It only takes a moment to come up with a brilliant idea, but don’t you wish you had more of those moments? Here are seven tips for activating your creativity:
1. Less Doing, More Thinking: Good ideas don’t have much room to surface if you spend the whole day checking items off your To Do list. Make some time every day (or at least every week) for clear thinking. You might block out an afternoon each week to think about upcoming projects, or you might take the first twenty minutes of every workday, before your day gets rolling, for unstructured puttering and daydreaming.
2. Cross pollinate: You often find seeds of ideas when talking to people outside your field or reading about issues completely removed from your industry. When you’re in the airport, pick up a few magazines you’ve never read. Talk to people who do different things for a living. Go to the art museum. Read newspapers or blogs or catalogs or children’s books.
3. Give yourself a tight deadline: Take an hour, or 15 minutes, or five. Tell yourself you’ll write down all the crazy ideas you can come up with in that limited amount of time. Go for quantity, not quality, and don’t judge anything that comes up. Just scribble it down and move on to the next idea. Afterwards, sift through the list and you might find a few gems.
4. Give yourself a head start: Try opening a project the day before you really need to get going, just to review any related information and make a few notes on your initial thoughts. Then walk away. Your mind will begin to mull it over while you’re doing other things and when you pick up the project the next day, you won’t be starting cold.
5. Meditate. Or run or walk or drive or fold laundry. Something about both meditation and rote physical activity tends to turn off a racing mind and create open road for good ideas. There’s more than a grain of truth in the joke about the best ideas occurring to people while they’re in the shower.
6. Write it down: Get in the habit of writing down good ideas immediately so you don’t lose a fleeting thought. Some people keep a notebook of random ideas; others use sticky notes or whatever’s handy. There’s something about writing things down that encourages your inner genius to be even more prolific.
7. Laugh: When you’re laughing at jokes or a humorous magazine article or a friend’s story of something funny that happened on the way to work, you’re putting yourself in that childlike place where great ideas are born. They say creativity is the mind at play, so make sure you include some fun in your workday.