Have you ever wondered how the most creative people consistently come up with great ideas, from great business leaders to writers on your favorite television shows? Well, the difference between them and the rest of us comes down to how they they manage their time and their stress -- two of the biggest deterrents to creative potential.
Sounds like common sense, right? I would agree, except that over my consulting career, I have worked with countless professionals who spend most of their time trying to be productive so they can have more time to relax and be creative. They spend their time practicing focused thinking.
In the end, focused thinking is counterproductive to creativity as it extinguishing our limited energy on menial actions, which is great for productivity, but lousy for creativity. Moreover, the habits we develop along the way box us into a routine of thinking of things to do rather than of thinking of new things.
Sound familiar? Don't worry, you aren't alone, and like a head cold, it's curable.
If you want to unlock your creative potential, try diverting some of your time and energy from focused thinking to diffuse thinking, which is the practice of stepping away and allowing your mind to wander freely. Doing so encourages and gives your brain time to make random connections it was too busy to make before.
Now, this is not license to get on your phone or binge watch Netflix, as these are the types of activities that feed narratives to your brain, having the opposite effect and encouraging no thinking to happen whatsoever.
And while eliminating thinking may sounds appealing, especially after a long and arduous day or week of work, developing a creative habit requires you to actually practice creativity -- every day. Here are a few ways to get started.
1. Get On Your Feet
Taking a casual stroll not only encourages blood flow to important parts of the brain, it also helps remove yourself from the work environments in which you have forced associations. Being in new environments, and especially those that take you out of your comfort zone, exposes you to new sites and sensory inputs, all of which spark new connections in your brain.
2. Give Yourself a Break
Have you had the situation when you had a difficult time remembering something you should know? Someone's name or historical fact? Before the days of having Google on our phones, we would become consumed with trying to remember -- only to have the memory pop into your brain in the middle of the night, two days later, when we weren't thinking of it.
That is not coincidental. When you busy yourself with tasks or projects, your brain can become oversaturated. For this reason, we need to allow our brains to turn off and restart from time to time. While taking a walk is a great idea, so too is just pushing yourself away from your desk and forcibly not thinking about what you were doing. Don't worry about losing your place -- you wouldn't need to take a break if you weren't already lost.
3. Sleep On It
Sleeping has many benefits, especially as it pertains to creativity. When you sleep, your brain is thought to "file" all the information it has processed over the past day, putting away memories and creating previously unnoticed connections. Moreover, waking up each morning, fresh and rejuvenated, gives you a clean slate on which to practice your creativity.
4. Go To Your Zen Place
Meditation continues to grow in popularity among the most successful business leaders because of the importance and value in quieting your mind and resting -- just like how muscles need time to recover after rigorous exercise. And while the practice is not for everyone, allowing yourself just five minutes a day to develop a habit of intentional meditation will repower your brain and give it the energy it needs to maximize creativity.
Bonus: Start a Journal
On a final note, I recommend keeping a journal to scribe your thoughts and ideas as you have them. This allows you to record any idea quickly for future reference and return to diffused thinking.
By Peter Gasca Entrepreneur, consultant, and author @petergasca