Whether you’re a marketer, an entrepreneur, or any other professional who needs to grow a business, it’s your responsibility to come up with creative ideas on a consistent basis. They might be innovative new ideas for products and services, unique solutions to challenging problems, or new designs for marketing and advertising campaigns. It doesn’t matter—creativity is everywhere.
There’s a big problem with creativity in your profession, however; it’s not something you can force. If you try to force yourself to be creative, you’ll find it even harder to come up with new ideas, and you’ll stress yourself out as well.
Instead, creativity is the natural byproduct of your environment—and with a handful of simple controls, you can make sure your environment is one that welcomes and encourages creativity.
What Creativity Requires
These are the baseline ingredients necessary for coming up with more creative ideas:
1. A good night’s sleep.
Sleeping is important and pertinent to creativity. With a good night’s sleep, you’ll think clearer, and you’ll have more attention and focus to dedicate to your projects. You’ll be able to form new memories easier, and tie those memories together in unique ways. You’ll even be able to dream more, which could give you the random stimulation you need to wake up and concoct something new. You should be getting at least 7 hours of sleep a night, so you may need to rearrange your schedule to achieve it.
2. Low stress.
One of the reasons “forcing” creativity is so counterproductive is because it stresses you out. Suddenly, you have a deadline, and your anxiety starts creeping in. Every time one of your thoughts turns into a worry, or gets rushed because you’re in a state of high stress, you get distracted from the opportunity to create something new. Accordingly, you need to be in a state of low stress if you want to come up with your best material; work on reducing environmental stress factors, and relieving stress with exercise, meditation, and enjoyable hobbies.
3. Inspiring surroundings.
Next, work on giving yourself more inspiring surroundings. Consider hanging art in your office, especially if it’s abstract and forces you to think abstractly; glancing up at someone else’s work can help you “zoom out” and come up with new ideas. You could also play some new music, or introduce new scents to the office; almost any kind of sensory stimulation works here. The more diverse these things are, the better; the last thing you need is plain white walls in a sterile office environment.
4. Idle time.
You can’t come up with creative ideas when your brain is overly active; instead, the best and most creative ideas come when the brain is in a restful state. One reason people claim to come up with good ideas while they’re in the shower is because while showering, you aren’t occupied with anything; your mind is relaxed, and has time to put pieces of other ideas together into new insights and new ideas. Give yourself more time to be bored throughout the day, and let your mind wander as it will. If you’re like most people, your mind is always racing, so this may take some practice to perfect.
5. Exposure to novelty.
Finally, go out of your way to be confronted with new perspectives and experiences, each of which will inspire you on some level, and add more information to your mental archives that you can incorporate into new, future ideas. This could mean anything from seeing a movie and exploring a new part of town, to talking to and meeting new people. Anything new—a break from your usual routine—will be helpful.
Mastering Your Environment
Some of these changes can be done instantly, while others need to be cultivated over time (and reinforced with ongoing support). Creativity is about a flash of inspiration, but there is predictable, training-like groundwork that you can provide in the meantime. Take time every day to dedicate to improving your environment, and gradually, you’ll find yourself generating better and better ideas.