We can finally call it: at this point in September, summer is officially behind us. Those long days of darkness are closing in, which means that even for those of us who love fall, it can be difficult to stay awake at work. And getting creative? Isn’t that something we do when the sun is out?
Of course, work life goes on as does the need for creative ideas. Let’s take a look at a few great tips for getting more creative at work to keep things fresh and interesting as we move into this darker season.

1. Take on Something New

No matter how creative you once may have been in your role, it’s common for most of us to get into a rut. We work our way up that initial learning curve and then settle into the more comfortable aspects of our job. Or, our jobs are so busy that we spend most of our time just trying to keep our heads above water. This doesn’t leave much energy or space to flex our creative muscles.

If your heart is set on creativity this fall, it’s time to take up something new. Offer to head up a new project at work. Start a course in a new skill that you’d like to add to your resume. Join a local Meetup that will have you networking with and learning from professionals that are related to your career but who don’t do exactly what you do. This can be a highly directed and goal-oriented pursuit, but it can also be more of a loose, free form thing as you follow an interest. The important thing is to get your neurons firing in new ways. When they do so, you’ll start making creative connections you didn’t even realize were possible.

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2. Take Artist Dates

open paint cans with bright colors

In the classic book, The Artist’s Way, the author, Julia Cameron, recommends taking a day each week for an “artist date.” This simply means putting your work down for, say, an afternoon, and taking yourself out to do something involved with the arts, whether it’s visiting a museum, attending a concert, or attending an artistic event that’s totally out of the norm for you. The goal here is not necessarily to find something that you love, but simply to keep your mind open and to see how other artists approach their work.

Regardless of whether or not you’re an artist, this concept has great value — even if you can only devote a lunch hour and not an entire afternoon. The idea is to block off sacred time every week during which your one priority is to see and indulge in something stimulating and new. If you are, say, a structural engineer, this might mean driving by a new bridge for a personal tour. But, these dates don’t have to be as literal as that. No matter what your role, taking in artistic productions of all sorts will get your mind firing in new ways. This in turn will help you in your role — even if that role is devoted to scheduling patients. Everyone has got to shake things up!

3. Say Yes to Wild Ideas

Do you have great ideas that strike you out of nowhere, but then you never follow through because it feels like too much work or like too much of a risk? It’s something many of us do — and it’s also why the difference between a successful inventor or entrepreneur and the rest of us is often a matter of follow-through. Well, now is that time to follow through! When you have a new idea, why not start tinkering? Alternatively, if you write your big ideas down as they arise, take a browse through them and pick out one to start working on.

The key here is really to view this as tinkering and play. Don’t dream about how neat your life is going to be if this idea works out. Just enjoy the process of making your idea come to life bit by bit, step by step. Turn off your internal critic and editor, and just let the ideas that are in there flow freely. If all you do in the end is get yourself thinking differently, then you’ll have succeeded.

4. Try a 30-Day Initiative

Companies and advertisers entice us with low-commitments all the time: try this product or service for 30-days free! They do it 1), because they know you’ll be tempted by the free deal. And 2), because they’re banking on the idea that when you try what they have to offer, you’ll be hooked.
You can use the same logic in your professional and personal life to get creative, challenge yourself, and mix things up with our tips for getting more creative at work. Why not? After all, it’s only for 30 days. Challenges can be just about anything, from walking to work to always saying at least one thing in a meeting to giving up dairy. Think of your challenge as a mini-experiment. Commit to it, dig in fully, and see if you don’t surprise yourself along the way with your new ways of thinking and being. You’d be surprised how eager you might be at the end of your challenge to stick with it!

5. Work With Someone New

employees working on laptop at desk

Sure, you’ve got your go-to team members that you prefer working with, but sometimes sticking with the same partners for all that you do can stagnate your work. Picking a new partner to buddy up with on a project now and again can shake things up and surprise you; after all, you don’t know what kinds of perspectives others have to offer until you’re actually working with them.

Reach out to someone who doesn’t fit your usual profile, whether they’re on your team or another. Or, if you can’t find anyone in your office, take a look at your professional network. Look for someone who might want to do a post-work project with you. Alternatively, bringing in an outside provider, whether a business or a service provider, can be a great way to mix things up. Their new ideas and approaches may just rejuvenate you and spark those big ideas in unanticipated ways.

There isn’t a single one of us that lacks creativity — we just have to know how to unlock. With these tips for getting more creative at work, you’ll be sure to do just that!