Seven Tips to Improve Your Creativity
What if you were a lumberjack? After work, you’d be physically exhausted. Your arms would hurt, your feet would swell, and you’d be covered in scrapes and bruises. You’d need to take care of your body in order to work the next day.
But since you’re a creative, you probably don’t need to engage in physical labor in order to pay the bills. Instead, your work is mental. And, even though you can’t see it, your mind can wear out just like a person’s body.
In order to be able to actually get things done, you’ll need to periodically let your mind recharge. Here’s a short list of things you can do to refresh your mind and gain back your creativity.
Go on an artist date.
In college, I took a profound creative writing class. Our weekly homework was to go on an “artist date”.
Artist Dates are assigned play. The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly “artistic” — think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration. When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask yourself, “what sounds fun?” — and then allow yourself to try it.
Some of the things I’ve done were:
- Visited a restaurant by myself to eat a meal I’ve never had.
- Spent the afternoon teaching myself calligraphy in a park.
- Bottled up some homemade iced tea/lemonade and took a long drive through the countryside on a hot summer evening, with all the windows down.
- Wrote a short story in the back of a quiet coffee shop while it was snowing.
Action step: What’s something fun you’ve been thinking of trying? It could be writing, kayaking, painting, or just trying a new type of food. Allow yourself to do it.
Delete scourges from your life.
Did you know that Facebook employs some of the world’s top statisticians in order to make you spend more time on the news feed? (This is why you find yourself mindlessly opening their site.) Social media companies actively design their products to be addictive.
Facebook is like a fridge – when you’re bored, you keep opening and closing it every couple of minutes to see if there’s anything good. Yet nothing ever changes.
If you’re having creative problems, social media and other “inputs” may be the root of the problem: too much Facebook, too many podcasts, too much music, too much reading – sometimes, you just need to disconnect from a constant stream of information.
Action steps: Delete Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram from your phone. Install a browser extension like StayFocusd to limit your time spent on these sites.
Your space is a reflection of your mind.
Imagine you’re walking into your workspace at 8:30 AM. Are there piles of old receipts, invoices, and weird tchotchkes lying around? Well it’s no wonder you can’t get work done – your space is stressing you out!
Treat yourself to a redecoration: light some candles, clean off your desk, open the windows and let the sun come in. Buy some art you love, and vacuum the carpets. My favorite place for workspace inspiration is Houzz, and you can find well-priced office furniture at IKEA.
Action step: Create a working sanctuary. Get rid of the things that stress you out, and fill it with things that inspire you: paintings, coffee pots, plants, photography, books, and so on. Many creatives swear by this simple solution.
Aspire to not be a potato.
Potatoes are motionless, sad creatures. Don’t you agree? Humans, however, are full of motion and energy – unless they sit in front of a computer for 14 hours per day. Aim to not be a potato, my friends.
You don’t have to gain enough muscle to give Arnold Schwarzenegger a run for his money – you just have to stay moving for a few minutes each day. Motion clears your mind and helps you think clearly. Motion can also build muscle, which filters toxins from your body to improve your mood.
Action step: Move! Walk somewhere, lift something, or try doing yoga.
This is turning out to be the most “hippie” article I could have ever written, but bear with me.
Have you ever thought of just sitting down, closing your eyes, and doing nothing?
It’s called meditation, and it’s not just for Eastern mysticists and blonde girls with lots of geometrical jewelry. Meditation is a fairly common tool used by people who need to call upon productivity and creativity every day (see: Ray Dalio, Tim Ferriss, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, Rick Rubin, Kevin Rose, and more). I was previously a skeptic, but after incorporating a free app called Calm into my daily routine, I’ve noticed a dramatic improvement in my output, focus, and quality of work.
Action step: Try meditation for ten minutes. My favorite tool is this free app.
Join the rest of the world.
What if I told you there was a small bug that lived under a rock for 90% of its life? It would spend most of its days alone and in silence. Doesn’t that sound like a pathetic life?
I’m not sure if there are any bugs like that (come to think of it, there probably are) – but ask yourself: are you their human equivalent? Are you spending the majority of your days inside, in silence, working? You may need to reconsider your priorities – such as adopting a new pricing model that allows you to live a life outside of freelancing. Consider subscribing to our four emails at The Divi Designer’s Guide to Better Projects, Better Pay, and More Exciting Work and restructuring some of the aspects of your practice (yes, you read that right: four – and they’re free). Go outside, listen to music, and spend time with family and friends. Go to a shelter and adopt a pet that pulls your mind away from work.
Action step: Go outside and spend time with others – family, friends, and pets – to hit the refresh button on your mental state.
Ctrl Alt Delete the day.
After finishing the successful launch of my own product, my girlfriend said that I looked like a zombie. I was pale with dark bags under my eyes, and although I was incredibly happy and proud of what I’d accomplished, I could barely think straight. I had been working 14+ hours per day for nearly half a year.
I realized how far this had gone when my girlfriend asked me what I wanted for dinner, and I just smiled. I had no idea what she was even talking about.
Some of us like to “burn the candle at both ends” – overworking ourselves until we have no mental power left to use. If you’re in this situation, you can’t push any further. That’s okay. Give yourself the rest of the day off – multiple days, if you need to – and turn off the laptop and the cell phone. Don’t touch technology for the rest of your little “mini-vacation”. Eliminate work from your mind, and come back tomorrow.
Action step: Close the computer and turn off your phone for the rest of the day.
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