Make it Happen: A 6 Step Process for Enhancing Creativity
As entrepreneurs, much of our success comes from our ability to think creatively. Whether it’s coming up with the next great blog post, developing a killer new eCourse or a product launch, we all strive to create material that cuts through the noise and reaches our audiences.
Having the opportunity to create is the reason many of us got into business in the first place, but sometimes the need to continually produce new content can feel like a lot of pressure. With pressure, creativity can become even harder.
Here’s the process I use to stay inspired and keep doing my best work.
1. Release Stress
Anxiety, stress, pressure-- I’ve experienced all of these both as a consultant and as an entrepreneur. And while deadlines and high-expectations can be motivating, they can also create mental strain that leaves you feeling exhausted.
Creative breakthroughs and high-quality work usually don’t come when I am feeling tired and overwhelmed. Therefore, I believe the first step in increasing your creative output is to figure out ways to decrease your stress.
Decreasing stress means different things for different people, but here are some broad categories of activities that I’ve found to be effective:
Figure Out What’s Not Working: By this I mean cut out negative responses to stress. This might mean missing sleep, not eating well, isolating yourself, taking stress out on other people-- most of us are guilty of at least some of these and they usually end up making the problem worse. While cutting these behaviors out is easier said than done, it pays off to work on minimizing negative responses to stressful situations.
Prioritize Self-Care: Doing your best to maintain a healthy routine in spite of a heavy workload or trying situation can minimize the extent to which you suffer the negative effects of stress. Take time to do little things for yourself and learn what you can do to keep yourself feeling your best.
Stay Active: You might say that staying physically active is a part of self-care, and it most definitely is. I decided to separate this out just because it’s been so important to me. Making sure I take at least 30 minutes a day to get some exercise really helps clear my mind and gives me more energy. While nothing compares to a long hike in the woods with my dog to get my creative energy going, even a few minutes on the elliptical helps.
Take Breaks + Recharge: This could also fall under self care, but making sure you give yourself time to recharge is also an especially high priority. Whether this means going on a walk at lunch or making sure you have one completely work-free day every couple weeks, figuring out the best way for you to recharge is a great way for you to relax and enhance your creativity.
2. Clear Your Plate
This next step is a natural companion to stress relief. I am big believer in the negative impact of decision fatigue. If you haven’t heard the term before, it basically means that willpower acts like a muscle. This means that the more things we spend our days worrying about, the less able we are to make good decisions. Therefore, clearing out the mental clutter can be an important step in increasing creativity (and making you more productive overall). There are many, many ways to do this, but basically, cleaning out the mental clutter means streamlining and simplifying your days. While you can’t always eliminate tasks, you can find ways to dramatically reduce the number of “decisions” your brain has to make every day. Here are some ideas:
Learn to Say No
Do Creative Work First
Create Systems & Plan Ahead
3. Get Inspired
Now that we’ve de-stressed and simplified, we’re ready for the fun part of generating creative work! Inspiration often has kind of a mythic quality. We imagine inspiration coming to us out of nowhere, and sometimes it might. More often however, inspiration comes from intentionally seeking out new sources of insight.
If you look at creativity as a process or as a skill that you can develop, you’re much more likely to come up with new ideas on a consistent basis.
Innovation often comes at the intersection of two unrelated ideas. To help you make these connections, it’s important to seek out a wide range of resources. To achieve your creative potential, mix it up. Don’t limit your reading to one blog, one genre of books, or just listen to a handful of podcasts. Make sure you get a wide variety of influences. It's also important to make exploration a habit and be consistent about seeking out new ideas.
Commit to reading two books every month, finding a new blog every week or whatever works for you and your goals. I've also found success when I am intentional about mining these sources for inspiration-- make it a habit to record a few ideas from whatever materials you're reading.
4. Get Outside and Be Active
Outside of the shower, most of my best ideas come when I am outside in nature, working out, or doing yoga (listening to podcasts in the car is right up there too). What all of these places have in common is that they are not my computer. It's so important to take time to relax and process-- in my experience, this is actually the time when I come up with my best ideas.
5. Write it Down
How many times have you thought of a creative idea, or even just an everyday concern, and then completely forgotten about it? This tip seems simple, but it can be quite powerful. Make sure you always have a way to record your ideas and you can be sure that your moments of inspiration won’t go overlooked.
6. Try Things Out
We often hear that quality is far more important than quantity. And in some ways this is certainly true: a few great friendships can be more fulfilling that having many acquaintances, classic pieces that last forever can end up saving you money over frequent fast fashion purchases. But when it comes to creative output, quality often only comes after a large quantity of work.
With this in mind, it’s important to try things out and experiment. So don’t be afraid to get started! Just make sure you are also taking time to track the results of your experiments and reflect on what they can teach you.
What else do you do to stay creative?
I’m an instructional designer providing eCourse solutions for creative entrepreneurs. My focus is on helping you learn how to talk to your audience and validate your programs to take the uncertainty out of launching.
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