Sep 082011

boost your creativity

5 Tips To Boost Your Creativity

Creativity is important in many aspects of life.  Not only is it useful in business, sports, and all kinds of problem solving, it can be quite satisfying and fulfilling as well.

I went through a good portion of my life being moderately creative, but not realizing it.  Most of my pursuits early in life and early in my career involved decidedly “left-brain” analytical activities.  If it involved organizing and analyzing, it was for me.  I had a good career in such activities as financial analysis and modeling and I built several businesses and “practices” based on those skills.

At some point a few years ago, I realized that I had more creativity than I ever gave myself credit for.  I cannot remember the exact catalyst or the precise moment when I had this “revelation,” but I think it had to do with watching my second son excel with drawing, painting and music.  These are activities I had always admired from afar, but had never delved into because I had committed the cardinal sin of putting myself in the left-brain analytical “bucket” and I assumed that was pretty much mutually exclusive with doing well at “right-brain” activities.

Since that “light bulb” went off that my kid must be getting at least some of his creative ability from my side of the equation, I’ve made a concerted effort to not sell myself short as being “just” a left-brainer.  I realized that most of his ability probably came more from my wife’s side, as she is very creative and has a knack for drawing and music, but I encouraged myself and concluded that there must be at least some remnants of right-brainer in me.

Well, the news is good and bad.  It’s still apparent that unless some miracle occurs, it’s very unlikely that I will be able to draw, paint or play music the way my son does.  The good news, however, is while I may not be the “pure” creative type that he is, I have been able to infuse a lot of my left-brain work with elements of the creativity he displays.  Here I will share with you some of the techniques I have used to do this.  This will not be a scientific discussion, nor will it be anything that I can say I’ve “proven statistically,” but then again, I don’t want to get too left-brainy on you in this article about creativity.

Here are five of the techniques that have worked for me to enhance my creativity and what I’ll call my level of creative productivity.

Creativity-Enhancing Technique One:  Find Your Happy Place

Find a place where you can go to “get away from it all” and just focus on being creative.  In essence I’m saying create your “studio,” just as most artists would.  Claim a quiet place for yourself, where you can be away from the distractions of your home or office.  In my experience at least, having quiet is important.  Undoubtedly, if you’re motivated enough to be reading an article about enhancing your creativity, you’re probably a very busy person.  This means that you have a million distractions.  In order to tap your creativity, typically you need to get into a state of mind that blocks out most of the mundane distractions.  Find a place where you can do that.

Creativity-Enhancing Technique Two:  Find Your Ideal Time

Some people are “night people”.  Some people are more productive in the early morning.  Some like the mid-afternoon.  Chances are that you already have a good sense of when you are most productive.  In my case, the early mornings have always been the time when I get the most done.  I like it because no one else is awake, there’s hardly any ambient noise, and I feel like I’m getting a head start on the day.  For you it may be late in the evening.  In the end, it doesn’t matter.  Whatever works for you is what you should go with.  What’s important though, at least in my experience, is that to the extent possible, you dedicate a particular time slot to your creative activities.  That’s not to say that you cannot be creative at other times during the day.  You can be and I’m confident that you will be, if you give it a try.  However, I am saying that you are likely to have better “creativity results” in the long run, if you are willing and able to designate a time slot for “creative time”.

Creativity-Enhancing Technique Three:  Identify Your Creative Outlet

Now that you are setting up the perfect time and place for you to “get your creative on,” you need to figure out what you will actually do to tap your “inner creativity”.  I’m not advocating that you choose just one thing.  Try painting, try music, try writing – try as many things as you like, until you find one or two that really click for you.  My main creative outlet, at least at this time, is writing.   Although I’ve had what I’d characterize as a “love-hate relationship” with writing my whole life, I have found that it is the perfect creative outlet for me.  What is yours?  Experiment and do what it takes to find it.  The good news, and a point that I want to be sure to get across, is that it almost doesn’t matter what “outlet” you choose.  If your experience is anything like mine has been, once you get the creative juices flowing with your primary creative outlet, it will have collateral benefits in all of your activities.  You will find yourself being more creative throughout your personal and business life and you will be pleasantly surprised when you start getting compliments for being good at notoriously right-brain dominated activities.

Creativity-Enhancing Technique Four:  Use “Props” Where Necessary

Sometimes “life gets in the way” and you are not able to create your ideal place or time.  Sometimes you also just find it very difficult to get the creative juices flowing.  In those cases, it’s important to have a series of “go-to” tools and what I’m referring to as “props” that help you to get in the right frame of mind to be creative.  Some watch humor, others look at amazing pictures of landscapes (or whatever), and still others use music.  There are hundreds, if not thousands of possibilities.  Experiment and find what works for you.  With time, you’ll end up with a short list of tools, techniques and props to get your creative juices flowing.  In my case, my “go-to” prop is, and always has been, music.  I listen to a very wide variety of music and I change it for the particular situation and mood I’m in.  Most of what I listen to for creativity enhancing purposes is classical music.  I have various playlists on my Ipod and I’ve created a YouTube playlist with more than 100 of my all time favorites.  Sometimes I want something a little more “hardcore” though and I’ll listen to one of my alternative, Brazilian or other Latin playlists.  I listen mainly in three languages:  English, Spanish, and Portuguese, but sometimes I’ll throw in music in a language I don’t know or only know a little, just to change it up a bit.  Find whatever works for you and go with it.

Creativity-Enhancing Technique Five:  Focus

When you go into “creative mode,” work on blocking out other distractions.  We live in a world now where there is always a focus-robbing distraction one click or one device away.  We have our smart phones, our tablets, our notebooks, our desktops, our TVs, our PS2’s, our XBOX’s, among many other distractions.  I’m not saying those things are intrinsically bad.  In fact, they are important tools when you’re trying to bring your level of awareness and stress down to a manageable level, particularly after long stretches of high intensity.  In general though, they are not good devices when you are trying to get into the creative mode that we’ve been talking about here.  If you are trying to get involved in some more classically “right-brain activities” and particularly if you tend to be from more of a left-brain orientation, you will need to concentrate.  So just focus on the task at hand.  If you’re writing, write.  If you’re painting, paint.  If you’re playing a musical instrument, play it.  Immerse yourself in the creative activity you are trying to master.  Many of the great minds of history have made comments to the effect that their “genius” has been the product of their focus, immersion and dedication to conquering the particular task at hand.  Remove all distractions.

So there you have five of the techniques I’ve used to tap my “right-brain” creativity a bit more deliberately than I had been historically.  I can tell you that it has been very rewarding.  It has made me feel as though I’ve been able to access a more balanced right-brain/left-brain perspective in all that I do in my business and personal life.

Give these techniques a try and let me know about others that you use.  As you obviously are, given that you’ve read this article, I am always seeking ways to learn and become more creative and effective in what I do.  It can add another whole dimension of enjoyment and fulfillment to your life!

I look forward to your thoughts and questions.  Please leave a comment (“response”) below or in the upper right corner of this post.

Paul Morin


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