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How to Boost Creativity: Secrets of the Creative Brain

How to Boost Creativity: Secrets of the Creative Brain

There are countless books and movies about individuals whose skills seemed to be naturally given. This has created a misconception that creativity is simply something you have, or do not have. A recent book Great Minds and How to Grow Them has shown that there is often no such thing as a born genius or born creative.[1] In fact, much like a muscle, creativity and inventiveness can be developed. It can even be taught.

All it takes is practice, and exercising those creative muscles that have often been unused and underutilized. But first everyone needs to learn how to clear some mental space for your creativity and ideas.

Clearing Mental Space

Think with Your Brain, Not Memorize

From an early age we are subconsciously taught to memorize and repeat facts. The focus on memorization and the repeating of facts is very misguided, and is based on a real misunderstanding of how the brain works.

Memories aren’t perfect reproductions of events or things, find out why we should stop remembering stuff to free up space for thinking here: Human Brains Aren’t Designed to Remember Things

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Instead it’s far easier to preserve past memories, emotions, and ideas by simply jotting them down.

Here’s How Jotting Down Ideas in 30 Seconds Boosts Creativity, and How to Start Marking down Your Mood for a better brain.

As you no longer have to worry about remembering this important information, you can safely focus on other things.

Once you no longer rely so much on memorization, your mind becomes much more freed up.

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Ditch Mental Clutter

The human brain is incredibly powerful. Everything that has ever come from humanity stemmed from someone’s plan or idea. Despite its power, the brain is bad at multitasking. Perhaps you were reading once, but you kept stopping to check your Facebook, or perhaps your WhatsApp notification distracted you. As soon as your brain had to focus on multiple things at once, you ability to do any of the tasks severely decreased.

The same thing happens when we have a lot on our mind, we can’t focus, and as such, your mind and brain becomes less able to work dynamically and creativity.

We are often unaware just how cluttered our minds are by physical distractions and thoughts. What’s worse, is if we try to ignore all these distractions, our minds become even more full in the process.

If you have no idea how bad clutter has been draining our brains, this is essential for you: How Clutter Drains Your Brain (and What You Can Do About It)

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The only way to clear up all this mental clutter is to be ruthless. It is a good idea to prioritize what is most important to you. This can be generally or smaller scale (such as the resolution of an important task). It may seem difficult to ditch stuff that doesn’t serve a purpose, I’ve got you this Declutter Formula to eliminate everything that isn’t necessary.

Fostering Creativity

Keep Your Right Brain Sharp

Now that you have cleared some mental and physical space, it should be easier to focus on developing your brain’s creativity.

The two sides of the brain are focused on the development and control of different cognitive abilities. The left side of the brain processes things like language, and numbers, fixed concrete information. Whereas, the right side of the brain processes and controls creativity, critical thinking, and artistic ability.

By focusing on fact retention and memorization in school, most people have strengthened the left side of the brain, at the cost of the right brain. Discover the real reason why creativity has become more challenging than ever: Why It’s Difficult to Be Creative: An Underdeveloped Right Brain

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To fix this imbalance and develop the creative muscles, try these:

  • Do this 10-minute exercise every day to workout the brain: The Journey of a Man and a Dog. This simple exercise makes you think out of the box, and is an effective way to stretch the creative muscles.
  • Take up a creative hobby. By involving yourself in a creative hobby such as painting and playing music, you keep your right brain active.

Look for a Problem

One of the most common excuses people give for not being creative is that they lack ideas. The inspiration isn’t coming. The ideas aren’t flowing.

Often times, people focus on something new and original. Doing this will always be fruitless as the mind needs stimulations in order to think. Luckily mental stimulations are everywhere. All you need is to observe for problems in your life. Check out how to look for a good problem for better creativity: How to Look For a Good Problem to Boost Your Creativity

Every problem we face is also a puzzle which needs a creative solution. When you are faced with a problem, you naturally try to think of solutions. By thinking of dynamic or creative solutions to problems, you are improving your ability to be creative.

It’s No Privilege to Be Creative

Once you develop your creative ability, you’ll discover the wonderful truth that everyone has the potential to be a powerful creative thinker. All that is needed is utilize your brain and a little bit of exercise.

Featured photo credit: IStock via istockphoto.com

Reference

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Brian Lee

Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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Last Updated on October 22, 2019

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

We live in a world of massive distraction. No matter where you are today, there is always going to be distractions. Your colleagues talking about their latest date, notification messages popping up on your screens, and not just your mobile phone screens. And even if you try to find a quiet place, there will always be someone with a mobile device that is beeping and chirping.

With all these distractions, it is incredibly difficult to concentrate on anything for very long. Something will distract you and that means you will find it very difficult to focus on anything.

So how to focus and concentrate better? How to focus better and produce work that lifts us and takes us closer towards achieving our outcomes?

1. Get Used to Turning off Your Devices

Yes, I know this one is hard for most people. We believe our devices are so vital to our lives that the thought of turning them off makes us feel insecure. The reality is they are not so vital and the world is not going to end within the next thirty minutes.

So turn them off. Your battery will thank you for it. More importantly though is when you are free from your mobile distraction addiction, you will begin to concentrate more on what needs to get done.

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You do not need to do this for very long. You could set a thirty-minute time frame for being completely mobile free. Let’s say you have an important piece of work to complete by lunchtime today. Turn off your mobile device between 10 am and 11 am and see what happens.

If you have never done this before, you will feel very uncomfortable at first. Your brain will be fighting you. It will be telling you all sorts of horror stories such as a meteorite is about to hit earth, or your boss is very angry and is trying to contact you. None of these things is true, but your brain is going to fight you. Prepare yourself for the fight.

Over time, as you do this more frequently, you will soon begin to find your brain fights you less and less. When you do turn on your device after your period of focused work and discover that the world did not end, you have not lost an important customer and all you have are a few email newsletters, a confirmation of an online order you made earlier and a text message from your mum asking you to call about dinner this weekend, you will start to feel more comfortable turning things off.

2. Create a Playlist in Your Favourite Music Streaming App

Many of us listen to music using some form of music streaming service, and it is very easy to create our own playlists of songs. This means we can create playlists for specific purposes.

Many years ago, when I was just starting to drive, there was a trend selling driving compilation tapes and CDs. The songs on these tapes and CDs were uplifting driving music songs. Songs such as C W McCall’s Convoy theme and the Allman Brothers Band’s, Jessica. They were great songs to drive to and helped to keep us awake and focused while we were driving.

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Today, we can create playlists to help us to focus on our work. Choose non-vocal music that has a low tempo. Music from artists such as Ben Böhmer, Ilan Bluestone or Andrew Bayer has the perfect tempo.

Whenever you want to go into deep, focused work, listen to that playlist. What happens is your brain soon associates when you listen to the playlist you created with focused work and it’s time to concentrate on what it is you want to do.

3. Have a Place to Go to When You Need to Concentrate

If you eat, surf online and read at your desk, you will find your desk a very distracting place to do your work. One way to get your brain to understand it is focused work time is, to use the same place each time for just focused work.

This could be a quiet place in your office, or it could be a special coffee shop you use specifically for focused work. Again, what you are doing is associating an environment with focus.

Just as with having a playlist to listen to when you want to concentrate, having a physical place that accomplishes the same thing will also put you in the right frame of mind to be more focused.

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When you do find the right place to do your focused work, then only do focused work there. Never surf, never do any online shopping. Just do your work and then leave. You want to be training your brain to associate focused work with that environment and nothing else.

If you need to make a phone call, respond to an email or message, then go outside and do it. From now on, this place is your special working place and that is all you use it for.

Every morning, I do fifteens minutes of meditation. Each time, I sit down to do my meditation, I use the same music playlist and the same place. As soon as I put my earphones in and sit down in this place, my mind immediately knows it is meditation time and I become relaxed and focused almost immediately. I have trained my brain over a few months to associate a sound and a place with relaxed, thoughtful meditation. It works.

4. Get up and Move

We humans have a limited attention span. How long you can stay focused for depends on your own personal makeup. It can range from between twenty minutes to around two hours. With practice, you can stay focused for longer, but it takes time and it takes a lot of practice.

When you do find yourself being unable to concentrate any longer, get up from where you are and move. Go for a walk, move around and get some air. Do something completely different from what you were doing when you were concentrating.

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If you were writing a report in front of a screen, get away from your screens and look out the window and appreciate the view. Take a walk in the local park, or just walk around your office. You need to give your brain completely different stimuli.

Your brain is like a muscle. There is only so much it can do before it fatigues. If you are doing some focused work in Photoshop and then switch to surfing the internet, you are not giving your brain any rest. You are still using many of the same parts of your brain.

It’s like doing fifty pushups and then immediately trying to do bench presses. Although you are doing a different exercise, you are still exercising your chest. What you need to be doing to build up superior levels of concentrated focus is, in a sense, do fifty pushups and then a session of squats. Now you are exercising your chest and then your legs. Two completely different exercises.

Do the same with your brain. Do focused visual work and then do some form of movement with a different type of work. Focused visual work followed by a discussion with a colleague about another unrelated piece of work, for example.

The Bottom Line

It is not difficult to train your brain to become better at concentrating and focusing, but you do need to exercise deliberate practice. You need to develop the intention to focus and be very strict with yourself.

Set time aside in your calendar and make sure you tell your colleagues that you will be ‘off the grid’ for a couple of hours. With practice and a little time, you will soon find yourself being able to resist temptations and focus better.

More Resources About Boosting Focus and Productivity

Featured photo credit: Wenni Zhou via unsplash.com

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