As winter bears down on us, I have devoted a few days to being outside, in the cold, weeding and pruning the remnants of lavender, amsonia and hydrangea around our house.  I do this because I know that helping the plants to retreat now, will guarantee a more bountiful re-blossoming this upcoming spring and summer. 

It occurred to me that pruning is a relevant and helpful practice to turn on to ourselves.  Winter provides a time to slow down and reframe. The beauty of cutting back and pruning is that in the spring fuller offshoots and sprouts appear.  The winter months are an ideal time to retreat, take stock and focus on fine-tuning oneself in order to blossom in the spring. 

Creativity needs to incubate. 

You must dedicate the time and space to plant seeds now so that you can harvest great ideas later.  Here are three recommendations to incubate creativity over the winter months so that you come out recharged this spring.

1.  Go on a Listening Tour.   One of the best gifts I've given myself when pivoting in my career and developing more creative approaches was to meet with people whom I admire and respect--and who know me.  I asked them to "tell me about myself." This exercise proved phenomenally helpful because it gave me perspective.  The other value of a Listening Tour is that it is a form of data collection: observe the paths of others, listen more than speak, and learn.  

2.  Retreat.  Gift yourself a Mini-Retreat.  Make it humble, simple and short.  Let it be for 1 day, a weekend and even a week if you can afford the time.  You don't need to go to a remote island in the sun--a staycation at a hotel in your hometown; the extra space in the home of a gracious friend can do the trick.  Switching up our environments brings new stimuli and re-introduces wonder to our lives.  Wonder is a key ingredient to creativity.   Bring along helpful daydream prompters such as The Crossroads Between Should and Must by Elle Luna, or Design The Life You Love by Ayse Birsel. Doodle to your heart's content.  Let your mind drift, pretend and suppose. 

3. Generate Actionable Lists.  When you write lists you are compiling and articulating ideas that may have been relegated to the shadows of your mind.  Get down on paper all ideas that occur to you. Generate ideas based on categories such as "What If..." or "How might I...".  Make a list solely of questions!  Warren Berger's A More Beautiful Question is a wonderful guide about the power of inquiry to get to breakthrough ideas.  Value quantity in your lists and don't judge!  Writing down your ideas makes them visible, more real and tangible.  Try experimenting with scaling your ideas by inserting them into categories: e.g., "Pros/Cons" or "Immediately/A Year from Now".  Remember that "goals are dreams with deadlines"--so adding time limits to what you want to explore will spark momentum.

As these tips will prove, jump-starting your creativity doesn't have to be a huge, laborious endeavor. And in the words of Picasso, "Inspiration exists- but it has to find you working."