Creative Regeneration for the New Year

Creative Regeneration for the New Year
Joel Newport
January 08, 2015
New year party hat and lightbulb inside wine glass

While the holiday season can be a very busy time, for many of us it’s also a time where we slow down at work. We take time off and recharge the creative batteries, ready to come back in the New Year and hit the ground running. But how do you keep your creative edge throughout the year? Here are six steps you can employ anytime to avoid falling into a rut.

Look at other work outside your focus:

It’s no secret creatives look at other creative work to find inspiration, but an early mentor of mine introduced me to the idea of being inspired by work that has nothing to do with the industry you’re developing messaging for. So, if you are working on a project for the healthcare industry, take some time to see what’s going on in education or financial services. Looking at different work outside your main area of focus can spur ideas and connections you might have never found otherwise. Even when products or industries are very far apart, their target audiences or messages might align with what you’re trying to communicate.

Work with someone different:

Many creatives work in teams, but we are either assigned a partner or we tend to gravitate to the same collaborators because of previous success. But if you’re really stuck, or just don’t feel you are getting the fresh perspective, find another person to either add to your team or partner with instead of the usual suspects. We all view the world with our own unique lens, and if you only collaborate with individuals whose points of view you are familiar with, you could be missing out on a valuable insight that could move your project forward at light speed.

Go for a walk:

We all know that walking gets your blood pumping, but Stanford researchers have found that it also gets the creative juices flowing. They examined creativity levels of people while they walked versus while they sat and found that creative output was increased by up to 60 percent when walking – http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/april/walking-vs-sitting-042414.html. Even if it’s just around the office for a few minutes or, better yet, a quick jaunt around the block, walking is a great cure for creative malaise.

Change your venue:

At some point, you do have to sit down and create and when your desk just isn’t cutting it, try taking your laptop somewhere else. Anywhere else will give you a perspective shift that can stimulate the brain, but neuroscientists believe there are spaces that are conducive to enhancing our creative mind and actually stimulating new brain cell growth – http://www.psmag.com/culture/corridors-of-the-mind-49051. The environment’s architecture, color and sound all play a role in how creativity is sparked in our brain, so get out and find some spaces that inspire you and your thinking.

Daydream:

Go ahead. Daydream. Sure your teachers used to scold you for it and it probably annoys your boss, and we all can understand why. When viewed from the outside, daydreaming is a waste of time. We observe a daydreamer as doing nothing when we measure activity against speed, output, attention span and other external metrics.

But according to Scott Barry Kaufman, scientific director of the Imagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, there is another way of looking at mind wandering. “For the individual, mind wandering offers the possibility of very real, personal reward, some immediate, some more distant. These rewards include self- awareness, creative incubation, improvisation and evaluation, memory consolidation, autobiographical planning, goal-driven thought, future planning, retrieval of deeply personal memories, reflective consideration of the meaning of events and experiences, simulating the perspective of another person, evaluating the implications of self and others’ emotional reactions, moral reasoning, and reflective compassion.” – http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/2013/09/25/mind-wandering-a-new-personal-intelligence-perspective/. So when someone challenges you for daydreaming, just tell the person you’re creatively incubating.

Be creative just for the sake of being creative:

Finally, take the time to be creative for yourself. In our industry, we spend so much time creating for others that we lose sight of the satisfaction gained from just creating for ourselves. No clients. No deadlines. No purpose. Just creativity for creativity’s sake. You might be surprised at what ideas come to light that will enhance your work creative while you’re knee-deep in your play creative.

This year, challenge yourself to continually renew and re-energize your creativity. By practicing these simple steps, you can reduce or even prevent creative roadblocks to keep your work fresh and your mind engaged.