This article was originally posted in Inc.com
Life as an entrepreneur can be deeply rewarding, but comes with its own set of frustrations–especially for anyone doing creative work. There are inevitable moments of lag and drag. Your rhythm hits a wall. Then again, there’s a reason it’s called “running” your own business: Entrepreneurs must stay in motion, even when that energy feels aimless and empty.
How can entrepreneurs power through a productivity slump? I asked nearly a dozen founders and business owners for their tips on staying focused and recapturing momentum during lull periods. Several counseled patience and persistence. Others suggested getting feedback and turning inward. Some even recommended stepping away from the issue completely. Here are their practical tips to help you turn your next barrier into a breakthrough.
Create Patterns and Predictability
“The worst thing an entrepreneur can do when they’re stuck is to stay in a mind loop,” says Shama Hyder, CEO and founder of ZenMedia, a digital media consultancy. Instead of dwelling on what’s holding you back, Hyder suggests taking some form of action. “The small steps build momentum and can get you back on track,” she says.
Your environment and schedule matters, too. Create a routine for doing specific tasks at a certain place and time–these predictable patterns make work more instinctive and habitual, leading to fluid work cycles.
Form a Mastermind Group
Not all problems can be solved by barreling through on our own. Entrepreneurs need constant feedback–especially from those they can trust.
Phil Gerbyshak, a sales and marketing expert, dials up fellow entrepreneurs who belong to a private Facebook group for their brutal honesty. “It gets me back on track,” he says.
Creating your own “mastermind” group can help you climb out of daily challenges. It may even be helpful to choose people from outside your industry, since their fresh perspective can lead to new insights. While you’re at it, don’t discount the advice that comes from friends and loved ones–they can often spot the problem, even if you can’t.
Refocus Your Attention
Often, entrepreneurs can be their own best pathblazers–if they give themselves enough space. “Accept that your mind has limits,” says Allen Gannett, entrepreneur and author of The Creative Curve. By devoting yourself to another project, Gannett says, “you’ll be both happier and more productive.”
Jonathan Fields, founder of the Good Life Project, a multi-platform wellness organization, advocates for brain breaks. “Cognitive wandering allows your brain to refuel, reset, and often come up with insight-based solutions more readily than grinding ever will,” says Fields.
Pencil in time for exercise. Try deep breathing and mindfulness. Watch a TED Talk for motivation. These physical and cognitive containers hold the keys to better work.
Revisit Past Success
Inner tuning can help entrepreneurs rediscover their purpose and draw strength from it. Brian Fanzo, founder of iSocialFanz, a digital marketing consultancy, fills a digital folder with client testimonials, tweets, and personal highlights as motivation. “When I’m bogged down or overwhelmed, I reference this folder to remind me of the wins. It keeps me motivated to keep doing what I’m doing, even when things are down.”
Revisiting success isn’t about stroking your ego–it can remind you of past decisions that paved the way for success. Retracing those steps can help you navigate around complexity–and possibly yield new insights on how to manage current challenges.
Prioritize Your Projects
“One of the main reason why entrepreneurs get stuck is because they are holding too many projects in their head simultaneously,” says Pamela Slim, acclaimed business coach and author of Body of Work. She recommends plotting your most urgent projects over a 15-day period and detailing the specific tasks needed to get them done–leaving non-essential projects for the next planning cycle.
If the thought of letting go is getting in the way of your productivity, try re-framing your reluctance as a reward: What do you stand to gain from diverting your attention? Bringing those benefits into focus can help you spend your hours wisely and without guilt.
Engage in Productive Conflict
“Where entrepreneurs go wrong is when they need to cope with something that slows them down,” says Liane Davey, founder of 3COze, a communications firm serving Fortune 500s. It may be a lack of alignment on your team that’s hiding beneath the surface. Davey encourages entrepreneurs to strategically “pick a fight” with lingering issues before the drag causes serious work stoppages.
Taking time to look under the hood can minimize problems down the line. More importantly, it can give entrepreneurs a clearer sense of how to keep themselves running at peak levels–even when the road seems long and bumpy.