You might want to start looking for a cheap plane ticket…
And it’s all thanks to our period.
I’m not snarky, I’m just getting my creative juices flowing.
Creativity doesn’t have to take too much extra time out of your day. In fact, the opposite is true – it can help you find quicker and easier paths in any area of your life. I invite you to take a break from your busy routine for a few minutes, turn off your autopilot and turn on your genius. Choose one of these simple ways to stay creative and let’s get started.
1. Spend time offline
It’s great to have information about anything at your fingertips, but if you’re constantly consuming information, your creative genius doesn’t get a chance to have its say. Make it a habit to unplug regularly. There’s a reason why people often get ideas in the shower or when they’re taking a walk and not in front of the computer screen.
2. Do something new
Sign up for a new class. Read a book you wouldn’t normally read. Take a different route to work. It will take you out of your autopilot mode and encourage your mind to make new connections.
Put on some music you love and allow your body to move without judging how you look. If you simply move in a spontaneous way, it’s as if your mind also frees up from restrictions and set patterns.
4. Talk to people
To allow new ideas in, keep an open mind and be interested in others. Deep listening can help you see how another person’s perspective relates to your own problems. Or you can ask others for help with your challenges and often it’s best to ask people outside of your normal circle (being online is great for that) – then you will get completely unexpected ideas.
5. Draw your challenge
Are you struggling with a decision? Trying to solve a problem at work or at home? What if you drew your challenge? Try imagining what it would look like if it was a place or an animal, or just let your hand move. It doesn’t matter if your drawing doesn’t look like anything, this is just a way to connect with a part of your brain that you may not usually use and see your challenge from a new perspective.
Don’t stick to just one of these activities or it will turn into your new habit. Instead, try all of them at different times and always be on the lookout for new ways to stay creative. Not only will you be able to use your creativity to improve your life, you’ll have a lot more fun, too!
Image Via Pixabay
It’s summer, time for new beginnings. What have you wanted to do for a while and it’s never been the right time? This can become your passion project, something that you choose to do just because you want to. It doesn’t need to have a specific goal in mind, what’s important is that you enjoy the process.
What could your passion project be? Maybe, learn Italian. Or go for a walk every day. Write a book. Meditate. Dance. Volunteer for a charity. Anything that you feel drawn to explore.
Why do you need a passion project?
By taking time out for something you want to do for yourself, you’re sending out the message to yourself and to the world that you’re important and your desires matter. You believe in yourself more and you behave with more confidence in all interactions, not just the ones that are related to your passion project.
A few years ago I came across this definition of strength by Marcus Buckingham and it turned my world around. “A strength is an activity that makes you feel strong.” It’s not necessarily what you’re naturally good at, it’s not something that you’ve practiced to perfection, but an activity that you enjoy, energises you and makes you feel stronger. We don’t always use enough of our strengths in our day-to-day lives and that’s why we’re often tired and overwhelmed. A passion project will help you discover what your strengths are, give you more energy and build up the skills to bring more of your strengths into the rest of your life.
In your passion project you lose your attachment to results, which opens the gate for creative discoveries. You give yourself permission to learn and make mistakes, and as you experiment, you may find unexpected ideas pop into your mind that solve problems at work or in your personal life. Your creative exploration may lead to a side business or a new career, but even if it doesn’t, it will feed your creativity.
When you work on something that gives you fulfilment, you feel happier and everyone around you benefits. You laugh more, complain less and become a nicer person to be around (as my family will confirm).
A passion project doesn’t have to be a lifelong commitment. You can choose a fixed period of time, a week, a month or 90 days, to give it a go. Then you can decide if you want to continue with it or try something else. You’ve got nothing to lose and the benefits will surprise you. So what’s your passion project?
Image by iamrubenjr via pixabay.com
We often fall into the trap of believing that a unique idea should be entirely our own. We sit in front of our blank screen or notebook, browsing our brains for worthy thoughts and finding nothing. Even if we spot a thought that seems interesting, we start wondering. Is it new? Is it different enough? Or are we just remembering something we read in the paper a couple of weeks ago?
This is not how the human brilliance is supposed to work. For thousands of years each generation has been building on the knowledge and experience of those before them. Next time you’re looking for a great idea for your work, home improvement or creative project, take advantage of something that’s already been created and add your own unique spin to it.
Improve on someone else’s idea
If an idea already exists to address your challenge, have a look at it. What do you like about it? What don’t you like about it? How would you improve on it? If you don’t know, who could you ask?
Adapt an idea from another field
If there’s something you like in a different area than the one you’re working in, there’s probably a way to adapt it to solve your challenge. For example, you’re in the middle of a home improvement project and you see a photo of your friend’s kids playing in the park that catches your eye. Maybe, you could use the colour palette. Or, if it’s the smiles of the playing kids that attracted, you could use your own kids’ photos for your project. Or you may be looking at the interesting angle the playground equipment makes – how can you use it in your interior design?
Combine two (or more) ideas
You can create something new by taking the best features from several different ideas (related or unrelated) and dropping all the features that you don’t like.
Brainstorm with others
I’ve been participating in a brainstorming project for my blog and I’m finding it fascinating how other people’s ideas can supercharge my own. Even when someone has no knowledge of your area or doesn’t understand what you’re asking and their response seems unrelated, it can send your thought into a completely new direction.
Collaborations with others can also help us realise that what we think is boring and mundane (because it’s something we’ve been thinking for a long time) is completely new and useful to someone else.
Great ideas are everywhere around us. Don’t be afraid to reach for them and use them as fuel to build your own.
Image by geralt via pixabay.com
As a recovering perfectionist, I know exactly how it feels to spend days and days polishing something you’re working on and never submit it in the end. Or go through mountains of books and research just to find that you already knew the answers you were looking for before you even started. Or fail to apply for a job you really wanted because you couldn’t come up with the right opening sentence for your cover letter. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do the best job you can, but when you want to do a perfect job, you’ve taken on an impossible task.
Here are just some of the ways perfectionism can hold you back:
- You may be investing too much time in perfecting your work, instead of trying something new, spending time with your family or simply having a break.
- You could be missing out on opportunities because of your all-or-nothing attitude. If you don’t think you can do something perfectly, you don’t even give yourself a chance.
- Your perfectionism can cause you a lot of stress and performance anxiety sometimes to the point of making you physically sick.
- You become less creative. As you’re trying to eliminate mistakes and failure, you choose safety instead of boldness.
- You give up. At some point you may decide that it’s not even worth trying since you can’t do it perfectly anyway.
Strategies for overcoming perfectionism:
- Bring in an outside perspective. Share your work in progress with colleagues or friends and ask for their opinion. This can be very hard to do, because perfectionists usually fear judgment, but once you give it a try you’ll realise that you’re your harshest critic and anything anyone else has to say about your work will be a lot kinder. You’ll be surprised to discover that the world is not setting the impossible standards you’re trying to measure yourself up against. You’re setting them up for yourself and you can choose to let them go.
- Focus on improving your skills instead of the finished work. This will shift your attention from the end result to the process and you will find that you’re enjoying yourself more and stress less.
- Set some limits for yourself before you start and challenge yourself to stick to them. Give yourself a deadline and whatever you come up with during that time will have to be good enough. Or limit the research you do to three books or articles. Practice on less important tasks first and the more you do it, the easier it’ll get.
Image by indy0333 via pixabay.com
By Tatiana Apostolova
If you’re like the rest of humankind, procrastination is probably something you’re familiar with. You put things off until the last moment, avoid taking important decisions and always promise yourself that you’ll start your new exercise routine on Monday. Then you spend hours feeling bad about it and reading articles on how to stop procrastinating. But procrastination doesn’t always need to be cured. In fact, it can be a useful tool for achieving your goals in a happier, more efficient way.
There’s a reason why you procrastinate
Procrastination usually happens because there are two (or more) opposing thoughts and emotions running through our brains. Even when we know that a project we’re working on will propel us forward in our career, we may be dreading the extra responsibility that will come with it or scared that we’ll fail. Or we may need to do a task because our boss told us so, but we find the task boring and completely ineffective for achieving the end result. Or we push ourselves to get through our to-do list when our body is screaming, ‘Enough, I just need a break’. Procrastination can be used as a barometer to uncover those hidden motivators and choose a better way of dealing with them.
Procrastination can make you more creative
If you find yourself procrastinating on a project that requires some level of creativity, it may be a sign that you’re not ready yet with the best possible solution. While you’re busying yourself with other, less important stuff, your subconscious mind is busy going through all possible options. You’ll feel renewed energy and inspiration once the calculations are complete. Usually having a deadline helps with this type of procrastination. If your mind knows that it has to be finished by a certain deadline, you’ll often find the solution floating up to the surface with just enough time to integrate it into your work.
Procrastination can make you help better decisions
If you’re procrastinating over an important decision, it probably means that you’re not completely happy with any of the options that you see for yourself at the moment. Instead of forcing yourself to just pick something, check with yourself what would make this decision easy for you. What would have to be true so that you could decide without hesitation? Just asking this question can reveal options that you were unaware of before, but can be much better for you.
Procrastination can be a sign that you’re over-committing
Are you always saying ‘yes’ even to requests that you don’t want to say ‘yes’ to and you can’t physically fit into your day? In that case, see what you can take off your plate and how you can stop over-committing in future.
Next time you find yourself procrastinating, instead of unleashing your inner critic, ask yourself why you’re procrastinating and how you can use what procrastinations is telling you to make progress, while staying true who you are and looking after yourself.
Image by Unsplash via Pixabay.com
By Tatiana Apostolova
Children are born creative. They explore the world with curiosity, experiment, make up stories and incessantly create. But as we grow older, doubt and fear of making mistakes creep in and we increasingly stick to what we know instead of looking for new ways of seeing and doing. How can we help our children hold on to their creativity and let it flourish?
Make time for free play
We’re often afraid that our kids will get bored and we provide constant flow of activities to fill their days. And if we find that they have nothing to do, we put them in front of the TV! Yet, it is the unstructured time that challenges our kids to see different opportunities for play. They may pick up a pen and start drawing, observe what is going on around them or turn random household objects into fairy wands, spaceships and imaginary friends.
If your child complains that she’s bored, you can help her come up with activities or start a game, but encourage her to take responsibility for her own play. Hold yourself back from taking the lead and let her do what she wants to do.
Let your child be unique
You may have the urge to correct your child while she’s creating. Resist it and only offer help if your child asks for it. Also resist any parenting advice to set limits on your child’s creativity. A friend may believe that your child’s paintings should look like a person or a house and not like blobs of colour. Grandma may think that your child’s games are not educational enough. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. It’s your child’s expression and your child’s play. Be on her side and allow her to create from her heart.
Focus on the process, not the end result
Encourage your child to notice how much effort she’s putting into an activity and how much she’s enjoying it instead of praising what she has completed. It’ll make her feel that being creative is worthwhile even when the end result is disappointing.
When it comes to children and creativity, mess is an inevitable outcome, but don’t let that stop you from allowing your child to create. Accept mess as a part of the process and an opportunity to teach your child to clean up afterwards.
Be a role model
Do you try to encourage your child to think differently while you shy away from anything outside your comfort zone? Do you praise her art while making excuses for your own (‘Oh, I’m just not good at drawing’)? This approach is not going to work. Let your child see you be creative and try new things. Only then they’ll perceive creativity as a good thing and something to strive towards.
Image by Henri1407 via pixabay.com
By Tatiana Apostolova
Do you have a project (or a dozen of them) that you’ve wanted to do forever, but never quite managed to fit into your busy schedule? If after all this time your project still on your mind, it must be something you really want to do, so go for it! Here’s how:
Choose one project
This is the stumbling block for many of us. You feel that, if you choose one, you’re saying ‘no’ to all the rest of your projects and ideas. But if you don’t choose, you’re saying ‘no’ to all of them. Just pick the one you feel most drawn to at this time and run with it. It’s not a lifelong commitment and if it helps, you can put a time limit to it. For example, you can decide to stay with a project for 30 days, then move on to something else. And if you’re still struggling to pick one, then pick two. Or three, but no more than that.
Schedule 15 minutes a day
Often we wait until we have a chunk of time that we think is reasonable – a couple of hours, a day or a weekend. And then there’s always something else, more important, to fill that chunk of time with. But if you take just 15 minutes a day (everyone has 15 minutes, right?), you’ll be surprised just how much you can get done and how quickly the minutes add up. Can’t find 15 minutes every day? Make it every second day. As long as you give your creative endeavour attention on a regular basis, you’ll build momentum and you’ll see your project grow. Now get a timer, set it for 15 minutes and go!
Protect your creative time
Once you put your 15 minutes on your schedule, stick with it. Say ‘no’ to unexpected requests. Turn off your phone. Don’t check your email. If you find yourself constantly interrupted when you’re at home, take yourself to a café or the local library. You may feel guilty and uncomfortable at first, but you deserve your creative time and the truth is, most of us can step away from our day-to-day lives without causing a major disaster.
As you engage your creativity, you’ll find increase energy, focus and passion that overflow into other areas of your life. Both you and the world around you will soon see the benefits of nurturing your creative side.
Image by ziggy2012 via pixabay.com
By Tatiana Apostolova
Innovation is certainly at the forefront of priorities for nearly all businesses. Everyone is searching for that competitive advantage, the next big thing, so surely there are ways to assist us in finding it? Is there a roadmap? Can ingenuity, imagination, creativity and resourcefulness be taught? Or are there other means of coming up with innovative ideas in business?
Whether you are looking to solve a problem, needing to keep ahead of your competition or simply striving to think of innovative business ideas, this process is usually not mandated, policy driven or the result of schematic activity. The big mistake many people make is trying to systematise something that requires the opposite of a system. It requires creativity.
So where does one get great business ideas? The answer is there is no specific ‘place’, but it does require two essential ingredients. The first is having the right headspace, and the second is connecting otherwise unconnected areas, or exploring the unfamiliar.
Firstly let’s look at headspace. We often hear stories of people coming up with great ideas in the shower or on a plane, and there is nothing intrinsically creativity-generating in these spaces. Nor are artificially created workspaces with colored walls and beanbags going to generate the big ‘aha’ moments. If it was as easy as being in the shower, then every morning, everyone in the country would be coming up with new innovations; clearly this isn’t what happens. The point is to find the environment that works for you to get the headspace to allow creativity to occur.
Headspace to deliberate and reflect on certain ideas is essential. It is simply not possible to allow yourself to be creative while at your desk simultaneously on a conference call, texting on your mobile, while trying to read an email as a colleague is asking you for a quick moment. You need to be in a clear frame of mind to allow ideas to manifest and grow into something tangible. Not a fleeting thought between calendar alerts.
Why is this the case? The truth is, is that nobody understands how this really works, but what we do know is that creativity is not about applied conscious effort, the way we could for example sit down and tackle a complex mathematical problem. On the contrary, a truly innovative ‘aha’ moment, no matter what anyone tells you, is a mystery. It pops into our head from somewhere unknown, a perfect collision of neurons that happen to reveal an insight. Once we have the conscious awareness, it seems so obvious, why didn’t I think of it earlier, but that real ingenuity needs the space to work its way to our conscious self.
The second ingredient is experiencing connecting the unconnected or unfamiliar. Two examples I like to mention is Ikea’s great innovation of a structured journey all customers must take through their stores. This actually wasn’t invented by Ikea, it existed, only in a totally unconnected way. The founder saw this process while holidaying in New York and visiting the Guggenheim Museum. The genius was in questioning why a retail store couldn’t or shouldn’t work in the same way as this museum.
Nobody would have thought to say: “Go the Guggenheim and your new business idea will come to mind!” – which is my point, you never know where an unfamiliar encounter will generate that ‘aha!’ moment.
The second example is the suitcase. Imagine going back 30 years and watching travellers in an airport. What would you notice about everyone’s carry-on bag and suitcase? You would immediately notice passengers awkwardly struggling to lift and move all their bags, none of which would have been on wheels. When was the wheel invented? Likely somewhat sooner than luggage! Fast-forward to today and every suitcase is on wheels. Neither the bag nor the wheel was a new invention; the only innovation was in successfully combining the two together.
So, in putting these concepts together, the best approach to innovation is getting out of your comfort zone, and being mindful of your surroundings. You never know when something seemingly unconnected could be the inspiration for the next big thing. If I was a retailer looking for inspiration on innovation or trend forecasting, the last thing I would do is attend a retailer’s conference or read an article about retailing. I might do a case study on Google for example, a hot bed of creativity. Or maybe spend time inside a logistics company to work out how to drive greater distribution efficiencies.
On the other hand, if I were at Google, in many ways disconnected from direct contact with customers, I might spend time at one of the most successful customer service organisations in hospitality, the Four Seasons.
We can be inspired from every industry, every company and in fact, every person we come into contact with. All we really need is to have is an open mind.
By Mat Jacobson, founder of Ducere
Where are all the great ideas when you need them? If you find yourself stuck, looking for a new solution or simply bored and craving something new, here are a few suggestions to get your creative juices flowing.
Lower your standards
You may be thinking here, “Really? How am I going to get better ideas if I keep the bar low?” Imagine you wanted to paint, but you’d only do it if you were guaranteed to paint a masterpiece. You’d never even start! On the other hand, if you just got started, your painting skills would improve overtime and you’d eventually create your masterpiece. The same concept applies to creative thinking. You need to start somewhere. Sometimes you’ll get lucky immediately. But more often you’ll tweak, change, improve and combine your not-so-great ideas before you come up with something truly useful.
Ask different questions
Your ideas are a direct response to the questions you’re asking yourself. So if you’re stuck, try looking at your challenge differently and exploring new questions. Why is it a challenge? Is there something else you need to solve first? How can you make your challenge smaller? Bigger? More fun? More beautiful? How can you simplify it? What if you painted it blue?
Change your settings
Another way to see your challenge from a new angle is to change your physical environment. Re-decorate your room, go to another room or, even better, go outside, to the park, the local library or a café. What do you notice from your new viewpoint?
Pretend you’re someone else
What would Leonardo da Vinci say if he was presented with your challenge? What about Albert Einstein? Imagine what the world would look like if you were them and notice if anything different comes to mind.
Share your ideas
Often we keep our ideas to ourselves because we’re afraid of being criticised. Sure, we avoid potential criticism, but we miss out on valuable feedback from others. Sometimes just one phrase or suggestion from a friend can set you on a whole new trail of thought that can lead to an unexpected conclusion.
When you feel like you’ve spent hours on a challenge and you’re not making any progress, it’s time to walk away and do something completely different. Your subconscious mind will be working on your behalf while you’re meditating, playing with your kids or taking a bath. Be sure to have a notebook handy to capture the new ideas when they arrive!
Play and have fun
Play engages your imagination, reduces stress levels and helps your ideas flow freely. You’re less likely to sensor and discard what you come up with as useless. Instead, your childlike curiosity will lead you to examine your ideas closely and seek new connections.
Do these suggestions sound too easy to be effective? Put them to the test!
Image by weinstock via pixabay.com
By Tatiana Apostolova
There are two common barriers to unleashing creativity in our lives. Firstly, we simply don’t feel any creative energy inside us. Work can be very draining, whether you’re in back-to-back meetings or just staring at a spreadsheet. At the end of the day it’s easy to feel you only have the energy to flop on the sofa and watch Big Brother on the telly.
Creativity is a beast that needs to be fed. Nurture yourself by spending some time absorbing the arts. Go to a play, or a movie that’s a little different to what you would normally choose. Listen to some music, really listen, don’t just have it on in the background. Read a good book. Anything that allows you to suspend reality and just enjoy the ride is good soul food. It’s great to do something like this regularly. Make it a priority, not just a way to pass the time.
The second barrier that stops us from being creative is focusing too strongly on the outcome. We’re trained at school and at work to write the best possible assignment and create the best looking presentation. In Home Economics we were marked on how good our cake looked, not how much fun we had making it.
As a result of being so focused on the end goal, we forget to enjoy the process, and when you’re introducing more creativity into your life, the process is the goal. It’s something that we do just for the pleasure of it, not because we particularly need appliqu?d cushion covers.
Remember kindergarten? Everyone loved painting. We’d paint and paint until the paper was soggy. And no matter what the end result was, we wanted to stick it up on the fridge. We loved to sing. We’d sing in the supermarket, or walking down the street, not caring what anyone else thought, we did it because we enjoyed it. It’s that sense of fun that is so often missing in our adult lives.
To enjoy being creative you need to give yourself permission to be less than perfect. When you sit down to write a short story, you need to fight the urge to edit every word before it’s even on the page. If you’re taking your first pottery class, it really doesn’t matter if you end up with a round bowl or not.
If you can’t silence your inner critic, then you need to outsmart it. Choose an activity you want to do, and just do it. Start writing. Start painting. Start singing. Don’t give yourself a split second to think about the outcome. Just do it, no matter how badly. Don’t allow the fear of creating something less than perfect stop you from enjoying yourself.
If you’re still too afraid to start writing that screenplay or rock song now, start smaller. Paint your toenails in different coloured stripes. Buy some lollies and decorate a cake. Take your camera somewhere new and work on your photographic skills.
Try not to take it too seriously. You’ll be surprised at the result when you loosen the reins on your creative self.
By Louise Pattie
*Louise Pattie is a freelance writer who likes motivating others and enjoys a range
of unfashionable hobbies.