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How to Boost Your Creativity To Be Your Most Productive Self

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First published on Skillshare.com

In today’s digitally-focused world, creativity is not just something that’s nice to have, it’s an absolute must if you want to stand out from the crowd and be more productive. As more and more jobs are being lost to automation, staying as creative as possible is important to your long-term career — no matter what you do for a living.

Opening the door to new ways of thinking isn’t as hard as it might seem.

Ready to boost your potential for inspired thought and greater productivity? We’ve gathered some tried-and-tested ways to spark your creativity and allow your inner genius to shine through.

Define what creativity means to you

If you don’t know what your ‘best work’ is, then you’ll find it hard to tap into the person you need to be in order to produce it. In his Ted Talk on the subject, creativity expert Giovanni Corozza says that thinking creativity is about not just about thinking outside the box; it’s going beyond the box, exploring the “boundary within our minds- the boundary between what we know, and what we haven’t yet thought about.”  

Take some time to think about what creativity means to you, and what success might look like.

What’s your best piece of creative work so far? What about it pushes that boundary between what you know and what you haven’t thought about yet? What did it feel like to work on that project? Identifying previous bouts of creativity and the conditions that helped you achieve them will give you a better sense of how best to tap into your  creative insights in the future.

Erase self doubt

If you’re feeling uninspired and need to kickstart your creativity, your first task should be letting go of creative doubts. Sylvia Plath once said “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt” and research bears her out; a 2012 Harvard study suggests that the battle with creativity is  about resisting the urge to judge ourselves our creative impulses, and ideas. To build confidence, they say, do your best to capture every creative thought you have. Use a physical or digital notebook to jot down ideas as they come to you and make a record of creative urges you can reference when you need new inspiration.

Listen to music

Research into creative thinking techniques has shown that listening to uplifting or happy music in particular causes people to think divergently, in other words, to come up with original ideas.

Need some new tunes? Tech has got you covered: Spotify has curated a playlist of Beats To Think To’ that can  help you focus and improve your innovative thinking.  

Listening to music can boost your brain power — and your ability to innovate.

Engage your senses

Burn some frangipani incense. Hang a pleasing visual on the wall. Buy a snuggle-worthy pair of slippers. Listen to some David Bowie. Eat an orange.

Engaging all five of your senses regularly stimulates your mind, boosts your mood, and has been shown to help inspire new creative thoughts. Wake up your senses once and awhile and you’ll create an inviting opportunity for more creativity to flow more easily.

Walk

There’s a reason that people pace when they are trying to figure something out. According to one Stanford study, the simple act of walking can increase your  creativity by up to a whopping 60%. Want to come up with your next great idea? Grab those sneakers and head outside. Your creativity might be right around the corner -- literally!

Going for a walk can do wonders for your cognition (image source)

Relax

If you’re not just walking, but running in circles because your work schedule is overloaded, then it makes sense that you might have a hard time being creative and producing your best work. Experts believe, in fact, being stressed actually shrinks your brain, which means a lot less space to dedicate to creativity. In order to let creativity in, you need to be ruthless about minimizing distractions and find times to switch off. What’s the the best way to refresh your  brain power, according to scientists? Meditate, they say. .

Travel

It’s an old saying that ‘travel broadens the mind,’ but why is journeying so helpful when you need creative fuel?

Traveling somewhere out of your comfort zone is a great way to jumpstart your creativity (image source)

Not only are you outside your comfort zone when you travel, you’re also constantly learning, making new connections, gathering new insights and developing new thought patterns. Travelling forces your brain into new activity, which means it’s the perfect way to tap into the  creativity that may be dormant within you.

...or just move. Even to a coffee shop next door.

Can’t afford a weekend out of town? Try moving down the street.

Changing work environments has been proven to boost creativity, so try a different coworking space, working from a home office, or switching around your furniture for an instant way to kickstart your creativity into a new stratosphere.

Seek out nature

Getting out into nature is essential for creativity. In Japan, they call it ‘forest-bathing’ - people go out into the wilderness for a few days, completely unplug from the modern world, reduce their stress and improve their wellbeing. A recent study  found that subjects who hiked and camped in the wilderness performed 50% better on creative problem-solving tasks than those who did not.

If you don’t have that kind of time, just working alongside a few houseplants can help you with boosting creativity. Biophilic design is on the increase, and for good reason: science shows that the more green your workspace  the more likely you’ll be inspired, productive and creative within it.

Just being around plants can help inspire new ways of thinking (image source)

Play!

Steve Jobs used to doodle to boost his creativity. Google goes to great lengths to provide employees with playful perks like sides and beach volleyball while they are at work. Why? Far from being disruptive, play, in all of its forms, actively encourages creativity.

Even if you’re at a company that doesn’t have a slide in its headquarters, you can still incorporate play into your work day.

Try the “30 circles” creative thinking technique, one that  encourages participants to draw 30 circles on a sheet of paper and then adapt each one into a unique object or illustration. The exercise (and others like it)  will give you the time and space you need to think more innovatively, offering an opportunity for ideas to flow through.

Be courageous

When it comes to producing your best creative work, remember the words of the famous painter Henri Matisse, “creativity takes courage.” Tapping into your creativity  isn’t always easy, and that’s okay. It’s about putting yourself out there, despite the fear you might be feeling.

Being brave is the first step toward finding your inner creative spark

If you’re ready to be creative but aren’t sure where to start, ask yourself where you could trust yourself more? How could you push yourself, and get a little brave? Being willing to try something new, whatever it is, may be the first step toward finding your inner creativity. So get brave and get out there! Your genius may be hiding just beyond the limits of your current horizon.