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8 Ways to Break Out of a Creative Rut

Most designers hit a creative roadblock at some point or another. Shocking, I know. Yes, we're paid to be creative, but we're also human. We have fun designing, but doing so over and over without being repetitive has its challenges. Like many others, we juggle busy family lives with a hectic work schedule — many of us are also small-business owners, which comes with added responsibilities. Sometimes the stress doesn't leave much room for creative brainstorming.

Here are eight ideas to help fresh and creative ideas keep rolling in.
1. Act like a kid again. Maybe it's because I spend way too much time rolling around with my 20-month old son, Xavier, but there's nothing more fun to me than looking to a kid's playroom for escape or inspiration. The bright colors and often wacky details help to remind me not to take it all so seriously, to loosen up and have some real fun.

So when you've hit a creative rut, think like a kid and add some fun textures, colors, accents or even a chalkboard wall or two to your next project. Take it way back to the basics and add a personal art project as a signature piece.
2. Volunteer. If you're not in the mood to play with crayons and chalk, doing some volunteer work could be right up your alley, especially if it means you can use your design skills in a different way. There's no greater feeling than seeing a client with no demands feel so grateful for a beautiful space.

Atlanta designers Dayka Robinson and Erika Ward combined their love of design and good deeds with Room Service Atlanta. Each year dozens of designers, vendors and sponsors donate time and money to design rooms at various shelters for teens. This type of venture can remind you that what you do can really transform lives. Doing work that really matters can truly help open your creative floodgates.

Tip: If there's not a similar organization in your city, reach out to nonprofits that you admire to offer your services — even if they're not asking! Odds are, there are tons of organizations that would relish the idea of having free services from a design professional.
3. Get away. Step away from the design boards, your blog and social media sites, and get outside! Smell some fresh air, sit by a pool and have a sip of wine. Guess what? That message from a client turned out to not be so urgent after all, right? Sometimes it's OK to call back in the morning.

Tip: I try not to do any type of business on Sundays. Once you start replying on days off, you've erased your boundaries. Don't do it.
4. Check into a hotel for a day. No need to hop on a plane to escape. Sometimes a quick getaway in your own city will do the trick. When you're away from home, even for a day, you're less inclined to fall into your chaotic routine. Instead, turn on the hotel telly and watch marathon episodes of your favorite guilty pleasure show. Keep your cell phone on mute and order some room service.

Tip: Some of my best design inspirations have come from hotel stays. Hotel designers often have larger budgets to work with and can often splurge on items the average homeowner can't, but there's no harm in borrowing an idea or two and making it work with a smaller budget.

Great getaways for people who love design
5. Take a walk. If a hotel's too expensive, try parking the car and taking a walk to clear your head, says designer Kimberly Ward. Ward says that her frequent walks clear her thoughts and help her focus on new ways to stay creative.

Tips: Taking a camera along on these walks may also inspire some creativity, too. Photography can stretch a different creative muscle and may even produce some personal art for your next project. People-watching along a busy downtown street is also a great way to get a sense of what's trending. If it's trending in fashion, home design is probably next.

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6. Hang up the phone. Now, I don't mean hang up on clients or potential clients. Instead, just try not to stay glued to your phone, checking emails, texts and all of your social media sites 24/7. Designer Sherry Hart tries to halt all business chatter by 6 p.m. and on the weekends. "It is just overload," she says. "I'm a big believer that we're not curing cancer."
7. Laugh a lot. Hart attributes part of her design success to a sense of humor. Be willing to laugh at yourself sometimes, and acknowledge that you don't have to take everything so seriously.

Tip: Just the act of laughing can boost your creative juices. Leave your office for an afternoon and go check out the lineup at a local comedy club or rent your favorite hysterical movie to get in some belly-aching laughs. Trust me, laughter in any form will loosen you up and spur some creativity.
8. Let loose a little. When all else fails, I have some wine. Sometimes a glass of shiraz or reisling can clear my thoughts well enough to design the next project. Please, don't judge!

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