I remember how wonderful I felt at first when I was hired to run a national company. I was thrilled with my new title and excited to take on the challenge of resurrecting a company that was doing poorly. I was up for the challenge.

The position meant a move to Chicago from the east coast and a departure from my comfort zone of colleagues, family, and friends. My management skills were on the line since the company had 210 on site employees and another couple of hundred employees working around the country. I needed to constantly assure them all that they could trust my leadership ability to move the company forward. Creating that credibility and trust was almost a full time job in itself. I needed to be visible at all times.

My office had glass walls and I felt like I was in a fish bowl most of the time. Of course, the glass walls were meant to enhance the “open door” policy and open management style, but what I remember most is never having that private time to reflect and be creative. I always needed to be “on” and for myself, at least, it’s critical to turn “off” the outside world for private time to reflect and think creatively to solve problems.

Now I have my own company and I can tap into my creative zone as often as I need to. I can block out periods of time that I don’t take calls or emails, even leave my office for a break from the routine of business to spark my creative juices. The major challenge is blocking out the time when your to do list is a mile long.

I believe that taking this break from your routine and nurturing your creativity is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your business. It is easy to completely fill your days with tasks. There is no end to the work load. There is always one more thing that needs to get done. When you are frantically doing, however, it’s almost impossible to look at your business objectively and brainstorm about new ideas, projects, or perhaps a new direction for your business. It’s so easy to get lost in the abyss of busy work.

In his book, Linchpin, Seth Godin challenges us all to think outside the box and differentiate ourselves; to break from business as usual. This is how we truly become indispensable at work. I am now outside that glass box and in my own creative zone to move my business and career forward.

My advice is to schedule this “free” time. I find, for example, that if I am driving a long distance, if I turn off the radio and my blackberry, I can find that creative zone. I suggest you add some free time as often as necessary to your ongoing to do list. As a result, your business and your career will benefit tremendously.

What about you? How do you make time to be creative and brainstorm so that you can move your career and business forward?

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