Whether you’re an entrepreneur or an ambitious employee aspiring to work your way up to leadership, there are a few essentials to your success—like hard work, perseverance and honing your expertise.
But what about creativity? Throughout your career, you will often be asked to find solutions to pressing problems. And if you ever aspire to start your own business, innovation is a must, along with risk-taking and continuous improvement. All of these things require creativity. How can you boost yours? Here are nine tips:
1. Spend 30 minutes a day thinking. It’s easy when you’re busy to get into “task completion” mode. For a set period each day, close your door, turn your phone on silent and take time to think. Let ideas flow. Focus on whatever needs your attention, whether that’s a problem at work or a goal to improve a product or process.
2. Get inspired. Sometimes, learning about other people’s journeys can spark something in you. Attend speaker series in your community. Read entrepreneur biographies. And seek out a mentor who can share his or her knowledge and experience with you and help you define your own career vision and steps to get there.
3. Take your time. Even if you work well under pressure, when it comes to brainstorming or problem-solving, it’s important to let ideas simmer. Return to an issue multiple times before you commit to a course of action. Don’t rush the process of thinking through what could make something better or how to address a situation best.
4. Change up your setting. The same physical space day after day can grow tiresome. If you’re working hard on a project, consider a change of scenery—a coffee shop or even a conference room in another area of your office. Get outside when your work doesn’t require a computer.
5. Get some exercise. Exercise is good for the body as well as the mind. Scientists have found that exercise stimulates brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which encourages the growth of new brain cells. That can improve memory and has been shown to enhance creative thinking.
6. Take breaks. Hours of sedentary grinding away is actually counterproductive, causing the mind to grow weary. At least once every 30 minutes, stand up and stretch—and take a quick walk around the building if you can.
7. Surround yourself with people who have other skillsets. Two heads are better than one. Working with others can enhance your decision-making process. Each of us has unique talents and skills, after all, and diversity of thought is a good thing.
8. Keep a journal. Spend a few minutes each day recording ideas, inspirations and goals. Jot down milestones at work so you always have something to refer to when thinking about how your path has unfolded and what has influenced it along the way.
9. Apply lessons to multiple places. What have you learned as a parent, a spouse and a friend? Have you recently faced a personal challenge that offered up valuable takeaways that might apply to your career as well? Life is full of opportunities to learn and grow. Keep an open mind and think about how those lessons might be relevant in different areas of your life.
Throughout our careers, there’s a lot of emphasis on the importance of things like time management, people skills and networking, but don’t overlook the significance of creativity. Creative thinking encourages collaboration, which often results in better solutions. It allows you to come up with several approaches to any challenge. Practice being more creative each day. Your career—and your company—will be better for it.