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9 Creative Ways To Shake Yourself Out Of A Career Rut

If you’re feeling stuck at work, try one of these approaches to shake things up and get your career and business moving again.

This year, we tapped into some of the most creative minds in business to see how they integrate creativity into their work culture and personal lives. We talked to executives at Foursquare, Warby Parker, Box (and more), and to individuals like musician Trent Reznor, journalist Anna Holmes, and photographer Douglas Friedman for their insight on all the things–some big, some small–they do to fuel continuous innovation and growth. Here are some of our favorite suggestions:

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Try tabless Thursdays: Everyone knows that multitasking doesn’t work. It’s inefficient, and stunts creativity, productivity, and emotional intelligence–not to mention your computer’s speed. Yet, we all do it. Fast Company has offered its readers various “monotasking” hacks, but Tabless Thursday–using only one browser window at a time, that is–might be the most accessible step in the right direction for a happier, more productive you, one who actually has time to focus on the creative tasks at hand. Here’s a useful guide to joining the movement.

Cultivate discomfort: Nothing hinders creative or career growth more thoroughly than getting too comfortable. Which is why Trent Reznor–almost 25 years after the release of Nine Inch Nails’ debut–goes to great lengths to make sure he’s working on new projects outside his comfort zone. “I find it very important to keep myself in a state of not getting comfortable—trying to push myself into things that feel unfamiliar,” he says. “In terms of making music, I still feel like there’s a world of discovery ahead of me. I enjoy that process and try to keep it changing, keep myself in a place where I don’t feel comfortable, really. I’m trying to avoid any sort of resting on laurels or repeating myself.”

Curb your workaholic tendencies: They’re working against you. With a growing body of research to back it up, the benefits of stepping away from the drudgery of day-to-day tasks are hard to deny. So what’s a workaholic to do? Ruzwana Bashir, cofounder and CEO of travel startup Peek.com, shares her approach to indulging her work obsession while still reaping the benefit of breaks.

Make an unconventional career move: Doing everything by the book wasn’t working for digital pioneer and Jezebel founder Anna Holmes, so she wrote a new one. Here’s what she learned about taking big bets on yourself.

Launch a book club: Book clubs are something many of us do in our free time. At Warby Parker, they do it at work. Here’s why.

If you’re not on Instagram, do it yesterday–and do it right: Ignore Instagram at your peril: some employers say it’s crucial to their hiring process. Photographer Douglas Friedman shares his recipe for curating a career-boosting social-media portfolio.

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Create a to-do list that actually matters: In an effort to quell a constant feeling of “the overhwelm,” Washington Post writer and author Brigid Schulte divided her to-do list into three priority areas: work, love, and play. Suddenly, doing a puzzle with your kids or going to a yoga class is a to-do item on par with picking up the dry cleaning—and much more fun and rewarding to do.

Make Friday-afternoon art hours a thing: Every Friday at 5 p.m., 15 or so Foursquare engineers, designers, and researchers step away from their computers for mandatory art time. Each week, a different person proposes a creative exercise: Create an object that helps people deal with sorrow, or design the elevator control panel for a 1,000-story building, for example. The next few minutes are spent executing, and then the group shares their creations. It’s definitely a little bit silly to imagine a bunch of adults sitting in a circle doodling—and getting paid for it. But learning to flex brain muscles in different ways is a useful skill for anyone.

Learn to identify “dumb ideas” that could change the world: In 2005, along with colleagues Steve Newman and Claudia Carpenter, Sam Schillace created a browser-based word processor called Writely. A Silicon Valley darling, it was eventually acquired by Google and became the basis for Google Docs. Now the SVP of engineering at Box, a cloud storage and file sharing service, Schillace says that despite today’s ubiquity of cloud-based computing, Writely was at first considered a bad idea and a waste of time. Before you give even a few days or dollars to a dubious idea, says Schillace, there are other things to look out for. “One of the signals is to look for the pattern of how people respond to it,” he says. “If you get a lot of ‘Maybe that sounds okay,’ you probably don’t have a great idea. If what you get is 80% think it’s the dumbest idea ever and should die in a fire, and 20% think it’s the best thing they’ve ever seen, then you’ve probably got something.”

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About the author

Erin Schulte is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in Fast Company, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Harper's Bazaar, and Entrepreneur, among other publications. You can find her on Twitter @erin719nyc.

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