We all need to be creative. Obviously, we’re not all artists or dancers or content-creators, but creativity in our lives and in our roles helps us to find new solutions, new questions to ask or new ideas to implement that will help make our lives and our work more effective and fulfilling.
Daily, many of us fail to ask questions like: ‘how can I do this better?’ Or ‘Where could I spend more of my time to be most effective?’ Or even, ‘Where would I really like to be and how could I get there?’ Or maybe we do ask these questions fleetingly, but fail to come up with any solutions, answers or plans.
But to be creative, we need to do some things that help us get into the creative ‘mode.’ Because if we don’t, then the part of our brain that inspires logic and rules tends to get in the way and we fail to be as creative as possible.
Here are some things you can try.
Change Your Environment
As a priority, get away from your usual office environment. Get outside, sit in a park, go to a coffee shop. Do something to change it up. This is important because you need different inspiration and different stimulus. It is also important because you need to get away from as many distractions as possible – especially business distractions. Checking that email just puts you straight back into ‘logic’ mode and this tends to curb our creativity.
Quiet Your Monkey Brain
Your Monkey Brain is the part of our brain that ruminates and speculates and thinks about what’s happening tomorrow, or back in the office, or how that deal is going, or where that project is stuck. It is also our ‘emotional handbrake’ and tends to inhibit anything that is irrational.
Making this part of our brain quiet is important, because it then allows the other parts of our brain to take over and make connections we might otherwise miss. If you’ve ever had one of those ‘Eureka Moments’, it will have happened when the Monkey Brain is switched off. Maybe you were on the bus or in the bath or the shower, not thinking about anything in particular. This is the state we want to get into.
Probably the most effective way of doing this is with meditation. But if that’s not your thing, then just sitting quietly and being in the moment is a good place to start. Literally just look around, try not to think about anything. Then prime yourself with a question or something to contemplate and rather than just trying to problem solve straight away, spend 20 minutes just being in the moment.
Our favourite protocol is this: Write a problem on a blank sheet of paper. Meditation for 15 minutes. Spend another 20 minutes just contemplating, being present, not problem solving. It is amazing how many problems and insights we have solved just following this and not really trying to solve the problem at all.
Let Go of Inhibitions
Letting go of our normal, boundary-based thinking is hard, but it is something that we can getter at with practice. Get a blank sheet of paper and start writing things down that are just ridiculous. Like ‘what if I could jump over a house?’ Or ‘Imagine if I was Alice in Wonderland…. How would I get home?’ Or even, ‘What if I spent a year not talking to anyone?’ Write things like this down. Expand on them. Start thinking crazy thoughts and try to stop yourself from saying “that will never happen.” Just ask: what if?
Or you can make this brainstorming more particular to your problem. You could ask, ‘What if we fired everyone and built robots to do everything?’ Or ‘Imagine if we didn’t have to make money – what would people choose to do?’
I know this sounds crazy but give it a try.
After this, try to start solving your problem or brainstorming.
Ok – so this might be frowned upon at work. Especially before 9am. But if you are somewhere like at a retreat in the afternoon, or at a conference or just brainstorming at home on the weekend, then this can actually help.
As everyone knows, alcohol (for the majority of people, anyway) decreases inhibition. With less inhibition comes more creativity. But you need to be clear about where you will direct that creativity.
Be Creative When You’re Fatigued
Finally, to be more creative, pick the time of the day that you are most fatigued. In those moments when we find it hard to concentrate, we can find the peak of our creativity. When we run out of energy, the first part of our brain to switch off is our Pre-Frontal Cortex. This is the part of our brain that maintains our attention but it is also the part of our brain that controls our emotions and behaviours (for reference, whenever you have really weird dreams, it is when the Pre-Frontal Cortex is switched off and the Emotional Brain is doing whatever it wants with no guidelines).
So, when this part of our brain naturally crashes, then it’s a good time to get creative.
Creativity is so valuable in the work that most people do today, but rarely do we make time for it. Our thoughts and ideas often come to us out of the blue, but with some insight into what helps with the brainstorming process, we can implement ways to hack this creativity more often. Try any of these five things and I guarantee they will help you to be more creative and solve problems like never before. But be consistent – this sort of thing takes time and practice.
** Tony Wilson is a Workplace Performance Expert. His insights into performance science and it's application in the workplace will make you re-think the way that you approach leadership, culture change, high performance and productivity. Tony has an MBA and a BSc majoring in physiology and delivers workshops and keynote presentations around the globe