It’s difficult to feel inspired by an inbox full of emails and a to-do list that keeps growing. Increasing the psychological distance between you and your tasks may seem counterproductive, but it actually boosts creativity, insight and clarity. Other than distancing, what else can you do? Here are seven awesome strategies to help you access your (trapped) creative genius. Let the genie out and power through that to-do list with some new creative solutions!
Cultivate psychological, chronological & spatial distance
Who knew imagination and time travel could help you solve creative puzzles?
A knotty creative problem or a creative knot can start to unravel by inserting imagined spatial distance between you and the problem. Participants in a 2009 psychological study solved twice as many insight problems when they distanced themselves. Try to see that tricky bit of content or difficult client strategy as someone else’s challenge, far removed from you. Creating psychological distance means that your brain is forced to think more creatively about a problem, coming up with new solutions.
- If you are struggling to write a bit of content, think about how a designer or developer might approach the task. How would they solve your creative puzzle?
- If you were working in another location, with different cultural conventions, would you do something differently?
- Why have you been finding being creative so hard? Is something personal getting in the way? Can you distance yourself from that background noise?
- This also works with temporal distance. Try to imagine a situation or problem in another time, past or future, and see whether that gets you thinking any differently.
Set yourself boundaries to be more creative
Counterintuitive? Not really. Creativity can’t always deal with having no limitations.
- Having boundaries means you have something to push back against.
- Having boundaries challenges you to think, and work, harder.
Limitations can be a creativity boost. In a recent blog, Gregory Ciotti shared the famous example of Dr. Seuss- his classic book Green Eggs & Ham was based on an editor’s bet that he couldn’t write a book in less than 50 different words. Seuss managed it and the book became a smash hit. By limiting himself, Seuss was able to access inner reserves of creativity.
Try to challenge yourself in the same way:
- Time yourself whilst writing a post- how much can you get done in 45 minutes? Challenge yourself to meet self-imposed deadlines.
- Talk about a word, without saying the word. See how many synonyms and metaphors naturally crop up.
- Write about something slightly out of your comfort zone and see where it takes you. If you tend to share more upbeat content, see whether you can limit yourself to something a bit more ‘real’.
- Uploading a video? Try something different or shoot the whole thing in one take.
Not all boundaries are positive. Boundaries that are imposed by badly managed projects are more challenging. People can deal with traditional challenges like budgets, and can be quite comfortable with internal boundaries that can be adjusted and relaxed when needed. If your boundaries are structural, you may have to delve deeper inside…
Nourish your internal motivators
Motivation breeds creativity– use it to feed your creative energy. Motivation keeps your brain firing on all cylinders and gives you the energy to strive.
Be honest. What really motivates you? More readers on your blog? More money? Recognition? These should be your goals- the things that you visualize and focus on. Getting there is the challenge – to succeed in your goals you’ll need to cultivate a positive mental attitude of resilience and motivation.
Here’s how to stay motivated and embrace creativity:
- Weave inspirational and motivational quotes into your life to connect with your positive headspace. Breathe deeply and allow yourself to reconnect with your goals every morning.
- Set your goals out in front of you and remind yourself how you are going to get there.
- Create motivational mood boards and mind maps. Be creative with the motivational connections you make and set yourself creative goals.
Look for synergy and connections around you
An artist may need a poet, and a poet may need an artist.
Think about the people around you. Then realize that the internet happened and that you don’t have to necessarily find motivation in Bob from accounting whose desk abuts onto yours. Go online and find other people whose work inspires and motivates you. Collect their thoughts, ideas, and words and bring these back to your own work. Look for creative synergy- don’t just admire something passively- try to connect it with what you are doing.
- Found a great playlist online? Why don’t you make a cleaning playlist for that cleaning product client you struggle to get creative for?
- Awesome beauty blogger? Could you do a video about how bookkeepers also like to look on-trend and what types of outfits they think make for good financial power-dressing?
- Great e-book about London’s haunted houses? Could you collate some creepy stories about industrial warehouses?
Don’t be afraid to be a bit wacky. Yes, you might not be able to use all your ideas, but thinking about synergy means you’ll definitely come up with something more interesting than the same old industry listicles and roundup posts!
Encourage divergent thinking
Creativity gets stifled through a lack of new ideas. Divergent thinking fires up your idea-generator muscles.
You need to encourage divergent thinking. When your brain is supple and relaxed you will make surprising connections. You’ll suddenly see the surprising content crossovers or new niche opportunities, without even feeling like you’re trying. Divergence is your great dormant mental power- use it.
People get into a divergent thinking state in a number of ways, whether that be through meditation, journaling, brainstorming or walking. To fast track your brain into divergence, remember to take frequent (physical) breaks from what you are doing and encourage ideas to flow freely. Capture all your ideas when you are in a flow state and sift through them later.
Break up the concept
A few years ago the generic parts technique developed by psychologist Tony McCaffery was all the rage . People saw GPT as a solution for psychological barriers and lauded its methodical approach to generating creative solutions.
GPT can still teach us a lot today, especially when it comes to breaking down concepts into constituent parts. GBT makes you ask these two vital questions:
- Can I break this concept down into further parts? (e.g. A finance blog- a digitally curated content community that includes texts, images, vectors and video; and educates people about financial themes. Does this alter how you would approach writing for this niche?)
- Does my description of the part imply a use (and is that hindering me)? (e.g. Don’t just see the blog as a place to post articles- see it as a network. Think beyond the traditional uses like sharing content or commenting, to more creative uses like users uploading and generating their own content, wikis and live reactions).
GBT can help you find a more meaningful angle for your content by asking you to get really specific, encouraging creative thinking. Key GBT takeaways:
- Re-examine the concept to revisit the creative brief.
- Look closely to see further.
Adjust your environment
Tension, writer’s block, stagnation, stress…Just writing these words down is stressful. The thing is, your environment can be a major barrier to creativity. Where do you work? Is the place made for creative thinking, or is it more of a cubicle death-trap? Adjust your environment to foster a more positive working-and-thinking relationship. You might need to change a lot, you might need to change less- make small positive changes by adding more natural light, creative stimuli, and breakout spaces into your work environment. We can’t all have Google’s cool offices but we can all try to bring a little more creativity in.
The beauty of digital working is that you have the opportunity to take your work with you- if you feel inspired by an old library building or prefer the familiarity of Starbucks- make the effort to leave the house more often. A change of scenery often leads to a change of mind.
Feeling motivated and creative? Get sharing your favorite creativity boosters below…