We all know the feeling. That feeling when you know there’s a solution to the challenge you’re facing, and it’s just beyond the tip of your tongue, and it’s been there for days, or maybe even weeks.

What you’re looking for is a “shower thought” revelation, a term popularized in recent years to make the idea of an epiphany a bit less intimidating.

It can be super discouraging to have this feeling for an extended period, and is even more frustrating if you’ve recently had time off or have been trying, through commonly advocated strategies like taking a hike or unplugging the TV, to force yourself to “epiphanize” (Webster, please credit us with the creation of this term in the next version of the dictionary). If you’ve got pressure from administrators, school or district leaders, or anyone else to contend with on top of that feeling, you might be tempted to shrug your shoulders and continue as you always have, even though you know what’s at stake for your students.

We here at Getting Smart understand. But before you give up, we would encourage you to really reflect on if you’ve done all you can to refresh yourself and your ideating (which, as we’ve discussed before, is a crucial part of design thinking). We think that a lot of the commonly advocated methods for refreshing yourself are great, but sometimes they’re a bit bland.

If you’re feeling stuck in your search for innovation and motivation in the new year, here are our team’s top five practices that we have observed from innovative leaders who constantly shake up their practices, reflect and unleash AWESOMENESS. They may just give you fresh footing in your own fight for forward momentum.

  1. Do something you haven’t done in at least 10 years (preferably ever). This goes a step beyond “disconnecting from your routine.” It’s great to take a walk in the middle of your day (which is also something that pretty much none of us do enough), but if you’re facing an extended brain block then that probably won’t be enough. If your go-to meal involves burgers and fries or pizza, find somewhere where you can get some Pakistani or Szechuan cuisine. We’ve never heard of “refresh your senses, refresh your mind” as a thing, but we think it probably should be.
  2. Talk to someone who you adamantly disagree with, but respect. We really highly value mentorships and mentors (and make a habit of seeking them out), but there’s a good chance that you and your mentor are on similar wavelengths. They may be on a higher level, but if they haven’t been able to get you where you need to be on an issue, you may need a whole different perspective. One that you can only gain by arguing against someone else.
  3. Use oblique strategies. You may not have ever heard of Brian Eno before, but it’s hard to deny that he’s one of the more creative musicians of our time, having worked with and influenced everyone from David Bowie to Talking Heads frontman David Byrne. His collection of oblique strategies for overcoming writer’s block transcend music and can be useful regardless of the challenge you’re facing. A random oblique strategy generator curated by Eno himself can be found here.
  4. Spend a weekend learning a new skill. Whether it’s building a small piece of furniture, starting an herb garden or finally getting the hang of roasting vegetables, learning a new skill will stretch your thinking and open new doors. Even better, on the off chance that it doesn’t help, you’ll still have something to show for your time!
  5. Draw. Have you been reading Adam Kulaas’s posts on Getting Smart? If so, you’ve probably seen some of his doodles. Drawing out the challenge can be a great way to gain a fresh perspective on an issue, and if you’re lucky it can even quickly turn into a solution map.

These five practices can give you a much-needed boost when you’re knee deep in a complicated process, but if you’re looking for a more general “a-ha” moment on how to overhaul and update your practice, we’d suggest checking out Five New Teaching Methods Improving Education.

We’d love to join you in your journey towards improving education, so feel free to shoot us an email at [email protected] to share what you’re up to (we’re always accepting guest posts). And, if you’d like to stay up to date with what we’re up to, sign up for our weekly Smart Update newsletter!

Cheers to a great 2018.

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