For You: Tricks for improving your creativity

Ever feel burned out at work?  Perhaps it isn’t bad enough that you’d call it burn out – you’re on autopilot, or just simply uninspired.

Learning ways to hit the “reset” button on your creativity is a phenomenally useful trick.

Here are two exercises you can try immediately.

1. Take a walk.

It’s not quite as simple as taking a walk.  You need to take a walk somewhere that isn’t thoroughly familiar to you, so turn left where you usually turn right to get your coffee at that cute little shop and keep wandering.

When you’re walking in unfamiliar terrain, your brain is forced out of autopilot into a state of higher vigilance.  You’ll be less able to focus on doing other tasks while you’re walking (I wasn’t going to recommend you take work with you, beyond maybe a phone for conversational work calls – nothing that would require you take notes), but when you get back to your desk you will remain more alert for a while.  That means you’ll be noticing more, and be primed to react more strongly.  It’ll feel like instinct.

Bonus: recent studies suggest that walking 40 minutes, 3 times a week helps you retain connectivity as you age – which means better performance on cognitive tasks.

2. Spend 15 minutes each morning making a list.

Nope.  Not a To Do list.  Those are also great, but a subject for a different day.  You’re going to set a timer and write a list that engages your creative self.  The time factor is important – it’s really hard to remain at this task for 15 minutes, but the push past difficulty is part of what we’re doing.  It’s also very hard to make a list for that long without starting to think differently…we get the obvious out of the way, and we start to take joy in what we’re noticing next, in our unique perspective and observations, perhaps in our clever vocabulary.

So what kind of lists are we talking about?  There aren’t that many wrong answers, we’re looking for categories that you can either observe or imagine in detail.  Lists like:

  • Things I can see out my window
  • Things that are in my refrigerator
  • Accessories and what I wear them with
  • How I describe my colleagues’ haircuts
  • What I remember about being 12
  • Superpowers that I would give people I know
  • What I smelled on my walk to work
It can be straightforward (looking out the window) or whimsical (superpowers) – don’t spend too much time thinking about the category, work to make your list.  Make a list every day as part of your daily routine.  15 minutes, no cheating.
The lists will be useless after they’re made.  Go ahead and throw them out.  You’re not writing poetry.  But you are training yourself to be creative on demand, and like a muscle sculpted by lots of hard work, you’ll get to flex and show off the next time you need to brainstorm or otherwise figure your way around an obstacle at work.

Oh, this?  These are my CREATIVITY guns.  I made them with my mind.

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