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The Simplest Ways to Come Up With Really Creative Ideas

The Simplest Ways to Come Up With Really Creative Ideas

It’s painful, isn’t it?

You’ve got loads of energy and a heap of passion. Yet you can’t think of a single really creative idea to develop.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a writer, artist, engineer, mechanic or person of any profession. Thinker’s Block will arrive. It happens to everyone.

When it does, here are some easy ways to check that frustration out of your life and create an endless pool of ideas.

How to “Brain Dump” and set the stage for coming up with really creative ideas

In a freely available online video called the 50-Minute Focus Finder, real estate guru and marketing genius Dean Jackson reveals a great technique: open a journal to a blank page and start to write. Anything. Just let go.

Although Jackson doesn’t mention this in the video, if you can’t think of anything to write on that page, just put down your name. Write your name again and again until you think of something else.

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Trust me. This isn’t crazy. It’s a great way of boring yourself into coming up with something else. I dare you to try and write your name more than 5 times until something better comes out.

You can also doodle or otherwise scratch at the page.The point is to brain dump. Empty yourself. Make space and the really creative ideas will come.

Become an idea generator

In Choose Yourself!, James Altucher gives a brilliant idea that anyone can use. All you have to do is write down 10 ideas every day.

At first, it might be hard to get 10. If so, start with one. The next day, squeeze out two. Before you know it, you’ll have 10 every day. Soon after that, ideas will flood your imagination. You’ll have more than you could ever use.

And the best part is that you can easily record 10 ideas using the audio recorder on your smartphone if you can’t or don’t want to write.

Recording your ideas by audio will also help train you to think creatively out loud. Your brain will start making a connection between talking and idea generation. This comes in handy during business meetings and even in simple conversations with your friends.

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In case you don’t have Altucher’s Choose Yourself! to look at for his examples (you should get it), here are a few of my own to get your started:

  • All men named Tom join together and try to eliminate everyone named Dick and Harry from the face of the planet.
  • Leonard Cohen sings “I Want To Be Sedated” …while being sedated.
  • Google starts selling “canned results” delivered to your door. The algorithm automatically adds your favorite spices.

I have listed several hundreds of ideas like this since reading Choose Yourself! I’ve felt the impact and it’s improved everything I do that requires creativity.

Of course, a lot of these ideas are bizarre. Some of them make no sense. Others could never be used outside of a film or novel. But that doesn’t matter. The point is that exercises like this keep your mind fluid. And being fluid and responsive is a powerful talent to have.

Write down your dreams

Every morning when you wake up, write down at least one sentence about the dreams you had. It could be a narrative fragment or a simple impression.

If you can’t remember a dream, write down a short story. Just start with “Once upon a time” and keep going with whatever comes to mind.

And if nothing comes to mind, you know what to do. That’s right: write your name over and over again until something else emerges.

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If Thinker’s Block happens, it won’t last long. Do this for a couple of days and soon you’ll be recalling more and more dreams. You may even find that you’ll start lucid dreaming. And if that happens, you’ll find interesting and unexpected ways to become even more creative.

Keep a scrapbook

Sounds old fashioned, I know, but tearing images and phrases from magazines for gathering in a scrapbook will boost your creativity. The act itself is creative because you’re using selectivity. And revisiting it later uses your creative faculties of analysis. After that, it’s just a matter of using the collection of images you see together to come up with new creative ideas.

Make use of déjà vu

We’ve all experienced the feeling that we’ve seen or experienced something before. But how many of us actually write the experience down? What makes this so creative is that you can analyze what pieces of reality needed to come together in order for you to have this experience.

For a great example that will deepen your thinking about déjà vu, check out this scene from The Matrix:

You might also consider thinking about the opposite of déjà vu. Jamais vu occurs when you see something you know you’ve seen thousands of times before, but it still feels strange and unfamiliar. Almost like the first time.

Break patterns

It is pattern breaks that make experiences like déjà vu and jamais vu so powerful and the basis for new creativity. The great news is that you don’t have to wait for these experiences to come along. You can invent them.

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For example, try walking backwards for 20 steps or so the next time you cut through the park. Walk in a circle around a telephone pole you normally ignore. Go into a store that has never interested you in the least and look around.

The reason breaking patterns helps with creativity is that the brain secretes norepinephrine any time you are in novel situations. This chemical increases your focus and helps create new memories. You can later draw upon these enhanced memories while writing, drawing or otherwise engaging in creative activities.

Make the conscious decision to become more creative

All the ideas you’ve just discovered are great. But they can be greater. Simply by making the decision to be a person with really creative ideas, you’ll set your imaginative mind in motion.

Write your decision down on paper or record it by audio or video. Really focus on your intention to be more creative.

Next, get started with your first list of 10 ideas following a total Brain Dump. Make the conscious decision to start recalling your dreams. Tomorrow morning is your first chance to take up this easy and simple habit.

You’re going to benefit a great deal and amaze yourself by just how creative you can be. And the best part is that the more creative you become, the more you creative you can become. It’s a powerful feedback loop that just keeps getting better and better the more you practice.

So…what are you waiting for? Every day you’re not using these simple techniques, you’re leaving creative treasure behind. Creativity is a valuable treasure that could be improving the quality of all areas of your life.

More by this author

20 Productivity Hacks That You Probably Thought Would Always Work The Simplest Ways to Come Up With Really Creative Ideas How to Write 2000 Words a Day – The Ultimate Guide How to Piggyback Geniuses (Without Lugging Around a Backpack Full of Books)

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Published on January 16, 2019

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

  • Are you a great strategist?
  • Are you an effective planner?
  • Is Project Management your strength?
  • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
  • Are you the ideas person?
  • Is Implementation your strength?

Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

4. Take Time for Planning

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

You can take the time to think about:

  • What’s the purpose of the project?
  • How Important is it?
  • When does it need to be delivered by?
  • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
  • What are the KPIs?
  • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
  • Who is working on this project?
  • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
  • What tolerances can I add in?
  • What are the review stages?
  • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

5. Focus on Priorities

Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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    The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

    If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

    If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

    6. Take Time Out

    To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

    If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

    Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

    In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

    Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

    Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

    I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

    Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

    If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

    8. Stop Multitasking

    Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

    So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

    When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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    If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

    9. Work in Blocks of Time

    To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

    I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

    Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

    Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

    Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

    Then take another 10-minute break.

    Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

    By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

    10. Get Rid of Distractions

    Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

    “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

    Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

    If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

    11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

    You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

    Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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    Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

    12. Take a Time Audit

    Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

    Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

    You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

    Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

    Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

    At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

    If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

    13. Protect Your Confidence

    It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

    When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

    Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

    When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

    Final Words

    A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

    The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

    If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

    Reference

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