Think about the last time you felt completely in the flow. When your ideas were coming faster than you could capture them. When you were so inspired that you needed to find an outlet to express that inspiration - through writing, painting, strategizing, dancing, coding or even redecorating.
Do these moments feel few and far between? If so, you might not be cultivating an environment for creativity to thrive. Yes, lightbulb moments can strike at any time. But if you want to open yourself up to more frequent inspiration, it helps to be intentional about setting the stage for creative magic to occur.
If you’re feeling like the creative well has run dry, try to get in the habit of doing these simple things on a regular basis. You’ll be providing fertile ground for new ideas to sprout!
1. Get bored.
Remember when waiting in line meant having to be alone with your thoughts? You might not! If you’re entering the workforce today, having the world wide web at your fingertips has always been a way of life. Those of us who predate the internet remember what it was like to have to entertain ourselves with our thoughts. The boredom was real. But this quietness also opened up space for some really good - and bad! - ideas. When we free our minds from the steady stream of input in the outside world, creativity is more easily accessible.
It takes some effort, but try unplugging and turning off your entertainment and information for part of each day. Don’t fear boredom - it will get those juices flowing again!
2. Get out in nature.
For those of us caught up in the daily grind, particularly those living in urban environments, it’s easy to forget just how creative and beautiful the natural world is. It’s no coincidence that some of the most magical poetry and paintings in the history of civilization used nature as their subjects. Immerse yourself in nature for a little while (this might mean unplugging again - sorry!). Let your five senses take in everything around you, and just observe.
3. Consume media that has nothing to do with your industry.
It’s great to stay up-to-date on the latest industry news (and ok, the latest celebrity gossip, too). But consider reading articles and listening to podcasts that have nothing to do with your work. The operations manager at a bank may find the solution to her problem in a story about a restaurant start-up. The violin composer might find unexpected inspiration listening to hip hop. Be willing to step out of your lane and take off the blinders. The greatest ideas can come from the most unexpected places.
4. Get your hands dirty.
If you meditate, you know the creativity that can come from this sort of connection with your body. But for those who struggle to sit with a regular meditation routine, this can be an easier way to reap the same creative benefits.
Gardening, raking, building something and even cleaning can allow our minds to enter a more relaxed, creative space, as long as we allow ourselves to fully immerse in the task at hand. Turn off all other distractions, like your podcasts and maybe even your music, put your phone on airplane mode, roll up your sleeves, and see what happens when your mind is given the chance to switch gears.
5. Start journaling.
Get in the habit of having a notebook handy, and first thing in the morning, wake up and write. Don’t give yourself a topic or guidelines of any sort. Just start writing, and see what comes out as you “empty” your mind. For many people, morning is our most creative time of day. We’re still easing out of dreamland, and the to-dos, tasks and timelines of the day ahead haven’t yet imposed themselves on our thoughts. Just write. Some days, it will feel like nothing more than clearing your mental plate. Other days, you’ll be amazed at the ideas that begin to flow.
6. Explore new places.
Get out of your normal routine, so that you are seeing new sights and hearing new sounds. This could be as adventurous as travel, or as simple as taking a different route to work. It’s easy for our minds to switch to autopilot when we’re walking the same path, seeing the same people, and hearing the same sounds everyday. Venturing a little bit off your beaten path increases your level of alertness and forces you to notice your surroundings. Exposing yourself to new people, places and things is one of the easiest ways to spark new ideas.
Rebecca Horan is a brand strategy consultant who helps create enduring and differentiated brands that make people care. She loves helping business owners to find their voice and forge a meaningful connection with their audience.