One of the biggest issues I have with owning my own company is the creative isolation it creates. I have no peers and no coworkers. While my husband (who is also my business partner) is an amazing sounding board, he isn’t exactly equipped to coach me through certain creative slumps.
I’ve listed these suggestions out in order from easiest (but least kick-in-your-pants) to most difficult (but full of get-yourself-in-gear power.)
1. Get out of the office
If you trust me on anything, trust me on this… staring at the same four walls while dressed in yesterday’s tee shirt are NOT conducive to being creative or productive long term. Even if you have an office outside your home you can still benefit from a change of scenery and routine.
- Go to the gym: Use your body and your brain will thank you. Scientific American and Harvard Medical School have you covered with facts about how exercise is good for kickstarting fresh ideas.
- Find a local coffee shop: Sometimes other people physically sitting around you forces concentration and keeps you from mindlessly surfing Facebook.
- Find a drop-in co-working spot: If coffee shops aren’t your thing, check out a local co-working spot. While you are there, check out their community bulletin board for networking opportunities and workshop events.
- Get in your car and drive: This may not work for everyone, but I do enjoy a solo road trip. Since I have a 15-year-old daughter with friends seemingly all over the state, I have ample opportunity to be “mom taxi.” I often use that time to think or record ideas without fear of someone overhearing me or interrupting. Traveling with my husband also gives us uninterrupted time to brainstorm – we only need to remember to record or take notes!
How this helps your creativity: A change of scenery and routine makes your brain think differently – and more creatively.
Cost: A cup of coffee or a fee for co-working space.
2. Invite someone to your office
Yes, even if you work from home. Have you ever powered through cleaning your home when you know that company is coming? Inviting someone over to your office has a similar effect. For me, it forces prioritization of projects, a clean(er) desk, and updated whiteboard doodles. Be sure to let your guest know there can be time to work quietly and time to chat.
Work in a dedicated office? Invite a professional friend that may not have her/his own office to spend a day with you.
How this helps your creativity: Having another person to bounce ideas off of can help you redirect your focus on alternate ways to solve a problem. (Of course, you do the same for your friend by talking with them!)
Cost: Usually nothing!
3. Move your office
If you are currently using your kitchen or dining room table for an office, take the time to find a dedicated spot in your house for a proper office – with a door if possible. I have seen photos of some pretty creative small home office spaces using closets, space under a staircase or even a room divider in a dining room or bedroom.
My home office has moved around a few times – from a spare bedroom to sharing with my husband (that did NOT work.) Now I’m in a dedicated space built in my basement decorated how I like. My “office-office” has seen some moves over the years as well. We started out in offices across from one another and now share an office with back-to-back desks. I should also note I much prefer to work from home in my OWN office thank-you-very-much.
If you are happy with your current office location, think about changing it up a bit. Put up a fresh coat of paint, invest in a new chair or desk, or (finally) add artwork to the walls. Even changing the orientation of your desk may help! Home office feng shui to the rescue!
How this helps your creativity: Just like leaving your office, allowing yourself a dedicated office can protect you from outside distractions and give you a solid sense of professionalism.
Cost: Could cost you rent/utilities or a co-working monthly membership fee. Fixing up an existing office can be as simple as a gallon of paint or a trip to Ikea or Goodwill.
4.Create a virtual workgroup
Time to start using Facebook to break out of a creative slump! Look around for friends that also work solo (even if they are in a company larger than ‘one’) and schedule a time for a video chat group. The beauty of being virtual is you are no longer dependent on only finding people that work near where you work. The internet is the limit!!
I like to use video platforms like Zoom to have “open office” hours. What we do is open a video chat and at the top of each hour we take five minutes and check in with one another. For the next 55 minutes we are on mute and keep the video chat window open on a “second screen.” It really does feel like I’m working WITH other people and not just alone in my office.
If I need to ask a question I can pop it into the chat and see if anyone answers. Otherwise, the question sits until the top of the hour when we all jump in the room again for updates. We don’t use video rooms every day or for that many hours at a time, but it IS scheduled and on all our calendars. Generally, I use video rooms like this for the times I need to hunker down and write. Other people may use groups like this to hash out editorial calendars or make outbound sales calls. Each person in the video room can choose what they would like to work on!
How this helps your creativity: This works in a similar way to having someone physically visit your office (or you their office) but without the requirement of living / working near people who interest you.
Cost: Nothing if you use Google Hangouts, free or $15 a month if you use Zoom.
5. Join a mastermind
When you need a hardcore group of superheroes to get you focused and creative, you need a mastermind group.
Mastermind groups can range from “one other person you meet with on an as-needed basis to get opinions” all the way to “formal paid groups that are strictly enforced as far as topics and attendance and moderated by a professional where you need to interview to apply.” One of the features of a mastermind is that one participant is on the “hot seat” at a time. All conversation and solutions focus on them. When it is your turn on the hot seat you get a think tank worth of experience working for you and only for you. When others are on the hot seat, you now get to shine and construct options and solutions for others. This alone for me is a straight pathway to fixing my own creative business barriers!
One of the most important mastermind groups I am a member of is a Facebook group for speakers. It’s invite-only and professionalism reigns supreme. It is also strictly moderated and protected by the person that founded it. You honestly can’t know the power of a mastermind group until you actively participate in one!
How this helps your creativity: By giving yourself dedicated time to focus on specific business issues, you become accountable to other people to follow through on tasks and present the results. You also benefit from the collective experience of your group. The ‘we’ becomes greater than the ‘me.’
Cost: Free if you make your own. Most masterminds I know of charge a fee (anywhere between $50 a month and several thousand dollars for a six month block) and to pay for the time and expertise of the organizer.
6. Go on a retreat
This is my favorite way to restart creative ideas for my business, but it is by no means the easiest or the cheapest.
Find a workshop or conference that speaks to the parts of your business or yourself that you feel need a kick in the pants. For me, it was professional speaking, so I attended Heroic Public Speaking. I needed to “up my game” and felt the need to surround myself with others in the same situation. From that event, I wound up with a mastermind group (in addition to the one I am a part of on Facebook) and was invited to attend more specialized speaker training for experienced speakers.
Sometimes conferences can act as a retreat so long as you can remove yourself from the daily responsibilities of your business (at least for a good chunk of the day.) Be sure to adjust your schedule to have someone handle the phones and email in your absence. This is a GREAT time to include your family in your business if they aren’t already!
How this helps your creativity: Dedicated and focused time away from your office and business to concentrate only on the very thing you need to do in order to grow? This is a no-brainer to me!!
Cost: Outside of the dedicated time outside your office and business, the cost can range from a few hundred dollars (if you are lucky enough to find a conference or workshop near your house without the need for airfare or hotel) to tens of thousands of dollars (think Tony Robbins.)