By Alex Braun
Imagination is a big deal. Not just for artists or musicians, but for anyone who makes decisions that affect an outcome. (That’s all of you.)
Without creativity, nothing can be tested or improved. Routines become stagnant, problems go unfixed and the fruits of your hard work become less and less suited to the realities of a changing world.
With all the knowledge we have available to us these days, you’d think us millennials would be much more creative than our parents were when they were our age. Yet many people I know — myself included — feel frozen sometimes, unable to switch gears and bring new ideas to the table.
If you feel like you’ve lost your creative edge, it might be easier to reclaim than you think. Here are three simple changes that can help snap you out of a rut.
#1. Take advantage of your commute.
Hate driving to work? It’s actually a great opportunity to give your mind a rest. Instead of repeatedly analyzing what you’ll have to do when you arrive, try to devote at least half of your time to thinking about nothing more than the traffic around you. Having a clear head at the start of the day should make you more — not less — efficient.
#2. Listen to music with little or no words.
You’ve probably heard studies that claim listening to classical music can improve critical thinking. I’ve noticed a tendency to think more creatively any time I listen to music with an unfamiliar structure and lack of lyrics — two common characteristics of classical music that can also apply to other genres.
Consciously or not, I’ll lock into familiar thoughts or memories when I hear spoken words. Instrumental music or environmental noise just seems to contain less of these triggers, allowing my mind to go places it doesn’t normally visit. And that’s where so many brilliant solutions are born.
#3. Unplug for a while.
Some people can’t afford to disconnect for too long, but take an hour each day — or a day each week — to shun your smartphone, avoid Facebook, and stop checking for new emails or texts or instant alerts. There’s a great article by Scott Belsky, founder and CEO of Behance, that outlines why it’s difficult to break the habit of these distractions — but why it’s ultimately necessary to get ourselves thinking more effectively.
Still feeling desperately unoriginal? Check out some other articles on The99Percent to hear how some of the world’s top creative professionals get it together.