The early stages of a new company are full of creativity.
Nothing has been built yet, so you get to spend months dreaming up every part of your business, including the brand and culture. Since this is often done with a small group of people, the experience is truly exhilarating. You come home from the office unable to sleep out of pure excitement.
But somewhere along the way, creating can be replaced with having to execute. You spend most of your time working on random to-do lists and end up waiting until the end of the day--the time when you're most exhausted--to think creatively, which just doesn't work.
To do your best work, you need to stay fresh, energetic, and creative the whole journey. Building great companies is a marathon, not a sprint, and it takes time. With this in mind, here are 21 ways to maintain or boost your personal creativity.
1. Don't email in bed.
Don't make email the first thing you do in the morning or the last thing you do before bedtime. It's like tackling a massive to-do list, because the minute you see it, you'll start thinking about all the things that you need get done. You're not as busy as you think you are.
2. Don't take meetings before lunch.
Your most creative time is usually between 9 a.m. and noon, so don't waste it in random meetings. Keep this precious time to yourself.
3. Explore your city with a camera.
Even if you aren't a photographer, listening to music and exploring your city with a camera can be a fantastic way to observe the energy and culture around you.
Whether you publish your musings or not, writing about your feelings and experiences is a refreshing way to reconnect with yourself.
5. Take a class.
Learning something new that has nothing to do with work can be fun, especially if it forces you outside your comfort zone. Signing up for an improv comedy class was terrifying for me, but it wound up being one of the most rewarding classes I've ever taken.
Picking a recipe, buying the right ingredients, and experimenting with them can be a relaxing way to take your mind off of work. Cooking taps into all your senses and the end product will give you confidence to try other things.
Don't get trapped into thinking you can't leave the office. If your company can't survive without you, there's a much bigger problem at hand.
8. Take a long lunch.
Try spending 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. with your significant other or other people you care about. It will feel a bit awkward at first, but after a few times, you'll begin to realize that you have the freedom to work wherever you want, whenever you want.
9. Curb the coffee.
Caffeine can be a helpful stimulant when you're groggy, but after a few cups it can have the opposite effect. If you're still tired, try getting more sleep.
10. Ditch the alarm clock.
Waking up to an artificial sound can actually make you more tired. Go to sleep early enough that you naturally start your day on time and you'll feel so much better.
11. Hit the gym.
This has been written about extensively, but it bears repeating. Exercise equates to better energy, better well-being, and a sharper mind.
12. Trim down your to-do list.
A to-do list with more than three things on it can be hard to finish off. Whether you're thinking about company-wide goals or your own objectives, something will get overlooked. Creating takes time.
13. Take the team for a hike.
Company gatherings don't have to be lunches or happy hours. Taking a random weekday to go on a hike can be a bonding experience. Conversations will cover a variety of topics, but more importantly the event will build trust in your group.
14. Hit the road.
Get in your car on Friday afternoon, and don't come back until Sunday evening. The only rule is that you can't bring your cell phone.
15. Work at the library.
You won't get much done in a busy office, but you will at the library, where you can hear a pin drop.
16. Read a book.
Magazines and online articles are nice and all, but a book can tell a story that will open your mind.
Helping others with no connection to your job can give you perspective on what really matters in life. Soon you'll realize that responding to emails isn't the most important thing you can do.
Whether you use audio tapes, a smartphone app, or sit simply in silence, meditating is a great way to start or end your day, as it helps you recharge.
19. Use pen and paper.
Nothing is more creative than sketching, scribbling, or writing down your ideas. The best part is you won't have to stay inside and lug a power cord around.
20. Turn off notifications.
The noises will make you tired, and when you're tired you can't be creative. Constantly being buzzed about this or that lowers your productivity.
21. Attend an InstaMeet.
Instagram offers local meetups that are attended by dozens of people who are passionate about photography. The attendees cover a wide range of skill sets, but what bonds this community together is that everyone is really creative. You might make some friends who help you see your city in a whole new light.
Build Teams for Creativity
Sam Bacharach, director of the Cornell Institute for Workplace Studies, explains how leaders can encourage both outrageous ideas and practical follow-through.