Ask DN: Getting out of a rut?

7 years ago from , Designer

I LOVE my line of work and I enjoy other aspects of design beyond UI, but currently I am in a bit of a rut. I don't do as much as I use to do and I don't do it as quickly. I feel like I have lost interest in producing things and cannot think of some fun things to do on my own. I'm curious if anyone has any ideas for how I could rejuvenate my will to create passionately.

Please note that I go through these kinds of ruts every now and then and I'm not tired of my job, I'm just drained and need some help "refueling" myself.


  • Brian A.Brian A., 7 years ago (edited 7 years ago )

    Do something that has no relation whatsoever to design. Seriously.

    I feel my most creative on Monday mornings (seriously) after I've taken 2 days off to have some beers with friends and just do something mindless like watch a Law and Order marathons. ;)

    When you live, eat, breathe, and sleep design, doing something completely different and almost mind-numbing can be beneficial (for me at least).

    3 points
  • Christoph OChristoph O, 7 years ago

    I find watching videos from design conferences really inspiring. Not so much the technical ones, but the ones that address the larger issues around design. Both Webstock and XOXO had some good ones this year. You can watch them here and here.

    3 points
  • Moiz K. MalikMoiz K. Malik, 7 years ago

    Mary jane.

    2 points
  • Max SchultzMax Schultz, 7 years ago

    Adrenaline. Go ride your bike or do something that scares you.

    2 points
  • Oliur Rahman, 7 years ago

    Gaming, watching movies, tv shows (Breaking Bad...bitch), going out nearly every day and meeting friends you don't see often is my way of getting back into it.

    1 point
  • Netta MarshallNetta Marshall, 7 years ago

    Lots of great suggestions here. I agree with getting out of your comfort zone and doing something creative that's not digital (get your hands dirty!).

    I personally find that lots of breaks and working the left side of my brain works well. I work in 35 minute Pomodoro sessions, with a 10 minute break in between, and in that 10 minutes I solve a Rubik's Cube twice (or more if I'm warmed up). This helps my creative side rest while I'm using my logic side for a bit.

    1 point
  • Ryan LeFevreRyan LeFevre, 7 years ago

    As a developer, this happens to me as well. I typically go back and forth between excessively gaming and excessively working on open-source projects. I've been trying to find a better middle ground but it's harder than it sounds. So easy to get pulled into something and then get burned out on it.

    1 point
    • Kelly LawrenceKelly Lawrence, 7 years ago

      Work on open-source video games? :P

      1 point
    • Tiago DuarteTiago Duarte, 7 years ago

      Developer here and I can relate. I don't play games as much as I used to, now that time is mostly spent watching TV Series / Movies... But once I'm back on track, things tend to go better than they were before!

      1 point
  • Dirk HCM van BoxtelDirk HCM van Boxtel, 7 years ago

    Plenty of great comments here. I think a lot of them can be summarized by "getting out of your comfort zone". This doesn't mean that you have to do something you don't really feel like; it means doing something you're not used to. This can be as little as swapping to a different playlist/radio channel on Spotify, or as big as emigration, but my guess is that you're somewhere in between.

    If these things don't help, talk to others. Maybe you have a colleague you can confide in. This is something that has helped me, because generally when you get into such droughts, it gets noticed by others, and if you don't talk about you seem like someone who doesn't care. This can create a really bad vibe, and put you into a vicious circle where you try to hide your inactivity/lack-of-inspiration, causing your colleagues/superiors to become suspicious, which in turn will make you feel worse about not feeling good.

    So I'd say, talk, and try and evoke change.

    1 point
  • Kelly LawrenceKelly Lawrence, 7 years ago

    Kyle, I'm in exactly the same boat, and I'd love to get some similar tips/ideas to get out of my own rut as well!

    I would have to agree with Sean though, that changing some of your habits is probably as good a place as any to start. I know I definitely need to get more sleep at night, as it's probably a good reason behind my lack of focus during the day.

    1 point
  • Sean HendricksonSean Hendrickson, 7 years ago

    I'd love to hear some ideas on this as well. In my experience, changing your habits can be a good start (ie- walking more, eating new foods, sketching more, etc.)

    Not only will it help you build new and interesting experiences, but it also stimulates your brain!

    In personal experience, I noticed my creativity dwindle since college, and I think the fact that things are a little more routine, and I sketch and create art less than I used to has something to do with it.

    1 point
    • Joe FritzJoe Fritz, 7 years ago

      I totally agree with Sean, here. Changing habits is a great way to get motivation back, especially if you focus on things outside of your field. I've tried other things mentioned in this thread when I'm in a rut (watching conference presentations, finding new podcasts, etc.) but I've found that letting my brain relax and think about something else for a while helps me come back to design with a clear mind. Try watching a few amazing movies, starting a couch to 5k (really helped me), or building something physical.

      1 point
      • Kelly LawrenceKelly Lawrence, almost 7 years ago

        That's kind of been my idea on getting myself out of a rut. I've been contemplating the idea of picking up an Arduino or RaspberryPi dev kit, to tinker with. I have no real knowledge of working with electronics, but the whole Arduino/RaspberryPi thing really interests me.

        I figure at the best, I'll enjoy it, and somehow, it'll make me a little more interested in Web work again, or at the least, I won't really stick with it, and I'll just somehow get back to really enjoying Web work!

        3 points
  • Grant McAllisterGrant McAllister, 7 years ago

    I would change habits, if you are in a rut at work then change your job/team/project.

    I agree with what else has been said, exercise - try new food - sketching more - even try something completely new (photography, car racing, take a flying lesson - what ever you like).

    Go explore, shake shit up a little.

    0 points
  • Garron MartinGarron Martin, 7 years ago (edited 7 years ago )

    Interestingly enough, I rarely get in a creative rut but I do fight the lazy version of myself that settles with mediocrity. Laziness is my mortal enemy.

    0 points
  • Alvaro NistalAlvaro Nistal, 7 years ago

    This monday one of the Design&Banter event talks was about this (more or less). Hannah Donovan from ThisIsMyJam did a short version of this talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qaLcnzs1hcI

    Pretty inspiring and great tips of how to get rid of a creative block or a burnout.

    0 points
  • Nate DaubertNate Daubert, 7 years ago

    Read some books. Would highly recommend Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams. Unrelated to UI but extremely inspiring. Sometimes it's nice to think about something else, learn about a different area of design, and apply it to what you do.

    0 points
  • Kyle A , 7 years ago

    Thank you everyone, these suggestions really help. I think I might take a week vacation and do some things I'm not use to doing. That might really help me get back on track.

    0 points
  • Tor Løvskogen BollingmoTor Løvskogen Bollingmo, 7 years ago

    I find reading books about design really helps getting me in the mood for design thinkin'. Lately it's been 'Exposing the Magic of Design', 'Microinteractions' and 'Experience Design'. After reading for a while, it's really hard to not jump onto a A3 paper to write and sketch things.

    0 points