As many starting entrepreneurs or freelancers know, when you work on your own or from home, it’s hard to keep yourself motivated and your ideas fresh. You can mentally hit the wall, and it can be hard to recover if you don’t set yourself up for success. Creativity is just like any muscle and needs the right sort of training to keep going.
Here are some ways that have helped me challenge myself daily and stay inspired.
1. Wake up early
Try waking up 30 minutes earlier than you regularly would. It might sound difficult at first, but it really makes a difference to your day to have a moment to yourself before getting ready. Think of it as getting yourself in the right headspace before a workout or match. Try doing a yoga routine, meditate, journal, workout, or even leisurely sit there and enjoy tea or coffee. It’s a good way to keep your focus directed inward before you get your head in the game or your day.
2. Turn off the distractions
This sounds like a no brainer, but I mean to turn off distractions throughout the WHOLE day. That’s right. Try taking it to the next level. You might not notice, but with our phones, the internet, and social media, we constantly pull our attention and mind in different directions. Whether that’s reading a book on the subway, listening to NPR in the background while cooking, or even a podcast or playlist when working out.
I’ve caught myself automatically reaching for my phone during bouts of down time, opening Instagram or Facebook to scroll mindlessly. As helpful and as entertaining it is to be tuned in, you’d be surprised by how much your mind will wander if you tune out. Try it out for a few days.
3. Do something for you once a week
This is easier said than done, but with work, social life, relationships, and those pesky errands all vying for your time, it’s definitely hard to put yourself first. Carving out time in your week to do something for you helps you mentally and creatively.
Take yourself out and do something you’ve always wanted to try, whether that’s eating new food, taking a class, or watching a movie. You can also stay in and clean your closet if that’s what you want. The point is to set aside time for yourself and have that personal check-in. As my week starts to fill with plans, I’ll make sure that there’s one day set aside for me, and I won’t budge. That’s my time to take a break from outside obligations to rest, recover, and do something fulfilling.
4. Take an actual break
When you’re your own boss, it’s sometimes hard to step away from the screen and take a true break. We’ll take lunch at our screens or answer the phone on our off hours. We keep ourselves online, even when we might think we’re resting. Be sure to take a true break during your work day, one where you close the laptop. Since I have a flexible schedule, I’ll walk outside, do a quick workout class, or take a real lunch break. It makes all the difference in my energy level and ensures I have a clearer head for my current projects.
5. Go on a coffee date
In the same way that an accountability buddy can push you out of your comfort zone, try finding a friend to brainstorm or cowork with a few times a week. I’ll ask a friend to meet up for coffee to chat or cowork alongside one another, and it makes such a big difference if I feel stuck. There’s something reenergizing when you get to talk about your own work or issues with someone else, and it allows you to riff of one another in an exciting, organic way. It really is like having that friend to cheer you on through that extra lap around the track.
6. Take note
This sounds straightforward, but take note of things that inspire you, then consider and jot down what you found interesting. I constantly forward emails with cool designs, snap photos of colors or designs from my commute, or take note of memorable lines from books.
7. Work out of the house
I work remotely, so some days I find myself working from the couch in my apartment. I appreciate that it is the shortest commute imaginable, but some days you can feel mentally and physically in a rut. When I start to get stir crazy, I pack everything up and go. I’ll grab coffee with new connections, cowork alongside freelancing friends, or work out of a cafe or coworking space. It’s funny how a change in location can boost my productivity and give my thoughts a breath of fresh air.
Keeping yourself present and allowing yourself room to stretch those creative muscles can make all the difference.