Suffering from Creative Burnout? Here’s How to Become an Ideas Factory

3 yellow post-it notes above blue sharpie pen

Creativity can be an elusive beast. Even those of us whose job it is to come up with new ideas at the drop of a hat have off days. Particularly as we emerge from what has been a mentally exhausting time for the world, the sense of creative burnout is real. The good news is that there are a few tried and tested methods you can rely on to get your head back in the game. Here are our favourite go-to remedies for when your well of creative ideas runs dry…

Start an inspiration notepad

Inspiration can strike us anywhere. You might be on a walk, on an important business call, or even on the loo and then BAM!—a spark of an idea lights up your brain. While this is certainly exciting, it’s not exactly convenient. Plenty of us tell ourselves that we’ll remember the idea for later, but, be honest, how often is that the case? This is why it’s really important to acknowledge inspiration in the moment.

How do you do that? By getting yourself a notepad solely for this purpose. Whether it’s a handy little notebook you can keep in your pocket, or a particular notes app on your phone, have a system for jotting down your ideas as soon as they strike. You’ll thank yourself later.

Whatever form your inspo notepad takes, keep in mind that it’s not something you have to look at all the time. Some of the brain dumps in there might not even make sense to future you! At those moments where you’re searching for a new idea, though, it can prove to be a great mental pick-me-up that will really get the creative juices flowing. Who knows—your next great brainwave may be hiding amongst those pages!

Let your mind breathe

Man sat on bench looking out at water Image source: Anne Nygård (via Unsplash)

There’s nothing worse than racking your brain for ideas, only to come up with zero inspiration followed by a wave of self-doubt. The hard truth is that you can’t force creativity. In fact, when struggling to come up with ideas, it can sometimes help to do the complete opposite. Sound strange? It shouldn’t. According to numerous studies, our attention spans are limited, and forcing yourself to focus really hard on one task can actually undermine overall productivity.

Next time you hit that creative wall, rather than beating yourself up, turn your attention to something completely unrelated. Go for a walk, listen to music or a podcast, meditate, have a bath, chat with a friend… you get the idea. Do anything other than the task that is stumping your brain.

Don’t take this too far, of course. If the creative task is part of your job, you likely have a deadline to meet. Just cut yourself a little bit of slack. Take the break that your mind needs and then get back on it with a refreshed perspective.

Browse the work of people you admire

Now, there is a thin line between being inspired by something and straight up copycatting, so be very careful with this one. To help you get in the creative zone, though, it can be beneficial to explore the work of people in your field that you admire. Appreciate their point of view and think about what it is that makes their work powerful. It’s fine to take inspiration from others, just as long as you don’t steal their ideas!

Consider how they may have achieved what they did and use this as a diving off point for your own work. You’d be amazed at the places your brain can take you when you distract it with outside perspectives!

Soak up other media

Shelves filled with books, objects and a televisionImage source: Siniz Kim (via Unsplash)

A brain that lacks stimulation is very unlikely to produce great ideas. If you’re not exposing yourself to other media, then you’re basically imposing a kind of creative vacuum on yourself—ideas can’t flourish in a dark room!

We’re not saying you always need to be thinking about how something could influence your work. On the surface, this tip can apply to things you consume purely for entertainment purposes. It is important, though, that you regularly treat your brain to some of the following:

  • Literature
  • Film
  • Television
  • Art
  • Theatre
  • Comedy
  • Debates

Pick a few that match your interests and get exploring! Though we might not think it, our downtime plays a big role in our work performance. Taking in different forms of media and learning about other cultures acts as a marinade for the brain. It might not be the most attractive image, but it’s certainly an effective approach!

Sleep well

Head of messy hair seen between duvet cover and pillow on bed
Image source: S L (via Unsplash)

A tired brain is not going to work to its full creative potential. If you often find yourself lacking in creative ideas, one of the first things you should consider is your sleeping habits. Not only should you ensure that you get enough sleep, you also need to make sure that those hours of slumber are high quality.

Broken or inconsistent sleep schedules can wreak havoc on your poor brain. One of the reasons for this is that dreams (particularly those experienced during REM sleep) play a very important role in your overall health. You might not even be aware that they’re happening, but behind the scenes, a lot is going on in your mind while you catch those 40 winks.

A dream is a big old brain dump. On the one hand, they can do pretty serious work, like dealing with trauma or preparing you to confront major life choices. On a smaller scale, they are your brain’s way of processing the day and ditching that which it doesn’t need. The latter frees up space for creative ideas!

Establish a sleep schedule that fits both your career and lifestyle choices. Of course, it’s unlikely to run like clockwork, but if you do your best to be somewhat consistent, you will soon reap the benefits. Struggling to get to sleep when the time comes? Try turning off all electronic devices at least an hour before your head hits the pillow. You can also try sleep remedies like taking a hot bath before bed, or spraying some lavender oil on your pillow.

Brimming with creative ideas and ready to put them into action? Check out our guide to crafting your own content strategy!