Guest post by Dmitri Leonov, VP of Growth at SaneBox.
If you've been working in the same role for years, completing the same old projects, and sending the same emails over and over, you might feel stuck in a creative rut.
Performing similar tasks day after day may make you an expert in specific areas, but it can also inhibit you from unleashing those inventive ideas hidden in the back of your mind. Creativity, like a muscle, needs to be exercised, and it's no secret that it is an important skill to implement at work. According to the World Economic Forum, creativity is related to 9 of the top 10 skills that global executives say are essential for 2020 and beyond.
Some people are intrinsically creative, while others have to work at it regularly. Regardless of where you are in your creative journey, here are some quick and easy ways to break out of your routine and get your creative juices flowing because you can produce new approaches and inspire your coworkers with your fresh ideas.
Step Out of the Office
Whether you work from your home or an office, it's essential to get away from your desk and step outside. Even if it's just a stroll around the block, make an effort to notice things in your environment. Make a game of it, and try an "inspiration hunt" — for example, deliberately look for things that begin with a specific letter or color. Your mind will start working to connect the dots between what you see and the problems you left back at work. That's the magic of our subconscious.
Get an Accountability Buddy
Innovation rarely occurs in a vacuum. Ask a colleague you feel comfortable with to make yourselves accountable to each other. Encourage them to try new things, whether it's pitching a new idea in a meeting, sharing new methods of working, or just doing some classic brainstorming. It's easier to accomplish things when you've got someone rooting for you.
Make Your Workspace Work for You
If you have the opportunity to customize your workspace, make it a more inspiring place to be. First off, be sure to keep it tidy, and then add whatever motivates you — plants, photos, mood boards, candles, stationery, whiteboards, flowers, etcetera. To that end, try to work near a window or natural light source. Creatively, you are at your best when you are alert, well-rested, and energized, and great lighting can put you in the right flow state. And, if being in the same space every day doesn't do it for you, feel free to move around and try something new once in a while. Coffee shops, coworking spaces, and parks are all great places to try.
Your best ideas can come to you in unexpected ways and at random times. It's always a good time for a good brainstorm, and when inspiration strikes, you should be ready. I recommend having a whiteboard or notebook to jot down all of your ideas, no matter how half-baked they are at the time.
When you're on the move, use the Notes app on your phone and write ideas down as soon as they pop into your head. Your lists don't have to be curated or tidy. Instead, they should show off your stream of consciousness that you can adapt and edit later. There's no one right way to brainstorm, so take inspiration as it comes and be open to adjusting the process.
Overhaul Existing Processes
As you work on your creativity at work, look at the broader picture — is your team being as creative as possible? If not, think of ways you could facilitate more creativity. For example, are your weekly stand-ups becoming a little stale? Are there any teamwork exercises you can do together to promote more original ideas? It also might help if you lead by example and share some ideas to help your team know new ideas, suggestions, and solutions are always welcome at your company.
Fuel Up on Inspiration
It's tough to make time for seeking creative inspiration when checking social media and email is so addictive, but trust me, it's worth the effort. Fuel your mind with inspiration instead of diving into your to-do list first thing. Choose your favorite podcast, song, or magazine to kick-start the morning. Whatever it is, make sure it feeds your imagination. You'll be amazed at how much it will set your attitude for increased creativity throughout the workday.
Ask "What Would My Hero Do?"
When you're stumped with a problem you can't quite crack, let your imagination run wild by calling on some of your favorite creative heroes. Ask yourself, what would they do if they faced the same problem? Consider how Jeff Bezos would solve a packaging challenge, how Oprah would deal with a communication issue, or how Bill Gates would tackle a pesky bug in your code. You might be surprised how enlightened you feel.
Dmitri Leonov is an internet entrepreneur, leading growth efforts at SaneBox. He has over ten years of experience in startups, corporate strategy, sales strategy, channel development, international expansion, and M&A.