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Can’t Think of Creative Ideas Easily? Try These 5 Tricks to Become an Idea Machine

Can’t Think of Creative Ideas Easily? Try These 5 Tricks to Become an Idea Machine

You might not even consider yourself a creative person, but chances are, you have been in a situation that requires a little creative thinking. Maybe it was getting out of an argument, or presenting a fresh idea to your hard-to-please boss. Regardless of the situation, you had to dig deep into the right side of your brain and find a unique approach and artistic outcome. But sometimes, even if you do consider yourself a creative person, the ideas seem to be stuck in your head.

When writers experience it, it’s called writer’s block, and it’s an incredibly frustrating conundrum to find oneself in. Non-writers call it just-plain-stressful, and it’s true. One startling study showed that 75% of people felt they were not living up to their creative potential. So how do those 25% manage to feel fulfilled, creatively? Perhaps they have a few tricks.[1]

Common Obstacles That Stop You from Unleashing Your Creative Potential

If you have trouble tapping in to your inner artist, you aren’t alone and you aren’t untalented. Life is filled with things that can get in the way of your own creativity.

  • You’re afraid to fail. It’s a simple truth: none of us want to be failures. If we put ourselves out there, especially creatively, and we aren’t successful…well, it really makes it challenging to ever want to take that kind of risk again.[2]
  • You overthink. When you’re struck with inspiration, at first you feel excited and passionate about your vision. But then, that little voice in your head tells you that people won’t understand, and you should probably go in a different direction. Even though that voice is rarely right, it can be nearly impossible to ignore it.[3]
  • You’re going to be criticized. Look, creativity is personal. It’s because of this that any kind of feedback feels like an attack. When it comes to creativity, you have to be willing to find criticism helpful, not hurtful.[4]
  • You like following guidelines. If you’re given a menial task at work, it doesn’t require a whole lot of thought. You can easily follow a patterned guideline and feel confident that you know what the end result will look like. But when it comes to approaching or creating something in an imaginative, new way, you have no guidelines or helpful hints; it’s all you.

Creative Thinking Can Fast-Track Your Career Success

Yes, creative thinking can be challenging and even scary, but it’s important. In fact, Mark Cuban, billionaire software developer and judge on the hit show ‘Shark Tank,’ is confident that creative thinking will be the most important job skill you can have.

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Computers, and technology in general, continue to take over everything from processes multiple people had to do, to taking orders in a fast food restaurant. It’s scary to think about, but many jobs are no longer safe now that computers can write code better than the average student.

I personally think there’s going to be a greater demand in 10 years for liberal arts majors than there were for programming majors and maybe even engineering. When the data is all being spit out for you, options are being spit out for you, you need a different perspective in order to have a different view of the data…critical thinking and liberal arts degrees will make a huge comeback. You can’t automate good writing—Facebook has already proven that replacing journalists with an algorithm can have problematic results. – Mark Cuban

While it may sound like a plot straight out of a sci-fi movie, the human race is officially in competition with artificial intelligence. Now, more than ever, we need to think ahead to determine how we add value. Think: What can I do that a computer cannot?

Thankfully, that answer tends to be thinking creatively. Computers and artful intelligence are programmed to be logical and accurate. Art and creativity is the exact opposite.

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Let’s Get Creative: 5 Ways to Get Your Mojo Back

Have Breaks and You May Find Your Muse.

I know, I know. I just told you that artificial intelligence is after your job and now I’m telling you to relax. But it’s not as counter-intuitive as it sounds. When you spend hours upon hours trying to churn out creativity and the next brilliant idea, you can create your own burn out. When you feel stuck and like nothing is coming to that artsy brain of yours, get up and go for a walk.[5]

If you allow yourself a change of scenery, your perception changes (not just literally, but figuratively as well). If you see something new, you may find yourself getting inspired. For me, simply walking past a building I’ve never seen before can get my thoughts moving. What’s the history? Who walked through those doors? If it’s abandoned, I want to know why. Suddenly I have come up with fictional answers to my non-fiction questions. By the time I walk back to my desk, I’m ready to write a short story or a poem. And all it took was a little fresh air and new scenery.

Surround Yourself With Creative People But Avoid Vicious Competition.

This tip comes with a disclaimer: do not allow this to become a competitive group. Accept each others’ creativity and embrace it! Do not try to be better or more creative than the other!

Regardless of your medium, having a group of like-minded people can do wonders for your right-brain. If you write, have a regular meeting in which you peer-review each others’ work and get inspired by other people’s views and ideas. If you’re a musician, go to as many open mic nights as you can. Network with singers, songwriters, etc. Even if they have a completely different sound than you, you may find bits and pieces of their style than encourage you to try something new with your own.

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Even if you’re only trying to be creative in your day-to-day life, finding groups of artists, or even taking some amateur art classes, can dramatically change your daily point of view. These interactions, no matter how uncomfortable they may seem at first, will help you to approach everything just a little differently. That’s the first step to tapping into your creativity.

Doodle. Sketch. Draw. Even If, and Especially If, You Are Not an Artist.

Any time I’m in a long meeting that I can’t focus on, I will let myself doodle little trees or flowers in the margins of the paper I’m supposed to be taking notes on. Granted, I am not encouraging you to get yelled at by your boss, but it turns out drawing, even if it’s just squiggly lines and shapes, can help you focus on something you would otherwise tune out. When it comes to tapping into your creative forces, letting the pen free style on your paper can lead to some really unique ideas. The key is to not have any kind of vision or end-goal for the image. In fact, bonus points if you barely recognize what you drew![6]

Play With Toys at Work to Stop Yourself from Feeling Bored.

I have so many odd toys and figurines on my desk that I am often the go-to for a coworker’s child after school. The kids usually think I keep the toys for them, but actually they’re for me! Having legos or any kind of building block-type toys on your desk is great for your imagination. When you spend 8 hours a day typing emails or working on spreadsheets, your whole body sort of zones out. This makes creative thinking a real challenge. But if you can break up your day by putting something together with your hands, it allows your brain the break it needs to think creatively and be present. Turn off that auto-pilot!

Disrupt All Your Patterns and Habits.

This may be the most challenging tip, but it’s also one of the most effective. When you live in the same place for a while, and you work in the same place for a while, you develop habits. You know when you wake up, you know when to start the coffee, you know when traffic is the best and the worst. You know the order you do things when you get to work or school, and you know the usual places you like to go for lunch or an afternoon cup of tea of coffee.

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Stop doing all of this.[7]

I’m not recommending you dare traffic and start leaving the house at crazy times, but I am suggesting you vary your habits. If you always put your coffee in your cup and then your cream, try it reversed. If you check your emails on your phone before getting to work, check them on your computer once you arrive at your desk. These are small shifts that can rock the rest of your day in other subtle ways, jarring the creativity within you and forcing it to surface. And who knows, you may find your new favorite restaurant in the process!

Go forth, and be creative.

To sum it all up, remember you aren’t alone. Almost everyone is struggling with their creative goals, and those same people are terrified to be judged or disappointing in their ideas and creative approaches. But creative thinking will define you, and soon! Just because you may find it challenging at times, don’t give up on letting the right brain take over! The creativity you allow yourself to find could just change the world as we know it!

Reference

More by this author

Heather Poole

Technical writer

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Last Updated on October 17, 2018

7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

How is your memory? Is your cognitive function as strong as you’d like it to be?

If not, then you’re definitely going to be interested in the memory improvement tips I’ll be sharing with you in this article.

Despite what you might think – or have been told – improving your ability to recall information is certainly possible. You just need to know the right ways to do it. (Don’t worry, as you won’t need to make any significant lifestyle changes.)

So how to improve memory? Let’s dive straight into the first of seven easy ways to improve your memory significantly.

1. Meditate

We live in a world of non-stop, 24/7 information. It’s like a waterfall that’s endlessly pouring news, data, facts and figures into our conscious minds.

Unfortunately, our brains are not designed to absorb this tremendous amount of information. It’s no wonder then, that most people struggle to remember information and recall things.

Even if you believe you have a good memory and are comfortable with multi-tasking, you’ll also be aware that there’s only so much information your brain can process at one time. And research suggests that the more information and distractions, the harder it is for you to transfer information to your long-term memory.[1]

Fortunately, meditation can help you out.

Even if you just meditate for 10 minutes per day, you’ll boost your ability to focus, which in turn, will make it easier for you to remember important facts.

If you need help in shifting into a meditative state, I recommend trying an app like Headspace – which can assist you to achieve this in a convenient and structured way.

And don’t forget, meditation doesn’t just have to be closing your eyes and sitting in a lotus position. Some people prefer to simply take a short walk in nature. This clears and calms their mind, and still provides the all-important boost to their focus.

2. Get plenty of sleep

If you’re sleep deprived or have not been sleeping well, then I’m guessing you’re not remembering well either. This is because sleep and memory are intimately connected.

If you have a busy life and regularly find yourself not getting enough sleep, then this will negatively impact your cognitive abilities – including your memory.

How much sleep should you be getting?

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Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation, you need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you get this amount of sleep regularly, then within just a few days, you’ll see a tangible improvement to your ability to remember and recall things.

Now, I’ll be honest with you, maintaining a proper sleep cycle is not always easy (especially when the latest Netflix series has just been released!). But if you care about improving your short-term and long-term ability to remember things, then it’s critical that you try to get at least the recommended amount of sleep every night.

Are there ways to hack the sleep cycle?

Yes, there are.

Try these three things:

  • Have a fixed bedtime (preferably before 10pm)
  • Don’t eat too late
  • Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible

Sleeping is a precious activity. It regenerates your body, clears your mind, and helps with the storing and retrieval of information.

However, don’t sleep just yet, as I want to tell you about another great way to increase memory…

3. Challenge your brain

When was the last time you challenged your brain?

I don’t mean challenged in the sense of overeating or undersleeping. I’m referring to stretching your mental capabilities through things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku and memory games.

To expand your memory bank, and to make your recall razor-sharp, you need to continually challenge your brain.

Feedback from Lifehack readers such as yourself, has suggested that brain training apps are a super-effective way of doing this. Used regularly, these apps can enhance your focus, attention span, problem-thinking ability and memory.

There are hundreds of these apps available (most of them for free), but I recommend starting out with one of the big three:

  • Peak (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
  • Lumosity (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
  • Elevate (Android/iOS, free, 5 million+ downloads)

If you normally spend a chunk of your week playing computer games, then instead of shooting and killing your enemies, why not let some of them live – while you put your attention into boosting your brain power!

Challenging your brain will strengthen your neural pathways and enhance your mental abilities. But don’t just take my word for it, try one of the apps above and see the positive benefits for yourself.

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4. Take more breaks

When I think back to my days as a budding entrepreneur, I distinctively remember working all the hours under the sun – and many under the moon too!

At that time, I believed that breaks were for the weak, and to become wealthy and successful, I needed to shed blood, sweat and tears.

However, I was wrong.

Taking regular breaks is the best way to keep yourself productive, creative and alive to opportunities. It’s also the best way to learn new information.

Let me explain.

Typically, when studying lots of new information, most people will spend hours reading it – in an attempt to learn and remember the content as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, they’ve overlooked something.

Namely, extended study sessions are rarely a good thing, as your ability to retain information naturally declines after a certain period of time.

It’s similar to physical exercise. You wouldn’t attempt to train vigorously for four hours in a row. Instead, you’d take regular breaks to give your lungs, heart and muscles adequate time to recover. Failing to do this will result in muscle cramps and overexertion.

It’s the same with your brain. If you overload it with information, you’ll suffer from mental fatigue.

What’s the answer?

Make sure you take regular breaks when learning new information. I recommend at least a 10-minute break every hour. (You may also want to take a look at the Pomodoro Method.)

If you don’t want to be as regimented as that, then take breaks as soon as you find yourself losing the ability to focus on the new material. Your brain will thank you – and your learning aptitude will move up a level.

5. Learn a new skill

I love this quote, as it’s 100% true – but frequently overlooked:

“Learning never exhausts the mind.” – Leonardo da Vinci

From my experience of helping to develop the careers of dozens of Lifehack employees, I can definitively say that participating in meaningful and purposeful activities stimulates the mind. It also reduces stress and enhances health and well-being.

Let me give you an example of this:

Imagine you work for a global financial institution in one of their call centers. You take over 100 calls a day – many of them complaints. When you started the job a few months back, you were excited to be in full-time employment and working for a household name.

Unfortunately, your initial enthusiasm quickly turned into frustration.

The endless complaint calls began to take their toll on you. And the supervisors irritated you too, as they were far too interested in micro-managing you – rather than letting you work in your own way.

Now, in the story above, the ending could be that you put up with a job you didn’t like, and led a dull and frustrated working life for years and years. However, an alternative ending is this: you channeled your dissatisfaction in to learning a new skill (computer coding). It took you a year or two to get up to speed, but it allowed you to successfully upgrade your career – and the ongoing learning made the call centre job much more bearable.

Clearly, learning new skills gives you impetus, focus and something to aim for. Your brain loves to learn, and you should tap into this by always seeking our new information. And when learning becomes a habit, you’ll find your ability to remember and recall things effortlessly, becomes a habit too.

6. Start working out

If you’re not already working out regularly, then here’s another reason to do so:

Exercising for 20-30 minutes three times a week will improve your long-term memory.

Regular exercise increases blood flow in your body and supplies the brain with extra oxygen and nutrients. And a well-nourished brain is a well-functioning brain!

“But I just don’t have the time?,” I hear you say.

Not a problem.

A research has shown that a daily burst of 60 seconds of high-intensity exercise, offered many of the benefits of the longer exercise routines.[2] So, if you’re short on time – now you know what to do.

Interested in getting started?

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Here are five different ways that will help you work out:

  • Join a gym
  • Join a sports team
  • Buy a bike
  • Take up hiking
  • Dance to your favorite music

7. Eat healthier foods

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “You are what you eat.”

This applies to your brain too.

The food that you eat helps determine your brain’s capacity to store and recall information. A poor diet (think junk food + soda!) harms not just your physical health, but your mental health too.

Fortunately, there are several foods that are especially good for your brain and your memory. These include: blueberries, celery and dark chocolate. But anything high in antioxidants will have a positive effect on your brain and memory.

Conversely, highly-processed foods and those loaded with sugar will have a negative impact on your memory. This is due to them providing insufficient nutrients for your brain – leading you to easily suffer from mental fatigue.

Want to be mentally healthy? Then eat and drink an abundance of these for brain health:

  • Turmeric – helps new brain cells grown
  • Broccoli – protects the brain against damage
  • Nuts – improves memory
  • Green tea – enhances brain performance, memory and focus[3]
  • Fish oilfish oil supplements can increase your brain power

Here’re more brain food options that improve memory!

Final thoughts

I sincerely hope these seven memory boosting ways that I’ve covered in this article will be of help to you.

You don’t need to implement them all. I suggest just trying the ones that appeal to you.

But, if you’re serious about dramatically improving your memory, then make a start right now on adopting one or more of the ways I’ve suggested. I’m confident you won’t regret it.

Featured photo credit: Eric Ward via unsplash.com

Reference

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