3 Strategies for Productive Creativity
Joel Eschenbach • November 23, 2016
This is the necessary introduction that everyone skims past to get right to the tips, but here goes anyway...
As soon as someone starts talking about creativity, we typically think about artists, musicians, performers, entrepreneurs, or some other uber-creative profession. But everyone creates something at one level or another.
Think about what you do on a daily basis and I bet you can find something that you "create" for yourself or others.
Your creativity may take on the form of a creative solution to a problem more than a pro-active creation of something out of nothing. Seriously, take a minute and remember what you created last week or yesterday. In fact, someone is probably counting on your creativity to help guide them though a challenge this week or even today!
For the betterment of our lives and the world around us, we can always improve what we are regularly crafting. So, in an effort to give some practicality to the abstractness of creativity, here are a few things that have helped me along the way when creating and developing new projects, habits, processes, structures, and of course, logos and websites.
1. Schedule Minimally-Interrupted Time
Most people that know me closely know that Tuesday's are my "creative day". For years, I've carved out Tuesdays to work specifically on creative projects. For me, this is usually new logo concepts, a website mockup, or organizing content for one of our clients - but I work on personal projects in that time too.
No matter what I'm working on, I guard Tuesday's like my 5-year old daughter guards her candy! I take some time at the beginning of the day to check emails, add tasks for the rest of the week, and deal with anything urgent. Then, I close my inbox and get to work.
The reason for time with minimal interruptions is obvious but important: Your mind can more effectively get into and stay in a creative flow if it's not constantly distracted. There have been many articles written about the negative effects of multitasking and distractions on creativity so I won't go into details, but it takes about 15 minutes to get back into your first task after you are distracted by an email or some other shiny object.
I've been working in a creative field long enough to know that everyone has their own process and most people even rebel when you tell them exactly what they should do, so here's what matters...
Whether it's an entire day, an hour everyday, or 2 hours a week, carve out time to work on creative projects with as little distractions as possible. Let your brain run free within the constraints of a regularly scheduled time, and you'll find that creativity will show up. Check out Chip and Dan Health's analogy for this called the Sterile Cockpit.
2. Be Ready When The Muse Visits
In Ancient Greek mythology, The Muses or The Muse were the goddesses of inspiration in literature, science, and the arts. Today, we mostly use this as an analogy for the mysterious times when an idea or a creative concept hits us - seemingly out of nowhere.
Nine Muses by Samuel Griswold Goodrich [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
As you look forward to scheduled creative times where you can flesh out ideas and creative projects, it's important to keep track of inspiration whenever it comes.
Like me, I'm sure that you'll go weeks or even months with no new creative musings. Other times, they fly into your brain one after the other like waves at the beach during a hurricane! Maybe that's why the Greeks came up with The Muses - to personify the unpredictable and uncontrollable forces that came and went as they pleased.
Whether it's mythology or brain science, it's always good to be ready. For years, my favorite tool to jot down ideas as they come has been Evernote (mostly because it's available on any device and it's easy to quickly organize notes). Some people carry a journal or notebook around with them or use an audio recorder.
Whatever works for you, use it. Don't let The Muse find you unprepared or she may not return so quickly next time!
3. Use Monotonous Tasks to Work Out Ideas
In addition to carving out time to work on creative projects and being ready for inspiration whenever she shows up, sometimes your brain needs to chew or meditate on an idea for while. I tell our clients that it will be at least a week before we get any logo concepts back to them mostly because we need time to let ideas simmer in our minds. This can happen subconsciously over a period of time or you can be more intentional about it. My favorite time to build out an idea in my brain is during monotonous tasks like mowing the lawn, folding laundry, running, cleaning the house or taking a shower.
When your body is engaged in monotonous or physical activity, your brain can be used on other ventures. Personally, I get my best ideas and revelations when I mow the lawn! It can be easy to let your mind wander all over the place during these types of activities, but with a little bit of focus and intention, you can be inspired or work out the nuts and bolts of an idea in the lab of your mind during these activities.
When your body is engaged in monotonous or physical activity, your brain can be used on other ventures.
An added benefit... You might look forward to things you wouldn't usually enjoy!
I've only scratched the surface here, but hopefully these strategies are worth experimenting with in your life. If you implement any of these strategies or have some of your own, I'd love to hear about it in the comments.