When transitioning from university into my first few years of work I found my mind started working in a completely different kind of way. It was a subtle change. And it took me a while to even be aware of it myself.
Instead of thinking from a place of abstract curiosity, I switched gears to think in numbers and about the things you can prove to your boss. Instead of approaching a problem with intellectual curiosity, I approached things with an agenda. “Customers are pissed off that their orders aren’t arriving on time. What data can I find to convince my boss this is a serious issue?” I would think, even though I know a more intellectually honest approach would be to crunch the data and then come to a conclusion.
Then I realized what I was doing – I needed to stop jumping to an opinion just for the sake of having something to prove. My work environment had been conditioning me to value fast facts rather than taking the time to explore, think creatively, and come to a fully informed decision.
So I started to take time out of my day to train my creative thinking. Here are the things I found helped bring me back into my creative zone.
1. Write down 10 new ideas each day
Each day you need to give yourself time to brainstorm. New ideas are the lifeblood of any creative, and any business.
Here’s how to do it:
– Take out a pen and paper (or blank Word file on my computer & disconnect WiFi)
– Think of an area you want to brainstorm on (for me – as a customer buying something online, what about the way it was delivered would blow me away?)
– Give yourself a goal for # ideas
– Stare at the blank piece of paper
– Write down ANY idea that comes to mind. It doesn’t matter how bad, stupid, or ridiculous.
– Don’t stop until you have at least as many ideas as your goal. No time limit.
I started doing this consistantly – minimum once a day. I did it during my downtime. While I was waiting for lunch, riding the bus, or for people to get to a meeting.
2. Keep a pen and paper (or at least a pen) in hand
The worst is having a good idea and forgetting it because you don’t have anywhere to write it down. So keep a pen and paper (or at least a pen) on you. This way you can always write your idea down on a napkin.
These days since most people have smart phones you can use the “Voice Recorder” iPhone app. No hassle – just press the red button and talk.
3. Get hyper-aware of when people bring up problems
And take note of them. Problems are the seeds of creativity, and you water the seeds when you take time to brainstorm ideas around them. The process of getting your mind into any kind of creative flow will rub off into your other creative practices. It’s a matter of reminding your brain how to think creativity.
4. Surround yourself with people who build off one another
I’m most creative when I have time to brainstorm for a little while myself and then bring my ideas to a small friendly audience of 3-5 people. By friendly audience I mean an audience that is positive and will build on your idea instead of shoot it down. By friendly I also mean an audience that isn’t afraid to tell you your ideas suck, and you won’t take it personally when they do tell you your ideas suck. This kind of creative environment is KEY to fostering really good ideas.
After just 1 week of adopting these practices I noticed the ideas were flowing much more naturally. I got better at brainstorming new ideas my feet, and the quality of my ideas went up. The key for me was to turn this into a habit and force myself to keep going even when I thought I didn’t have any more ideas.
What do you do to stay creative?
Let’s talk in the comments below.