Five Ways to Overcome Your Creative Block

We’ve all been there. You have an important project milestone coming up, but you just can’t seem to get into that oh-so-glorious creative groove.

You’ve tried listening to music. You’ve tried getting inspired on the multitude of design-centric sites that grace the web. You’ve tried pretending the deadline isn’t as close as it really is. But alas, none of it is working. What now? Try one (or all) of these handy tips that have proven to help get my creative juices flowing.

A woman observing critique wall

1. Change your location.

You don’t need to fly to Hawaii for this trick to work. Although, if you can, that sounds like it would be wonderful.

If your work environment is flexible enough to let you head to a coffee shop or a coworking space for a few hours, give it a try!

For me, simply re-locating to a different corner of the office tends to do the trick. You’ll be surprised to see how much a subtle change in scenery can affect your creative drive.

2. Change your medium.

It’s only natural to want to use the tools you know well. Sometimes though, changing your medium can inspire a new idea. Do you usually wireframe in a notebook? Give it a shot on a big whiteboard!

Depending on the project at hand, I’ve tried a wide variety of creative mediums, ranging from pen-on-paper, to modeling clay, to legos, to tacos (yes, tacos).

Your final product might not live in the medium you explored, but often enough the change in workflow will help break the creative dam in your mind and let the good ideas flow.

3. Change your routine.

Most of us thrive on routine. We get up at the same time each morning, get ready for our day in the same order, and arrive at the office via the same type of transportation. Change something about that regimen.

I’m not recommending you become nocturnal or travel to work by horse-drawn carriage. However, there are some simple adjustments you could try. Are you close enough to bike to work? Eat something different for breakfast for once. Take a different route to the office. These are small enough changes to not completely throw you off, but might be enough to get you out of your creative rut.

4. Change your perspective.

Good design cannot exist without empathy. We’re all well aware of this, but every now and then we need a reminder. Have you tried stepping out of your own shoes and approaching the problem-at-hand in someone else’s? How would a child view your problem? What about an elderly person? How about people with a gender different from yours? Those with different socio-economic statuses?

If you can interview people with different perspectives, definitely do it. If you don’t have the time or resources to do so, at least try to approach the problem from their perspective to the best of your ability. Doing so will often make you aware of other facets of the problem and also spurt new potential solutions.

5. Change gears.

You have a tight deadline. I know you can’t just push this project to the back burner and go back to it when you’re “feeling more creative.” However, if you can spare 30 minutes to step away from it and work on a passion project, do it.

Sometimes you just need a break; It’s as simple as that. So pull out that illustration or that rainbow UI kit you’ve been working on and use it as a warm-up before the big game.

Bonus: Change your attitude.

I’m adding a bonus tip in for good measure.

We all get creative block sometimes. Don’t beat yourself up just because you’re struggling a bit. Mix things up, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, and persevere. You’ll get through this. You’ll come out better—with new tools to add to your handy design toolbox.