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Boost your creativity, be more productive

Boost your creativity, be more productive

We’re all constantly chasing productivity. Micro organising our lives so that every single second counts, downloading apps to make our lives easier, writing lists, hitting targets and setting reminders so that our lives run like well-oiled machines. Time means money in business, so on paper, creativity is the enemy to efficiency.

Creativity means spontaneity, chaos, experimentation and relaxation. It requires you to sit back and observe the race, rather than constantly trying to win it. For me though, creativity is crucial to success. Here are five easy ways to boost your creativity and be more productive in the workplace:

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1. Clear your head

There’s no set formula for this. Everyone’s mind is different so it needs different treatment. I like to surf or meditate. Getting out of the office for even ten minutes a day can give you the space you need to readjust and find a new perspective. If you can’t escape, meditation is great because you can do it anywhere. Like anything, it takes practise and you have to be strict with it, but if all you take from it is a break from looking at your emails, you will still have benefitted. The clearer your head is the easier you’ll find it to think creatively and focus. It will put you in a better mood for the rest of the day and increase your ability to make decisions.

2. Concentrate on your happiness

Happier people make better employees. It’s a fact. When you’re feeling more positive about a task, you’re usually more dedicated and imaginative in your approach. Of course, there’s no easy answer to being happy, but it should be one of your top priorities. Set time aside every day to do something you love, whether that’s running, reading a book, spending time with your family or watching TV. Make your work fun when you can and never take yourself too seriously.

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3. Be lazy

Working without taking breaks is dangerous to your physical wellbeing, but it also affects the way you think. As the day drags on you loose enthusiasm and passion for what you’re doing, get confused, frustrated and usually end up completing very little. Free time is the fuel for productivity and creativity. It doesn’t really matter what you do with it, but you have to completely switch off to properly replenish your brain’s motivation. That means no emails, no smart phones and no tablets. On holiday, I swap my iPhone for an old Nokia to make sure I’m not even tempted to check my inbox, but it means that my office could still reach me in an emergency.

4. Brainstorm, talk and read

Exchanging ideas with colleagues and friends opens up new perspectives and elevates your work to a new level. Talk and listen to everyone you can; read articles, books, blogs or even comics, anything that will inspire you and alter your perspectives. I recommend joining a business group or finding a mentor so that you can focus your discussions and gain advice from people you admire; remember that it’s just as important to talk non-business and let your brain be consumed by something else for a while.

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5. Think about your space

Whether you like it or not, your office is a place you’re going to be a lot. It could be a desk, a room in a high rise building or your kitchen, wherever it is, make it a place where you feel comfortable and relaxed. I work at a standing up desk, which makes me feel more energetic and dynamic, especially when I’m on sales calls, but it could be as simple as putting a framed picture of your family on your desk or a potted plant.

Featured photo credit: Jeremy Ricketts via unsplash.com

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More by this author

Richard Walton

Founder of AVirtual

Boost your creativity, be more productive Hitchhiker by Atlas Green Why asking for help isn’t the same as giving in The Secret to Productivity: Work Less, Get More Done Clearing the office to clear the mind 8 Tasks You Should Be Delegating

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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