pretty insulated from the rest of the world. When that happens, the ideas in that industry get revamped, recycled, and re-run over and over again. Some of the best innovations have happened when people have merged ideas or ways of doing things from another industry with their own. It takes just one person looking outside the industry to see how other industries are doing something different to transform an industry and how they operate.

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    You Never Know When Or Where Inspiration Will Hit

    Ideas can hit you at any time, in any place. You never know where you’ll get a fantastic idea, and you don’t want to take chances on forgetting something fantastic. I keep a pocket-sized Moleskine notebook with me at all times so I can jot down ideas at a moment’s notice. I occasionally have to pull my car over on the side of the road for a moment to write down an article title or a new product I want to create. Creativity can hit when you least expect it, so the best course of action is always to be prepared.

    We’ve all had moments when we feel abandoned by our creativity. When that happens, don’t panic. Your brain may need its roadblocks eliminated, or it might just need some new input. Remain calm, remember that there are many ways to re-stimulate those neurons, and get started!

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    Susan Baroncini-Moe

    Susan Baroncini-Moe is an executive coach and business leader with over sixteen years’ experience.

    How to Find Your Entrepreneurial Passion and Purpose How to Stay Motivated and On-Track When You’re Struggling How to Hire A Web Design Firm Are You Having A Scarcity Conversation? 5 Topics To Address When Talking With Your Partner About Starting A Business

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    Published on September 21, 2021

    How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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    How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

    The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

    In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

    1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

    Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

    But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

    Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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    Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

    Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

    While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

    Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

    2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

    At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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    Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

    Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

    Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

    McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

    From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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    3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

    An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

    McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

    Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

    Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

    Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

    So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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    The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

    If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

    Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

    Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

    Reference

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