Coming up with new ideas can be hard. But no matter what field you're in, a little bit of creativity can take you a long way. Over the years, I've trained my brain to become an idea machine--but it wasn't always that way.
1. Challenge your scenery.
Oftentimes, my best ideas come when I'm not sitting down at my computer. They come from being outside, taking a walk, or doing something a bit different from my normal day-to-day routine.
Last week, I was staring at my desktop feeling uninspired for a good week. Taking a trip to reconnect with old friends in New York immediately turned on my idea muscle again and got me out of the rut I was experiencing.
If you're feeling like your creativity muscle isn't working, do something you wouldn't normally do. Skim through ClassPass and sign up for a beginner's dance class. Tell your best friend you'll finally go hiking with them in the mountains. Drive to that beachside cafe you always wanted to visit. By getting up and exploring the world, you open yourself up to new inspirations and invite a fresh perspective. .
"A reliably effective process I use to get around a creative impasse has 3 steps," says designer and storyteller Kyle Kesterson.
"One. Go out into the world and find a source of injustice which makes you feel a well of conviction. This is the fuel needed to fill the tank.
"Two. Consume. Open up your 6 senses. Taste new flavors, hear new sounds, see captivating things smell nostalgic smells. Touch everything.
"Three. Stare at a blank wall. Breathe. Meditate. Allow all of the input you have consciously, and more importantly subconsciously, collected, to swirl together until it taps that fiery fuel source.
Then put devices on airplane mode and let the momentum build."
2. Do your "creativity homework."
Creativity takes practice and intention. The more space you give yourself to practice ideation without the threat of failure, the better you'll get at it. One simple exercise I've been practicing has proven so beneficial, I've been doing it daily for the past year.
Each morning, I sit down with my morning coffee and write a out a list of 10 new product ideas I want to create. Though 95 percent of them will never see the light of day, this exercise keeps my idea muscle constantly flexing. Months later, remembering these ideas helps fuel me through creative blocks.
If you're a cook, sit down to write 10 new recipes you'd like to invent (no matter how odd the flavor combinations may be). If you're a teacher, think of 10 fun activities for your class. If you're a photographer, make a list of 10 new concepts you'd like to shoot. When you first start this activity, it may seem difficult. Remind yourself there are no bad ideas - let yourself have fun with it--and you'll be pleasantly surprised how much easier it gets over time.
To think of new ideas, the best approach is in three steps: "Create, create, create. Seriously, create 100 bad ideas," says singer and songwriter Greg Duffy. "Get them out of your brain. Laugh at them. And move on.
That's how songwriters always create new ideas. And in the end they have 12 songs that appear on an album, out of 150 they may have written. It's a volume approach, a little like sales. A game of statistics, if you have 10 calls to a client, one is successful on average. Create time to create more, and you'll have more good ideas."
3. Schedule time to disconnect.
I'm working on my computer a good 8-10 hours per day. Unplugging for a while always gives my brain a well-needed rest so I can come back to work even stronger.
"When looking for creativity solo, I'll likely use a different set of tools. It's more about the ingredients that lead to creativity than the capture. For me, it's a combination of exercise (running or yoga in particular), meditation, and putting myself in new/different situations." says Donald DeSantis, Entrepreneur and Writer.
Give your brain a reset by taking a full day completely away from technology. Unplug your laptop. Turn off your phone and go for a walk to hear your own thoughts. Many of us are so addicted to our phones that we often miss opportunities and experiences because our eyes our glued to technology.
"If you still struggle," says Kesterson, "I'd question whether the problem you're trying to solve is something you really care about, in which case, abort, then re-align to what you're here to do. The transition may be uncomfortable in the short term, but you'll feel the fire that brings you to life as soon as you do it."
Creativity makes the world go 'round. Stretch your idea muscle today and see what you can create.