“All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning. Great works are often born on a street corner or in a restaurant’s revolving door.”
– Albert Camus
Whether you want to boost creativity for art, business or personal purposes, these techniques will help give your creativity and your project a kickstart. Choose one, two, or try them all! The magic of creativity is that there is no set process or rule book — it’s about experimenting, adopting a lateral thinking mindset and making an effort to start, no matter how ridiculous or bad you think your ideas are.
1. Combine opposites
Regardless of your reasons for wanting to boost your creativity, combining seemingly random concepts, ideas, words, and things together often produces something entirely original. If you haven’t got long to think up ideas and you have to be original and innovative, combining opposites might work for you. Many artists throughout history have used this technique as a method for creating original pieces. Mona Hatoum is one example.Advertising
2. Realize that creativity is a process
Contrary to what many people believe, the whole lightbulb eureka moment often occurs as a result of a long process rather than being something totally out of the blue. If you want to boost your creativity, you can’t expect to be instantly filled with creative ideas. Write your ideas down, play, explore, and more importantly, recognize that creativity is a process that can be continuously developed and expanded.
3. Look at others in your field
I don’t believe in copying someone else’s hard work at all; however, it’s really important to be aware of other artists, designers, or businesses that you like. Ask yourself: What are they doing well? What do I like about it? What can I use as a starting point to develop my own projects? Become an expert in your field and make yourself aware of what others are doing — only then will you be able to spot gaps and different ways of doing things.
4. Don’t get a brainstorm group
Ever read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking? Susan Cain goes into great detail, backed with evidence that suggests that creative brainstorming groups actually hinder creativity, resulting in individuals in the group becoming less creative.
5. Use mind maps
Start with your central theme in the middle; create four sub-themes from the central point and start to expand each sub-theme further using singular words to illustrate your points. This doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s a good way of laying all your thoughts out in some sort of a visual structure you can look at clearly. You’ll also be able to see which areas need developing, changing or removing.Advertising
6. Keep a notebook handy
Whether it’s your iPad, notebook or scraps of paper, this one goes without saying. You must write down or draw your thoughts, ideas and concepts, no matter how ridiculous or stupid they might sound. You might find that when you revisit ideas, they’ll trigger new ones you’ll then be able to expand upon.
7. Restrict yourself
Sometimes creativity can be stunted when you’ve got too much to play around with. Try limiting yourself; for example, providing yourself with a theme. Sometimes when people are trying to be more creative they can skim over the surface of lots of different ideas and concepts rather than really choosing to hone in on one.
8. Create obstructions
If you’ve got a spare hour or so, watch The Five Obstructions — it’s a documentary about several filmmakers who give each other obstructions to help boost creativity. You could employ the same technique whether you are an artist or not. The concept is about getting out of your comfort zone and doing things you usually do in different ways by giving yourself obstructions. This forces you not to work in a tried and tested manner. If you’re working in a group, you could write down rules or obstructions on bits of paper then take it in turns to pull ideas out of the hat.
9. Feel free
Exercise and get the endorphins flowing; smile at the little things; laugh more… Contrary to popular belief, being creative isn’t about being depressed and miserable. When you’re happy, you’ll feel freer and more responsive to the world around you, which in return will help to boost your creativity.Advertising
10. Let your logical mind rest for a bit
Creativity is hard to pin down; there is no ‘one size fits all’ creativity-boosting rule book. So, when you find yourself cutting ideas off or telling others why something couldn’t possibly work, bite your tongue, because great creative ideas often have a ridiculous, totally illogical beginning. It’s how you respond to the idea that counts.
11. See the world through the eyes of a creative person
“Art is everywhere, except it has to pass through a creative mind.”
— Louise Nevelson
Spend the day capturing the world through a camera, paint spontaneously, dance, write down your observations. Take inspiration from a creative person you admire and imitate what they do for a day to get an idea of how they see the world. Sometimes just a slight shift in outlook can give your creativity a massive boost.Advertising
12. Start now
Be a doer and certainly don’t stop yourself before you’ve even started. This one is probably the most important. Do something small each day to help you boost your creativity, even if this means simply writing down your thoughts and ideas. It’ll really help you in the long run. Creativity, after all, is a journey that can take many interesting twists and turns — you have to start it to really reap the results.
Finally, if anyone else has any creativity-boosting ideas, please share them below. I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you’re after further reading, check out lateral thinking author, Edward de Bono.
Last Updated on July 21, 2021
The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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.”
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.
Table of Contents
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!
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.
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.
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
- 16 Everyday Habits of Highly Productive People
- How Long Does It Take to Break a Habit? Science Will Tell You
- How to Break Bad Habits: I Broke 3 Bad Habits in Less Than 2 Months
- How to Break a Habit and Hack the Habit Loop
Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com
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