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How I Become Creative by Spending 10 Minutes a Day to Exercise My Brain Muscle

How I Become Creative by Spending 10 Minutes a Day to Exercise My Brain Muscle

I still remember a time when I was around 6 years old, I drew a picture about me and my parents during art class. That was my first class and I could draw anything but I really wanted to draw my family and so I did. My other classmates drew something different, some drew animals, some drew ugly aliens, some drew pretty princesses. My teacher came to me and said, “Brian, you can be more creative next time.” And at that moment I thought, maybe I really wasn’t a creative person, and I thought maybe creativity was inborn.

As I grew up, this belief stuck with me until I read a book called It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be by Patrick O’Neill.  It convinced me that as long as I wanted to be more creative, I could train myself to be a creative person.

So I started to research more tips and tricks on creativity. There is a popular exercise in Improv Comedy called “Yes and”.[1] When one person comes up with a fairly simple idea, the other person responds by adding a smaller detail. So I took reference of this exercise and created an exercise that could stretch my creativity like workouts do for my muscles.

This exercise is perfect for anyone who lives a busy life with a full schedule. This is also great for anyone who works in an environment where tasks are fully instructed and novelty is not required. Even if you aren’t working in a creative field, training your creativity with this exercise will help you approach challenges and problems in bold and inventive ways.

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The exercise I’m going to introduce to you will only take you ten minutes a day to train up your creativity muscle.

I call this mental exercise, The Journey of A Man And A Dog.

Here’s how it goes…

First, imagine there’s a man and a dog.

Consider the relationship between them.

Where did the dog come from? How long has the man had the dog?

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What breed is the dog, and what might this breed suggest (for example a Greyhound might suggest things different than a poodle would).

Is the dog the man’s pet?  Is the man walking his dog in a park?

    After you’ve spent some time considering this, try to think about more possibilities.

    For example, maybe the man found the dog abandoned somewhere.

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    Why was the dog abandoned? How was the dog?

      Don’t be afraid to play with this idea, go in as many strange places you like. Maybe the man and dog are post-apocalyptic survivors exploring a wasteland? Maybe the dog is the more powerful and intelligent one in the relationship? All you need to do is keep adding to this.

      Try to be even more creative with fantasy elements.

      For example, maybe the man is a scientist and he’s planning to take the dog to the Mars to see if it can survive there.

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        Adding things to their relationship encourages you to think in ways different to how you would normally think. Thus developing your mental capacity to think in these new, creative ways.

        The exercise doesn’t always have to be about a man and a dog.

        If, for some reasons you find this limiting, you could consider:

        • a teacher and a student
        • a police officer and a criminal
        • a rich man and a homeless man
        • a spider and an old man
        • a man with a broomstick
        • a girl with a tattoo
        • … any possible relationship between two or more people is perfect.

        After a while you could even adapt this exercise to the real world.

        Look outside your window to the people walking past outside and try to think of the lives they lead. Try to come up with interesting or funny stories behind each person. It’s creatively stimulating and strangely fun!

        Before you know it your mind will become accustomed to thinking creatively, and you will naturally be used to flexing your creative muscle.

        Featured photo credit: Flaticon via flaticon.com

        Reference

        More by this author

        Brian Lee

        Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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        Last Updated on April 6, 2020

        15 Best Productivity Hacks for Procrastinators

        15 Best Productivity Hacks for Procrastinators

        Let me guess.

        You should be doing something else rather than reading this article. But due to some unknown force of nature, you decided to procrastinate by reading an article about how to hack procrastination. You deserve a pat on the back.

        Fortunately, procrastination is not a disease. It’s just a mindset that can be changed, however, here are some productivity tips you need to start getting work done:

        First, you need to acknowledge that procrastinating is an unhealthy habit. Not only you’re prioritizing unimportant things, basically, nothing gets done. Still unsure if you’re a procrastinator? Check out this article: Types of Procrastination (And How To Fix Procrastination And Start Doing)

        Second, your commitment to change is very important. You should be physically, emotionally, and mentally determined to change this habit. If not, then you’ll just succumb to the tempting lure of doing other things rather than your tasks or chores.

        Here are sthe best productivity hacks to improve productivity and keep yourself from procrastinating at work:

        1. Give (10+2)*5 a Try

        Let’s start with a classic but very effective hack called (10+2)*5 created by Merlin Mann,[1] author of 43Folders.com. Don’t worry. This is not a complicated Mathematical formula you need to solve.

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        The (10+2)*5 simply means 10 minutes work + 2 minutes break multiplied by 5, completing 1 hour. It is crucial to stick with the time limits and not skipping work and break schedules. The point of this is for you to create a jam-packed routine of work and break schedules. The result? You will eventually skip your break schedules.

        2. Use Red and Blue More Often

        Clean your desk and remove things that might distract you. According to a Science Daily study[2] about which colors improve brain performance, red was found out to increase attention to details while blue sparks creativity. Surrounding your workplace with these colors not only benefits your brain, it’s also pleasing to the eye.

        3. Create a Break Agenda

        List all the things you want to do on your break, be it surfing the web, checking your emails, snack time, taking selfies, Facebook/Twitter—everything.

        Like the (10+2)*5 hack, squeeze these in between work time but the difference is you schedule these activities for ONLY 20 minutes. Eventually, you’ll take your break minutes wisely. You’re finishing tasks while sidetracking to doing the things you enjoy.

        4. Set a Timetable for Your Tasks

        Like any other habits, procrastinating is a tough wall to break. Replace this habit with another habit. When you’re assigned a task, set a timetable for each step. Let’s say you have a big research task. Here’s a sample timetable:

        9:00 – 9:10 am – Set up all your tools, browser tabs, emails, coffee, etc..
        9:10 – 10:00 am – Internet research
        10:00 – 10:45 am – Look through existing files
        10:45 – 11:00 am – Break time!
        11:00 – 12:00 pm – Outline the research report

        Deadlines are the best hack for getting things done. Setting a specific time to finish a task creates time pressure even if the deadline has passed.

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        5. Take It Outside!

        Do yourself a favor and don’t ruin the comfy vibe of your home. If you need to work on a stressful project, do it in a library or coffee shop. You’ll never finish it anyway. Your cozy sofa and toasty bed will just lure you into napping yourself to doom.

        6. Become Productively Lazy

        Instead of finding all sorts of ways to unproductively procrastinate, use your habit to look for shortcuts and new ways to finish your tasks. Staple multiple papers at a time or master the 3-second t-shirt folding technique. A strong drive combined with laziness sometimes bring out the productive and creative side you never knew you have!

        7. Assign a ‘Task Deputy’

        It could be your colleague, your supervisor, or your significant other, anyone who has the unforgiving guts to reprimand you when you procrastinate. You could go the extra mile by paying up unfinished tasks or times you open your Facebook or watch a funny cat video on YouTube. Let’s see how five bucks every time you procrastinate will change you.

        8. Consider a Gadget-Free Desk

        According to a study by Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, average users check on their phones 150 times per day and having your phone just an elbow away just creates sizzle to this habit.[3]

        Removing mobile devices and gadgets allows you to focus on your work without the constant interruption from notifications, calls, and text messages. It eliminates the very distracting ambiance and the urge to unlock your phone just because.

        9. Prepping the Night

        Before hitting the sack to oblivion, prepare everything you’ll need the next day. This will probably take you 15 minutes tops, saving you more time for coffee in the morning.

        Spin class at am? Pack up your gym clothes, shoes, socks, etc. or better, create a checklist so you don’t miss anything. You can also prep your food into containers and just grab one before leaving.

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        10. Do a 7-Minute Workout in the Morning

        Exercising is proven to increase productivity and stimulate release of endorphin or “Happy Hormones”.

        Take a jog outdoors and get warmed up for the day. Don’t feel like running outside? Hop on a treadmilli. It’s a great investment and there are a lot of ways you can use a treadmill like endurance running and metabolism training. On a budget? Here’s a 7 minute, no-equipment needed workout you can do at home:

        11. Set-up Mini Tasks

        If you’re given a big project, break it down into mini tasks. Create a checklist and start with the easy ones until you finish. Got an article to write? Just start with the title and the first sentence. Or perhaps you have a visual presentation to make?

        Spend 15 minutes on your outline, take five minutes coffee break, then finish the first two slides. Accomplishing something, no matter how tiny, still gives you that sense of fulfillment.

        12. Create an Inspirational Board or Reminder

        I found these mini desk chalkboards from Etsy you can use to write motivating quotes.

        Or you know what? Simply write “Do it now!” and stare at it for 10 seconds every time you feel like dropping by on Reddit.

        13. Redecorate Your Room

        Redecorating my room motivates me to maintain that ‘new’ look for some time until I get use to it and eventually stop. So I redecorate again and again, it became a monthly habit really. Here are some DIY ideas you can do to any room without spending much.

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        14. Ready Your Nibbles

        You know that trip to the pantry? It’s just seconds away but it took you several minutes just to get your fruit snacks in the fridge. Before starting a task, prepare your nibbles on your desk to avoid zoning out and losing yourself on the way to the pantry.

        Bonus productivity hacks you can do at home:

        15. Schedule Your Chores

        Write down your chores in a weekly basis with matching day and time when you should be doing these.

        For the artsy folks, you can create fun chore charts like these or simply stick the list somewhere visibly annoying e.g. mirrors, doors, TV. The trick is listing as many chores as you can for the week and including unfinished chores the following week. Who likes seeing a long list of chores first thing in the morning?

        More Tips to Overcome Procrastination

        Featured photo credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters via unsplash.com

        Reference

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