Many of us strive to unlock our creativity and productivity. We search for wise words, study great minds and pick the brains of our colleagues about how to make it happen. But the truth is we have had the answer all along.
Creativity arises from a constant churn of ideas, and one of the easiest ways to encourage that fertile froth is to keep your mind engaged with your project. When you work regularly, inspiration strikes regularly
If you ever played a sport, you already know what to do. Practice. In basketball, you don’t just become a solid free-throw shooter overnight. You practice, for hours, day in and day out, until you master the skill.
Honing your creativity and productivity is no different.
“Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration,” the great Thomas Edison rather astutely pointed out. The idea is that establishing a work routine — a habit — that will lead to a consistent ability to create meaningfully.
Take charge of your work: It’s not about your surroundings, whether you work in a cubicle or from home. It’s about you setting a routine, or a set of habits, that can help you get the most out of your work.
“Specifically, it’s our routine (or lack thereof), our capacity to work proactively rather than reactively, and our ability to systematically optimize our work habits over time that determine our ability to make ideas happen,” says Scott Belsky, author of Making Ideas Happen. He is quoted by author Maria Popova, in her article How to Hone your Creative Routine and Master the Pace of Productivity.
What does that mean? It means paying attention to when you are most productive, what conditions you can create that boost your brain power and how you can tap into your productivity. Maybe it’s as simple as taking short breaks or walks around the office on a regular basis. Maybe it is performing your most creative or detailed work in the morning before interruptions start at the office.
For Oliver Burkeman, it turns out that using a timer to work in 90-minute segments, interspersed with breaks, was a significant breakthrough to productivity. While Burkeman works from home, it is ideas like this can help you create a routine that will work for you. Read more about his work habit experiment at Rise and Shine: The Daily Routines of History’s most Creative Minds.
Keep a consistent routine: Slow and steady wins the race. There is a lot to be said for day in and day out work, be it your daily works tasks or daily writing exercises. Whatever you choose to do to tap into your creativity, do it consistently, rather than in sporadic, frenzied bursts.
“Creativity arises from a constant churn of ideas, and one of the easiest ways to encourage that fertile froth is to keep your mind engaged with your project. When you work regularly, inspiration strikes regularly,” says Popova.
Popova also quotes Gretchen Rubin author of The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun, as saying:
“Progress is reassuring and inspiring; panic and then despair set in when you find yourself getting nothing done day after day. One of the painful ironies of work life is that the anxiety of procrastination often makes people even less likely to buckle down in the future.”
Just do it: So you don’t feel creative? Work anyway. Popova quotes author E. B. White, “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”
You never know at what point inspiration will strike, but it’s likely at some point when you are actually working. Working through a creative lull is what separates the pros from the amateurs.
“First of all, being creative is not summoning stuff ex nihilo. It’s work, plain and simple — adding something to some other thing or transforming something,” Popova quotes writer Michael Erard in How to Break Through Your Creative Block: Strategies from 90 of Today’s Most Exciting Creators.