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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
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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!

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        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 July 21, 2021

        The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

        The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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        No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

        Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

        Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

        A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

        Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

        In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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        From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

        A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

        For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

        This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

        The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

        That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

        Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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        The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

        Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

        But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

        The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

        The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

        A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

        For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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        But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

        If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

        For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

        These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

        For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

        How to Make a Reminder Works for You

        Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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        Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

        Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

        My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

        Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

        I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

        More on Building Habits

        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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        Reference

        [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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