What to Do When You Lack Inspiration

Call it burnout. Call it a lack of passion. Whatever you call it, that absence of inspiration is really having an impact on your work and your life.

No one can be a fount of wisdom and inspiration all the time, but the people who tend to spew more of it don’t always come by it naturally. Often, they have to use every trick in the book to keep the ideas flowing.

You’re not the only one to suffer from a lack of inspiration – and you certainly don’t have to be the only one continuing to wallow in that low spot. When you need some new ideas, try any or all of these handy tricks.

1. Space Out

Pretty girl in grass
Elle M

Your grade school teachers might not agree, but there really is value in checking out from the world and daydreaming for a while. Daydreaming – otherwise known as taking a mental break – can give your brain the break it needs to open up to new ideas or new inspirations.

Sure, you might look like you’re part of the cast of Dazed and Confused for a while, but in the end, checking out from everything around you could lead to that bolt of inspiration that gets you paid, promoted, or otherwise makes you look really good.

2. Steal Ideas

So, your boss expects something on his desk by the end of the day today, and you still lack any sort of ideas whatsoever. You don’t have a single idea in your head, but you have to give him something. What to do?

When inspiration is lacking, be shamelessly ready to steal ideas from someone else. A simple online search about your topic is likely to turn up lots of forums, blog posts, and articles about the thing you’re supposed to be doing. Likewise, you might have books, magazines, or even movies sitting around that pertain to your topic.

Yeah, I know you’re supposed to be coming up with inspired, innovative ideas, and not recycled ones, so instead of completely ripping off the ideas you find from those sources already around you, try to come up with one teeny weeny little way to differentiate. It might not win you the innovator of the year award, but it will give you something to produce for that all-important deadline. And, who knows? Looking at all that material that pertains to your topic might actually give you some real-life inspiration, as well.

3. Keep a Mood Board

It sounds cheesy, but a “mood board” really can help you get in the mood. This is something of a bone you throw yourself bit by bit over time. Anytime you see something that might give you inspiration at a later date or an idea that you can expand upon, toss it onto the mood board. Use a digital mood board like Pinterest, or tack a real-life bulletin board on the wall of your cubicle. You might not know why something stands out for you, but don’t ask questions. Just add ideas as they come, and then tap into those ideas when your well of inspiration has gotten low.

4. Get Off Your Mobile and Get Out There

Looking through media materials that are on your topic is not the only way to gain inspiration for your job or creative project, either. In fact, inspiration might strike more freely when you’re doing something completely unrelated to the topic. If you spend your days doing the same thing, day in and day out, it’s no wonder that you’re bored and devoid of new ideas.

You need to get out more.

Go to a part of town you’ve never been and try a new restaurant. Get out of town and go see something that you never imagined you wanted to see. If you’re a theatre lover, for example, go to a heavy metal concert. If you’re a metal head, go to the symphony. A lot of times, your lack of inspiration is a no-brainer: a result of the fact that you’ve gone back and forth over the same tired grooves in your mind that you’re pretty much living on autopilot. Thus, getting out more is not just something that could help inspiration strike – and benefit you in work – but it also might give you more zest for life.

5. Do Something Hard

We all have those things in life that we avoid like the plague because they’re just so difficult or fear-inducing. Some of them, like taxes, we get around to doing eventually – but others we just keep pushing further and further back into the closet. When’s the last time you scrubbed down your garage from top to bottom or detailed your car yourself? Not fun, but necessary once in a while.

When you’re out of ideas and inspiration, it may be time to face those things once again. For one, they’re obviously things that you have to do eventually. For another, getting through a really difficult task can bring back some of the gratitude about the easier things in life.

6. Do Something Mundane

The same goes for doing something mundane. You dread doing the monthly bookkeeping for your freelancing business, but by doing it, you’ll give your subconscious the break it needs to do its work.

7. Stop Destroying Your Body

Did you spend last night extending happy hour until midnight? Did you go on a drinking bender the entire weekend? Or perhaps you haven’t slept a full eight hours since the elder Bush was in the White House.

If you’re continually abusing your body, your brain is eventually going to revolt, as well. In order for you to keep coming up with inspiring ideas and to fully engage with your work – and your personal life – you have to stop doing stuff that destroys your body. That’s not to say you have to live like a monk for the rest of your life, but you may indeed do well to take a break from the drinking and ordering pizza every night, and should instead focus on good nutrition, healthy exercise, and plenty of sleep. Even adopting a healthy routine for a few weeks every few months or so can have a huge impact on your overall health. And when your body is healthy, your brain gets healthier, too – and starts churning out ideas like nobody’s business.

8. Just Give Up Already

You’ve taken all the advice listed here and you’re still not feeling inspired. While plenty of things could be at play, there’s one thing you might keep in mind: you’re just overthinking it all. Stop worrying and stop trying. Just stop everything. Whether it’s a quick space-out in the middle of the workday or a period in which you don’t try to come up with new ideas for several weeks at a time, laying off and leaving the problem alone can sometimes do wonders. Sure, in the meantime, someone else in the office might come up with the most brilliant idea ever, but that’s a chance you’re going to have to take.

Having a lack of inspiration doesn’t make you a boring human, a bad artist, or a sucky creative person – even if it feels like you may be all three once in a while. But it’s how you learn to work through that slump that will separate you from the pack. Trust me, you’ll get through this.

What do you do when you lack inspiration? Share your tips and tricks with us in the comments section below!