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. 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.
Ready to boost your potential for inspired thought? 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.”
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.
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.
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!
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. .
It’s an old saying that ‘travel broadens the mind,’ but why is journeying so helpful when you need creative fuel?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Want more on how to kickstart your creativity? Skillshare has hundreds of classes that will help you unlock your passion and generate new ideas. Check them out here.