Counter-Intuitive Ways to Get Creativity Flowing

184-1013-A0186Once we realize that creativity isn’t solely about painting or writing or other more traditional, artistic pursuits we can see that the more creatively we approach life the better life we’ll live. Creativity is linked to happiness and well-being. It also boosts our productivity, helps us find our passion, and solve problems.

But how do we access this super power in the middle of a busy day? That’s something I think about a lot, when I’m sitting before a blank computer screen trying to come up with the next book or article idea before my daughter arrives home from school.

Here are a few surprisingly counter-intuitive life hacks, which, research reveals, can invoke our creative spirit.

Tackling the Mundane

Alright now, find a phone book – seriously, I know we don’t use them anymore but the folks from the yellow pages are dropping them in your driveway — and start reading. Yep, open a page, and read through the list of numbers right there in the phone book.

Turns out this kind of boring and mundane task might be just what we need to work into a more creative mindset.

In a couple of small experiments by Sandi Mann and Rebekah Cadman, people who took on passive, more boring activities – like reading or copying numbers out of a phone book – were more creative problem solvers. It seems the more boring tasks allow room for more daydreaming which may explain why many of my best ideas come while unloading the dishwasher or folding clothes.

All this has got me thinking: is there greater potential for those who are bored at work or living in isolated environments to create great novels or paintings or other works of art? Who knows? But as we ponder the fate of these bored and faceless, but, oh-so-creative strangers, we might just feel another creative nudge.

Thinking of Others

That wouldn’t be all that surprising to Evan Polman and Kyle Emich. Their research indicates that we tend to come up with more creative ideas and better solutions when we are thinking of other people. The theory is, that when we are stewing over our own circumstances we tend to be more concrete and rigid in our though patterns. This is stifling to our creativity.

But, when we distance ourselves and focus on someone else’s problem – poor schmucks — we become more expansive, our perspective broadens and we become more flexible and abstract in our thought patterns. Enter: innovation and interesting ideas.

Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and not only will you be more kind and compassionate – by-products of empathy — but you might just stumble on a compelling and creative idea. Or you might literally stumble over it, on a walk.

Going for a Walk

Walking appears to alter our physiology in a way the fires up our imaginations. Research out of Stanford University indicates that we come up with the most creative ideas while walking, but that creativity lingers even after. Those study participants who sat throughout the experiment, not so creative. Those who walked, whether on a treadmill or outside, pulsed with creative energy.

Exercise has long been linked to creativity and if I must choose between the boring task of sweeping the family room or going for a walk, well, I’m lacing up my sneakers right now.

When I get back, the dirty floor will still be waiting, by then though, I expect I’ll have something else to write about.