Along with your goals to be more productive, focused, or healthy in the new year, you might also be thinking about ways in which you might increase your creativity. While there are many tangible ways you can improve your creative ability, recent research suggests that some effective methods may actually be at odds with the typical goals and resolutions we set for ourselves. Here are three surprising yet simple methods to increase your creativity. 

1. Think less.

In a 2017 experiment, UK researchers discovered that when they used an electric current to suppress the part of our brain that controls cerebral and executive order thinking, people were less mentally constrained, and were thus able to think more creatively. Earlier research at Stanford demonstrated similar findings, in which researchers found that excessively using our prefrontal cortex, as in when you are overthinking a problem, actually hinders creativity. When we think too hard, our brain tries to use the same mental shortcuts it has previously used to solve problems, making it difficult to come up with novel solutions.

The next time you are in search of a creative solution, find ways to think less deeply about it, perhaps with a glass of wine, when you are especially tired, or while you go for a walk.

2. Clutter your life.

Past studies have shown that clutter has damaging effects to our productivity--it makes it difficult for us to focus and process information. This mental constraint, however, is perfect grounds for sparking creative thought. In fact, in a study at the University of Minnesota, researchers found that messy rooms actually help people try new things and come up with more creative ideas.

Though it may not make sense to continually clutter and declutter your workspace based on the type of outcome you'd like to achieve, you might instead consider designing a thoughtfully "cluttered" creative room or space for yourself at work or at home.

3. Ditch your routine.

In a study by researchers at Albion University, students were asked to solve puzzles requiring either analytical or creative skills. It was found that when people completed the puzzles during their least optimal times of day (as in, when a night owl was asked to respond in the morning, or an early bird at night), they were 50 percent more successful at solving the creative tasks. Performance on analytical tasks did not change based on time. Fatigue makes our brains disorganized. This means that we can't focus, but it also means we make messy connections that we don't make when we are feeling sharp.

When needing to solve a problem creatively, find ways to break away from the routine you typically find effective. If you work best when you're awake, tackle this particular project when you're winding down for the night. You might find that, in your quest for creativity, you're actually more productive when you don't feel as such.

As you pursue your goals of discipline and focus in the new year, don't forget that one of your most important skills as an entrepreneur--your creativity--actually requires something different. Both are important, and your first creative endeavor will to be find a way to balance both.

Published on: Jan 4, 2018