Search the web and you’ll find hundreds of tips on how to be more creative or spark creativity when you’re in a dry spell. But we’ll save you some time. These are 11 of our favorite creativity hacks. Enjoy!
#1 Be a Mimic
That’s right, mimicking other artists and designers can improve your creativity. Carve out 30 minutes each week to explore and be inspired by other creators. Look outside of your immediate industry to get new ideas or understand how others approach and solve problems. If you’re an eLearning developer and love cars, you might spend time checking out the latest high-end car models. Examine the designer’s thought process and see how you can apply similar strategies to your current eLearning content. Many creatives build from a long line of cross-industry innovations. Best-selling author Austin Kleon shares a great TedTx about this practice of “stealing like an artist.”
#2 Fatigue Yourself
It sounds brutal, but it’s true. Brain studies show that if you cognitively engage a problem long enough, then intentionally let it go, your subconscious stills works to problem solve. When your attention is no longer on the problem at hand, bursts of realization or unseen connections trickle in. Practice the art of knowing when to set a problem down, so your subconscious can work its magic.
#3 Distract Yourself
Distracting yourself is similar to fatiguing yourself; it’s a mechanism that allows your subconscious to percolate. After you’ve gathered the information you need to understand the problem at hand, intentionally distract your cognitive mind. Take a walk, take a nap, daydream, make food, watch a movie or read a book that is unrelated to the topic. Your subconscious will do the heavy lifting.
Meditating is an excellent tool to quiet the monkey mind, calm the nervous system, and open you up to inspiration. In the last 5 years, research on mindfulness practice has shown the positive impact meditation has on the brain, happiness levels, and wellbeing. Companies are beginning to tune into the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace. Google, a leader in workplace culture, has identified how its employee meditation practice is one of the secrets to staving off burnout and boosting creativity. It only takes 15 minutes of daily meditation to cultivate some equanimity and creativity.
This is one of our favorites. Laughing loosens you up and releases “feel-good” endorphins in the brain . When you’re relaxed and lighthearted, you are more likely to entertain outside-the-box ideas. Find a funny YouTube clip, play with a puppy, or try some laughter yoga.
#6 Schedule Creativity
Who has time to be creative? You do, if you schedule it in! Schedule creative time into your day or week. Trust us, this works. Deanell Sandoval, EPI’s resident leadership coach, recently gave this advice to a leadership client. After the first week, he reported that scheduling creativity had allowed him to be the “most creative he’s been in six months.” When you’re carving out your creative time, also consider your circadian rhythm. Choose windows during the day when you tend to be less cognitively focused. These are the times when you are likely to be the most creative.
#7 Establish Simple Systems
Establish systems at home and work so you can avoid always “reacting” to whatever comes across your plate. Always being in reactive mode hinders creativity. For example, design a system for when and how you engage with your daily email. Easy techniques like this are invaluable for allowing more time and energy for your creative process.
#8 Rearrange Your Environment
The colors, sounds, and textures in your home and office can inspire or limit creativity. Let these spaces inspire you! Bring plants, markers, crayons, or blank flip charts to work. Create a space in your home that’s just for your creative ideation. Find small ways to surround yourself with whatever inspires you. And allow yourself to be childlike. Catherine Courage’s TedTx has some great tips on this.
#9 Create X 3
If you’ve read Part 1 or Part 2 of this creativity series, you’ll know that Adam Grant’s book Originals provides practical action steps for priming your inner innovator. One key tip he offers is to generate three times as many creations. He cites Mozart, Picasso, and other famous artists, who generated massive amounts of content. Some of their work naturally developed into great masterpieces. So, keep creating… a lot.
#10 Recognize Your Critic Fear
Social researcher Dr. Brene Brown has studied how shame and vulnerability appear, both in life and in the creative process. She’s identified a few strategies to help remind you that your critics aren’t the ones who count. First, she recommends that you acknowledge the voices of the critics; make a seat for them at the proverbial table. Whether real or imagined, simply recognize who the critics are in your head that prevent you from creating and sharing. Second, on a small piece of paper (1″ x 1″), write the names of the people whose opinions actually matter to you. These are the people who love you because of your creative vulnerability and imperfections. Brown claims we often bypass the opinions of people who do matter to get approval and acceptance from people who shouldn’t matter at all. If you’re plagued by fear, pull out the piece of paper and ask yourself, “Will these people look at my work and say that I put it all out there? That I was honest?” This is a great tool to help you stay true to yourself during the creative process.
At night, spend several minutes visualizing the next day’s events, and include creative time in the mix. Imagine your feelings, your reactions, and your conversations. Picture yourself carving out creative time, and feeling fulfilled, successful, and joyful. Visualize in first-person (as if you’re actually living it) and with as much detail as possible. Imagine the day’s events unfolding optimally. Visualization primes your nervous system and neural pathways for the upcoming events and increases the chances for your day to occur as imagined. This technique has been used by Olympic athletes for decades. It has unimaginable benefits!