Creativity and productivity are too often seen as opposing forces battling for your time and the soul of your work. But working longer and harder isn’t the only way to be productive, and thinking creatively can achieve amazing results. It’s all in how you approach your work!
Even after decades of extensive research, we actually still know relatively little about creativity, let alone how to make ourselves more creative. What Science has been able to identify are patterns and traits that affect creative thinking. Based on those, we can create hacks and tools based on what stifles creativity and what helps it thrive!
On this matter, we’ve collected five tricks to bring creativity to your work to get better work done:
1. Exercise your creativity like a muscle.
One surefire way to boost creative thinking: Try. No, really! Creativity isn’t made out of a magical fairy part of the brain, it’s essentially using all the same tools that go into doing everything else … but applying those tools in creativity-specific ways!
Research shows that when people try to think more creatively, they almost always can, and those effects are both significant and repeatable! The key to this is dedicating more time in your day to actively thinking, which usually means unplugging from email, social media and more.
Try implementing this idea in your everyday routine by avoiding bringing your phone to bed or to the bathroom. Consider dedicating specific time in your day to thinking creatively – and remind yourself to do so before any brainstorming session!
2. Change up your surroundings — even minimally.
Creativity “nudges” can come from changes as small as a warmer cup of coffee or different colors in the room. Try switching out some of the items on your desk or doing an overhaul of the bulletin board you sit facing. Know that those “nudges” don’t only pertain to your physical surroundings – they’re also connected to your social setting.
Take advantage of opportunities to periodically work in different areas of the office, sit with new colleagues or invite people from different departments to lunch. Although you might not have much control over your work environment, making any possible adjustments could translate to a significant creativity boost!
3. Go out on a limb with what you learn.
When was the last time you learned something about medieval architecture or ancient Egyptian history? Research suggests that broadening your knowledge by way of unfamiliar topics fosters new ideas and divergent thinking!
New ideas come from interconnections among old ideas: make research on a topic you know nothing about, challenge your mind and investigate something you wouldn’t think you’re interested in at first. This way, you’ll stimulate your brain to obtain information about a new topic, generating thousands of different ideas about it. The more interesting and diverse the pieces, the more interesting the interconnections!
4. Pay attention to – and record – new ideas that come to you.
As people age, the number of creative ideas that come to them doesn’t necessarily slow, but they tend to capture fewer of them. When an idea comes to you, start making it a point to preserve it. Jot it down in a smartphone note, write it in a pocket-sized notebook you carry around or sketch it on a napkin. Capture now and evaluate later, because capturing your new ideas is likely the most valuable aspect of boosting creativity!
5. Challenge yourself in new ways – especially when it comes to overarching issues in your industry.
If you’ve ever tried an “escape room”, your creativity probably spiked. That’s because challenges act as a catalyst for us to think creatively and come up with simultaneous ideas or solutions. For example, if you turn a knob and find out a door is locked, you begin to automatically brainstorm ideas and solutions – jiggling the knob, pounding on the door, trying your luck with a bobby pin.
You can stimulate yourself similarly at work by setting a time limit for a task or taking on an “ultimate challenge” in your industry. Think about the overarching issues and questions in your field and practice brainstorming open-ended solutions!
We know, you can’t conjure creativity on a whim. What you can do, though, is use these five tips to foster creative thinking and enhance your creative output without losing focus and productivity. While some of us will always be easily distracted by everything from social media to video games, learning how to focus creative energy puts you on the path to success. It’s your best shot at creating a masterpiece!