How to be More Creative at Work |

How to be More Creative at Work

I sat down to write today, but couldn’t find the words. So instead, I began cleaning out my closets and purging old clothes that I haven’t worn in a year. An hour later, I was moving my couch and sweeping underneath, then dusting my TV, and putting on clean bedding.

It was then that I remembered I needed a clean, uncluttered environment to help me think creatively.

This applies to my house and also to my desk at work. I often find that when my desk is cluttered, so is my mind.  A little cleaning, organizing, and some quick feng shui helps my creativity flow much easier. And other things that need to be accomplished no longer distract me. Out of sight, out of mind.

After thirteen years in the advertising and marketing game, I’ve come to recognize the important factors necessary for my personal creative process. I need to remove all the obstacles. Clear the clutter. Turn off the television. Log out of Facebook and Twitter. And just focus my attention to get ‘er done.

It’s a funny thing, creativity. It can sneak up on you when you least expect it, or disappear right when you need it most. I decided to reach out to my network to find out what makes them feel more creative on the job. Everyone I spoke with seemed to have different methods of unlocking and super-charging their creativity.

Doug Bramah, Creative Director in Toronto, and Mark Busse, owner of Industrial Brand both gave similar insights; that heading out of the office and finding a change of scenery is the best way to reunite with your creativity.

Most agencies have these open work environments; they’re noisy and there’s a lot of distraction. Sometimes that stifles the creative process.

Says Bramah.

Parks, coffee shops, restaurants – just changing where you do your work can make a big impact.”

But not all of us can come and go as we please.

Louis Davis, a software developer, can’t often leave the office during the workday to find creative inspiration. So he turns to Redbull, good music and some high-end headphones to get his creative motor running.

Sometimes you just have to push yourself to get a project done – and occasionally, you don’t realize you’re being creative until after you’ve finished.”

Across the pond, Kristine Potter, Account Director at Proximity London told me about how her agency transformed one of their boardrooms to help inspire creative thought within the building.

We turned it into a beach! Complete with sand, wading pool, lounge chairs, and of course, cocktails!

Sounds brilliant. (Now all that’s missing is an Olympic men’s beach volleyball team.)

Many of the tips I received included reading industry-related blogs, white papers, and case studies. Kelsey Breakey, owner of database marketing company Grow Communications says,

I surround myself with smart and creative people as much as possible. I also spend time reading articles, case studies, and blogs. Other people’s success inspires me. I seek out and leverage new technology and thinking whenever possible and that helps me to come up with new ideas that push the envelope.”

Although not quite as simple as navigating your way to an industry-blog, or flipping the pages of Marketing Magazine, the gym is also a fantastic way to recharge your creative juices. Running on the treadmill, lifting weights, or hitting a cardio-dance or yoga class. These things all help me to get my blood flowing, clear my head and change focus for a little while. It recharges me and allows me to think more creatively when I head back to the office.

Another avenue to explore, which will build your creativity over the long-term, is volunteerism. I think getting “out-there” to experience new situations, meeting new people, and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is paramount to growing as a creative individual. I’ve been lucky enough to volunteer with NABS, BCAMA, ABCOM, and F Cancer over my career, and I truly feel it has helped me to expand and grow my creativity. I’ve been able to work on projects that I would otherwise not be offered. I’ve met inspiring people and expanded my network beyond what I thought was possible.

What’s more, having a huge network of creative people can be a Godsend when you hit the wall. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve reached out to my network for inspiration and advice.

Creativity and the way you access it needs to be exercised. The more you nurture your creative side, the easier it will be to recharge and rev-up when you’re hitting a wall.

Creative directors, business owners, account directors, software developers and database marketers – they all have their own tricks and tips on how to be more creative at work. But the number one tip is don’t be lazy.

The more you practice, and the more disciplined you become, the easier it will be for you to understand and get the most out of your creativity.

  • Ad Guru

    I have found that the older I get, the more i read, the more i learn, the more creative I get. When I read my newspapers, magazines and watch TV, I find it hard to understand how uncreative most agency people are. No doubt, it’s in large part to client meddling, but I still managed to win over 100 awards over 12 years WITHOUT ENTERING THE SAME PIECE TWICE! Problem now is that I’m older no one wants me… right when I’m at the top of my game. Now that’s what I call uncreative in a creative business.

    • Jenn Wallis

      It’s true. Sometimes agencies and clients don’t want creativity. They want someone to execute their ideas to the letter. I’ve seen it first hand, but I’ve also seen a nice portion of agencies and clients who respect and seek out creativity. Keep the faith, Ad Guru.

  • Sam Zipursky

    Nice insights Jenn. For me I have to agree with you 100% on the environment…There is nothing better then the feeling of me completely cleaning up the home studio, dusting, organizing, the works and then lighting some incense, putting on my favorite jazz and making a coffee. Once that ritual is done some of my best design/music/creative work comes out of me…I also find turning off the phone and closing Gmail/Facebook helps too 🙂

    • Jenn Wallis

      Coffee! Of course. How could I forget coffee!?

  • Patricia Lambert

    Perhaps before changing anything, we could each define for ourselves what creativity looks like – for us. I believe creativity, by its very nature, is not something to be practiced or disciplined.

    • Jenn Wallis

      Hi Patricia. I agree – it’s important to know what creativity looks like. This is merely a discussion of how to remove the barriers that can sometimes get in the way of creativity. It helps to know what those barriers are, and have the ability to quickly identify and address them.

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  • Patrick Smyth

    Well thought out. Thank you. Everyone is different and has their own special ‘happy place’ that they may need to go to get a fresh perspective.

    Practice, as you point out, is essential. And practicing different skills on a regular basis that may not fit with those common to you will certainly hone new ones.

    • Jenn Wallis

      Agreed! Thanks, Patrick!