What habits make a person more creative? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Shane Snow, founder of Contently and author of Dream Teams, on Quora:

Creativity is about connecting things that haven't been connected before. You can't connect things that you don't have in your brain, so I think one of the most important creative habits is to take in a lot of content--and a wide variety at that. In his book The Creative Curve my buddy Allen Gannett walks through the science of how this works. But basically the most impressive and consistently creative people (songwriter Max Martin, Netflix head of content Ted Sarandos) tend to spend a huge amount of their time consuming content.

In terms of habits on this front: I like to set aside 20% of my work time for exploring things that are outside of my main work. This kind of exploration expands your database and gives you more potential to make creative connections.

Someone who is solely focused on their industry has less chance of making a creative breakthrough than someone who can import perspectives and heuristics and ideas from other industries. In psychology there's a concept called "cognitive entrenchment" that basically says it's harder to be creative in a field the longer you're in it, if you don't get outside much. This is why I'm convinced that Einstein's playing a mean violin--not to mention looking at patents in umpteen different fields at his desk job--was helpful to him in his physics work.

This also gives you an excuse to have some fun. I give myself permission to write articles about ice cream, to go into a Wikipedia wormhole about wormholes, or to explore abandoned buildings and take pictures--because it all can be potentially helpful for creativity at some point.

One of my favorite examples of this is the old Soviet National Hockey Team dynasty that I wrote about in my most recent book (Dream Teams). They won almost every international championship for decades, in large part because they had this old coach named Tarasov back in the day who made the players learn to dance and play chess. He made them do ninja rolls in ice skates and jump off trees. He taught them to look at the world and find anything they could that they could bring back to hockey. And their creative playing style surprised their opponents--for decades.

Also this habit of personal 20% exploration time has the added benefit of helping you not go insane when you're working on intense things.

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Published on: Jul 27, 2018