17 Ways to Encourage Creativity
Content is King. I’d be willing to bet you’ve heard that phrase so much in the last few years that you’ve become immune to it, but it’s never been more pertinent than it is now. It almost doesn’t matter which industry you work in; if marketing is an important part of your job, you can’t avoid the power and importance of high quality, relevant content.
It’s all very well myself (and numerous others) waxing lyrical about the importance of content however, if you don’t have the budget to hire a content-creation agency or freelancer. In many cases, you need to come up with ideas for the content yourself, as well as executing as promoting that content to your audience. Even if you’re a seasoned content specialist who’s an expert with Adobe’s Creative Suite and a dab hand at outreach and promotion, it can often be difficult to keep the creative juices flowing on a regular and consistent basis.
So, to help those of you who need to regularly be creative (however you might define that term), here’s a list of 17 ways to encourage your creativity – all of which are utilised in-house by the Designbysoap team:
1. Make Lists
I’m a major fan of making daily to do lists – or Action Steps if you’re a fan of Scott Belsky – and while the process of getting your tasks down on paper is unlikely to spark an idea, it does help you de-clutter your mind, which in turn helps you de-stress and frees up space for creative thinking. Trust me, it works.
2. Carry a Notebook. Everywhere.
You genuinely never know when an idea or solution will come to you, so having a small notebook with you at all times will ensure you can always jot down your ideas when inspiration strikes. It took me forgetting numerous bright ideas before I adopted this approach, and I haven’t let one slip since.
3. Take Breaks. Get Away from your Computer.
Let’s face it, we’re only human, and we’re all susceptible to burnout and mental fatigue. If you’re trying to force your creative thinking – particularly when you’re tired or overwhelmed – then you’re only going to come up with average ideas at best. Take regular breaks, go for a walk, challenge a co-worker to a game of table football, whatever takes your fancy. Getting away from your computer screen and giving your mind a break will help you overcome mental fatigue and will have a positive impact on your creativity.
4. Listen to New Music
I have to admit, I wasn’t convinced by this one when I first heard it, but I like to keep an open mind so a couple of years ago I decided to listen to one new album every week (I would recommend using a good streaming service for this). Within a few weeks I was completely converted – not only did I discover some great new bands and artists I otherwise may not have found, but I noticed a distinct improvement in my levels of idea generation and overall creativity (in fact I often come up with ideas for content whilst listening to a new album).
5. Surround Yourself with Creative People
I can’t overstate the importance of being around other creative people when it comes to encouraging your own creativity. Community is an integral part of the generation and execution of ideas, and that’s even more the case when that community is filled with creative types. Hopefully you’re naturally able to communicate with other creatives during your day to day work, but if you’re not (for example if you work alone or in a traditionally non-creative industry), then take advantage of the communities available to you online. Platforms such as Visual.ly, Behance and Google Groups will allow you to communicate with other creative people, bounce ideas around, collaborate and gain feedback on your own concepts.
6. Get Feedback
Some people won’t like the process of getting feedback (designers, I’m looking at you), and it’s not always a pleasurable experience. Sometimes the feedback you receive won’t be what you want to hear, it may even be critical, and if you’re particularly invested in a project – be it emotionally, financially or in terms of the amount of effort you’ve put into it – it can often be a painful process. However, getting feedback is a crucial element of being part of a creative community, and whether you like it or not it can improve your final product no end and encourage you to think about things you may otherwise not have considered. Just be sure the feedback you’re getting is honest, and not the mindless head-nods of complacent ‘yes men’, or relatives who don’t want to hurt your feelings.
Before starting Designbysoap Ltd with my co-director, I was a musician living in Brighton, one of the UK’s most creative and diverse cities. During my musical career, I realised that collaborating with others – writing with other musicians, discussing production elements with studio engineers, performing live with other people, etc. – was one of the single most valuable experiences when it came to improving my own output and performance and increasing my levels of creativity. I took this lesson on-board when starting the agency and our team regularly collaborate with one-another (whether that be through choice or necessity) in order to ensure we’re producing work of the highest possible quality.
8. Go to Conferences
Another way to take advantage of the benefits of a community is to regularly attend conferences, whether they’re small local events or large international expos. The beauty of conferences is that not only will you learn a huge amount from the talks and speakers, but you’ll be surrounded by creative people from your industry and will have a fantastic opportunity to network, make new contacts and potentially collaborate on future projects. Obviously it’s easier said than done when many conferences are expensive and often scattered around the globe (or at least the US and Europe), but try and get into the habit of going to at least one per year if it’s at all possible.
9. Take Risks and Make Mistakes
There is absolutely nothing wrong with making mistakes, particularly if you learn from those mistakes and apply what you’ve learnt to future projects. Admittedly you should try and avoid making those mistakes on client projects you’re being paid for, but for your own creative output (for personal projects) you should make a habit of trying new things, taking risks on a new medium or concept and not being afraid of making a mistake. Getting out of your comfort zone and trying something different can be a fantastic learning tool and a great way of encouraging you to be more creative.
10. Go Somewhere New
Try and visit a new place regularly, or at least when you find you’re suffering from creative fatigue. Going somewhere different can help give your mind a rest and can spark creativity in many unexpected ways. A new culture, architecture you’ve never seen before, new people and new surroundings can all help boost your creativity and often have a positive impact when it comes to producing new ideas.
11. Get Lots of Rest
I personally struggle with this one, as I’m often working late and starting early in a bid to stay on top of the numerous projects we have at any one time. But there’s no doubting the beneficial impact of getting plenty of rest when it comes to being creative (and generally functioning well on a day to day basis). Sleep is invaluable when it comes to improving your mental output and, conversely, a lack of rest can make being creative – and productive – far tougher. Try and get a solid 8 hours as many nights of the week as possible, and if you do find you’re struggling to fit that in, bear in mind you can catch up on your sleep on the weekends. If you find it hard to get a good night’s sleep, check out our recent client infographic on how modern technology affects sleep.
12. Break the Rules
Just because there’s a standard, accepted way of doing something doesn’t mean you always need to stick to it. History is full of examples of celebrated personalities – be they creatives, athletes, politicians, musicians, activists, military leaders, businessmen, etc. – who approached a problem in a different way and got results. Take Dick Fosbury for example. Before the 1960’s there was a clear and accepted way to clear a high jump bar, most notably the ‘straddle’, where an athlete would roll over the bar with his face down. In 1968, Dick Fosbury won a gold medal by jumping over them backwards – a technique that had previously been mocked by his peers. Fosbury ‘broke the rules’, and today, the ‘flop’ is the most commonly accepted way of doing the high jump.
13. Tidy your Workspace
You’d be amazed at the difference tidying your workspace can make when it comes to making you more focused and less stressed – in a similar way ‘to do’ lists help you de-clutter your mind, tidying your workspace helps you get into the mindset of working and reduces the amount of immediate distractions. So if you find you’re suffering from creative block or you’re not being as productive as you know you should be, take a break, tidy your workspace and have a coffee. When you get back down to working you will likely notice an immediate positive impact.
14. Quit. Regularly.
In a culture where we’re constantly reminded of the value of ‘never giving up’, being told to quit something without feeling like a failure may sound like an odd, counter-intuitive concept. But quitting can be a hugely beneficial exercise when it comes to being more productive and more creative – a concept that will resonate with those familiar with the works of Seth Godin (in particular his book The Dip, if you’re interested). Our mental and physical capacities are, unfortunately, limited, and as a result knowing what (and when) to quit is a useful skill when it comes to ensuring your focus is on what’s really important. Let me give you an example, I’m a musician, a writer and a graphic designer and a marketer – skills I’ve done my best to master over the years. But to become proficient in Adobe Creative Suite, I gave up on my desire to learn to code from scratch; to master the guitar, I gave up trying to learn the piano; to master writing I gave up trying to master pencil drawings; to become skilled in organic marketing I put a hold on my PPC learning. There’s no reason I can’t pick up one of these projects later if I feel the need, but I recognised that there was only so much time in the day and only so much I could learn in any given period, so I focused my attention on what I wanted to learn most.
Bear this in mind, Malcolm Gladwell noted that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master something – that’s more than six and half years practising four hours a day, every day. So if you truly want to master something – in this case something creative – you need to recognise that your pursuit of the violin may need to be put on hold.
15. Finish Something
Starting a new project is the easy bit – you’re full of excitement, hope, ideas and positivity. But as a project moves forward, you’re constantly hit with barriers, be they technical, emotional, motivational or just because you’re stuck in a loop of reactionary workflow. Finishing a project is hard, and takes constant effort and commitment – but the reward, the feeling you get when you finish something, is well worth the toil and can be a major positive influence when it comes to your ability to be creative. So if you’re struggling to come up with new ideas and approaches to your work, pick a project (however large or small) and finish it.
16. Read. A Lot.
I try and make time every day to read at least a few pages of a book, and I truly believe it has a major impact on my own levels of creativity. My own personal preference is for non-fiction (specifically science, economics and ‘smart thinking’), but fiction would, I’m sure, work just as well. Not only does it allow you an escape from the pressures of your current projects, but it’s a veritable goldmine of ideas, inspiration and new approaches to creativity. Try and find some time, at least once a week, to read and I’d be willing to bet you’ll start to notice an effect on your creativity levels.
17. Watch Films. Play Video Games.
I’ve left this one to last, as it’s probably the most fun. Spend some time in the evenings or at weekends doing something entertaining – I’m a big fan of my games consoles and film collection for example – and it will help you unwind, take a break from work and just generally relax. Not only that, but you’re entertaining yourself with someone else’s creativity, and you’d be surprised how that can rub off on your subconscious when it comes to producing creative ideas of your own.
So that’s it for my tips on encouraging creativity. Hopefully you’ll find something in there that works for you, and if you really can’t do the creative thinking thing, drop us an email and we’ll do it for you. If you enjoyed this post or you think someone you know may find it useful, please consider sharing it using the social media buttons to the left. Oh, and don’t forget to Like Us on Facebook!