You are a wellspring of amazing ideas, you just don’t know it. You can wow people with your creative problem-solving, but you have to know how to tap into it. And you need to prepare.
Previously we explored the lizard-brainy myths we believe about creativity. Now we will focus on how to prepare your mind and environment for creative success. The bonus is that these strategies apply not just to creative problem-solving but to any task where you require deliberate concentration and focus.
I call my creative process the “rack and rest” method. It consists of a period of concentrated, conscious mental activity (rack your brain), followed by a period of low-level activity (rest your brain) where the subconscious gets to work.
For the “rack” process to achieve maximum effectiveness, we need to prepare our internal and external environments.
The mental environment
The first step is to adopt a mindset that is accurate and positive. Review the common falsehoods about creativity to dispel negativity and fear. If you have already decided that you are not creative, that the task is too difficult, or that you have too many other things to do, you are already behind the eight ball and setting your mental environment up for failure.
Though a positive mindset does not guarantee success, it does push your odds way up.
Next, you need to identify the problem you are trying to solve. The real problem. We often mis-identify what we are actually trying to accomplish. There’s a famous business adage that says you may think you need a ¼ drill bit, but what you really need is a ¼ inch hole.
Let’s say you are stressed because you can’t get all your work done, so you set your sights on figuring out how to reduce your workload. Maybe your workload isn’t the real problem. Perhaps you need to improve your time management skills.
Or you run a business and are in a sales slump. You may think the problem is an under performing sales staff but the real problem may be with the product itself.
Identify the real problem, then you can work on a creative solution.
The spatial environment
Your senses are easily distracted, thanks to the lizard brain’s sensitivity to any unusual stimulus. Any sights or sounds that can steal your attention, even for a second, should be removed or at least reduced.
I find that if I have papers or projects scattered across my desk, my mind wanders to those as soon as my eye catches them, so I have to clear my desk first. Out of sight, out of mind.
It also helps to work in a space where you are free to move. Physical movement stimulates brain activity, so when you feel stuck you can stand up, walk around, or stretch.
The temporal environment
The creative process takes time, so you need to be proactive in dedicating a specific block of time to the task. The length of time depends on how you work best. Can you do 60 minutes of non-stop focused work? If not, schedule 30 minute segments. Then commit to it. Without commitment, it is too easy for other priorities and distractions to interrupt you.
Finally, think about what time of day you are at your creative best. Is it in the morning after your first cup of coffee? Maybe the evening is when your brain is humming along at full tilt. If possible, work when you are most likely to do your best. However, if you can't carve out that specific time, select any available time. Getting it done is more important than being too concerned with the best time.
Ready to WOW!
Now you are prepared to do your best work. What next? Does that blank piece of paper in front of you frighten you? Do you struggle with figuring out where to begin?
in my next newsletter we will dig into the "rack and rest" process itself with specific strategies and techniques for producing awesome creative results!
Think well and be well,
Want to learn more about improving your thinking and decision making?