Today I was stuck. Standing in my office, I couldn’t decide where to start. Oh, there’s always plenty to do but I needed inspiration and direction. As I stared at the computer and thumbed through notes in my planner….I got nothing.
What inspires your creativity? As business owners, we are in need of fresh ideas on a regular basis. Whether it’s for promoting our products and services, creating useful content, interacting on social media, or generating new products, like a cranky toddler our business demands to be fed new content regularly. However, it’s easy to feel stagnant and at a loss of direction.
Most of us have our standby inspirations: favorite music or speakers/teachers, podcasters. But some days that’s not enough. It reminds me of the same feeling I get when standing in front of the refrigerator moaning there’s nothing to eat. I get tired of my go-to banana and peanut butter or salami and cheese snacks; it just doesn’t do it for me at the moment. The same with my business. When I’m plum out of ideas my favorite playlists seem rather annoying instead of energizing. When I get to that point it’s because I’m looking for not just any idea but useful, fresh ideas.
To get out of the rut and jump-start my brain, I knew I needed to do something different. Noticing a pink vintage typewriter displayed as decor in my office, instinctively, I grabbed a piece of paper, loaded it, and typed, IDEAS, at the top then walked away. It only took a few seconds to get my first idea. Walking back to the typewriter, I typed it out. Then walked away again. Within 30 minutes, I had a full page of ideas.
If you need suggestions for generating fresh ideas for your business, here are 12 ways I have, and still do, jump-start creativity:
1. CLEAN / REARRANGE
Seriously. Whenever I feel frustrated or don’t know what to do, the first thing I do is clean and/or rearrange. (I limit any rearranging to my work areas – most of the time – so as not to surprise my husband when he comes home from work. ? ) Believe it or not, cleaning really inspires! Not only is it pleasant to work in a clean and organized environment, but I do a lot of thinking when sweeping, dusting, and putting away the papers that have been collecting on the floor for the last month or so.
2. DO A CRAFT / COLORING BOOK
I keep a basket of coloring books, colored pencils, and markers in my office. Sometimes, I just need to sit down and focus on something other than work. I also recently bought a little cupboard for my work area and filled it with paper, stickers, washi tape, string, and other craft supplies. I’m not very good (yet) but I’ve started brainstorming for my business with crafts. Instead of purchasing a pre-made calendar for this year, I bought a personalized cover. Every week I work on adding pages to my planner. Part of my planner is creating a page of inspiration for specific projects or ideas. For example, right now I’m creating my first digital magazine issue for my blog, Paola Lane. I have a theme but need ideas for content. This week, I’m using my craft supplies to create a page for my planner around the theme of my magazine issue.
3. LOOK FOR ABANDONED BUILDINGS AND LOTS
One of my favorite brainstorming activities is going for a drive and imagining what an empty lot or building can be. I do this naturally, but I find that it often gives me ideas for my own business. That dilapidated cabin you’ve passed by for years with the roof caving in? Imagine who used to live there or what dream was being fulfilled when it was built. If it was restored, what could it be? What would the signs look like and who would come? What would make that empty building or lot a place that is vibrant and alive? As you stir your imagination, you’ll realize you can take that mental exercise and apply it to your business.
4. TAKE A WALK
Leave your phone at home and your earphones. Walk through your neighborhood, the woods, a park, down by the lake or beach, or on a country road. Let your thoughts wander. Breathe deeply and notice everything around you. The key is to leave behind any distractions or other input. Listen to the wind, the birds and wildlife, even the sounds of the city. The idea is to give your brain fresh stimulation.
What can I say? Sometimes you just gotta dance! Put on some music and dance away. Soon you’ll be smiling, laughing, and filled with new energy you can apply to fresh ideas.
“Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3
7. RANDOM AND SILLY MARKETING IDEAS
This is a fun exercise! When I’m really stuck, one of the things I’ll do is go through stock photos, completely random ones, and create a social media post. I won’t necessarily use it but I make myself create something and it doesn’t matter how awful or silly it is. Specifically, I take that photo and think, “How can I use this photo to promote my business?”. Most of the time, the photo is completely irrelevant to my business or target market but that’s the best part. It forces us to stretch ourselves and consider ideas we normally wouldn’t. Some of my best ideas come from this exercise.
Taking care of your body is important to your mind. Sometimes you just need to put on some running shoes, lift weights, go swimming, punch a bag, stretch, or whatever. Just exercise.
9. POST IT NOTES ON THE WALL
Grab a handful of colorful post-it notes and brainstorm. Do word associations or brain dump. Anything that’s on your mind, write it down and get it out of your mind. Write and post until you can’t think of anything. Write it down even if it’s not relevant to what you’re working on. The point is to get everything off your brain. Sometimes we get stuck because we’re subconsciously thinking about a lot of little and big things.
10. BROWSE COMPETITORS SITES AND REVIEWS
I’m not suggesting we steal someone else’s ideas, but when we take the time to see what our competitors are doing and the reviews they receive, it helps us in our own business. Reading the reviews of other businesses in the same industry is extremely helpful! It will give you a customer’s perspective on the product or service you offer and help you meet their needs better.
11. HELP SOMEONE ELSE SOLVE A PROBLEM
If you’re in business, most likely you have friends or family that are in business as well. You probably have a skill or expertise that can benefit them in their business. Reach out and see if you can give them a hand with something.
Silence is truly golden. Anymore, we need noise-canceling headphones to enjoy silence. Our brains need moments of quiet, bringing a stop to the endless stimulation we feed it. For me, I wait until the husband and dog are in bed. Then, I turn out the lights, shut down computers and phones, light candles, and sit. Just sit. I have a pen and notebook nearby. Closing my eyes, I quiet my mind and soak in the silence. It takes time for our minds and bodies to quiet down. But once they do, it’s time to ponder, ruminate, think.
I recently heard that we should give ourselves at least one hour a day to be quiet and think. Many of the ideas I gave you above require stepping away from outside influences. Before television, phones, and technology, people would spend time thinking. Right now, with all that we feed ourselves in books, podcasts, videos, news, music – other people are thinking for us. Perhaps it’s time to create a space in order to reawaken and enlarge our capacity to think and create.