When you work, there are times when you simply have to be productive and you need to do as much work as you can. Yet there also times when you need to think creatively when the usual guidelines and SOPs aren’t working to solve a particular problem.
Many people regard productivity and creativity as opposite types of tools. Productivity is about the amount of work done, usually according to set procedures. Creativity, on the other hand, can be flighty and you don’t always know when an inspiring solution can strike you. Creativity is required when traditional solutions are insufficient.
So it may seem that if you want to help enhance your creativity, you may have to take a timeout about improving your productivity. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some creativity hacks that can actually boost your productivity as well.
1. Take a Step Back from a Knotty Problem
You’ve probably heard about the cliché about how you can “sleep on it” when you’re finding it difficult to solve a particular problem. The solution may also just come to you when you’re not actually focused on that problem at the time, such as when you’re driving to work or taking a bath.
This is actually a technique called psychological distance. It’s based on the idea that when you take a psychological step back from a problem, it becomes easier to figure out because your brain is freer from stress.
But how can you do this instantly so you don’t waste time unproductively waiting for inspiration to strike? You can achieve psychological distance by reformulating the problem in more hypothetical ways. You can, for example, try to predict how another person you know will tackle the problem. That person’s particular POV can give you the psychological distance you need.
Or you can always just switch to another task in the meantime so you’re still productive. The solution may just come to you later.
2. Reserve Crucial Tasks for Your “In The Zone” Moments
Have you ever heard an athlete described as “in the zone”? This happens when an athlete seems to do everything perfectly for an extended period of time. This can happen to regular people as well, though it mostly happens during that time when you’re at your most creative.
Each one of us has our own natural clock and rhythm. Some may be morning persons, while others are night owls who are most alert in the wee hours. The morning is the regular time that most people are both creative and productive, though this isn’t true for everyone.
3. Use the Right Constraints
It’s true that creativity (and productivity, for that matter), needs a bit of freedom. It’s hard to be creative when there are too many restrictions and you’re being micromanaged.
But the right constraints can work as well. When some people are not allowed too many resources, they can become more creative with the resources they already have. That’s why some homebuilders are better off coming up with home designs with a budget, rather than if they’re free to build anything without budget constraints.
It’s all about picking the “sweet spot” when you’re working with restraints. So when you’re working, set up a challenging yet realistic schedule and standard for your work. You can challenge yourself to do well, without discouraging your creativity by setting up the bar unrealistically.
4. Set Up the Right Neurochemical Balance
Your creativity and productivity are both dependent on your mood, and your moods are affected by your brain chemicals. Chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol are stress-related, and they’re no good for your creativity. They can also lead to high blood pressure which doesn’t do any favors for your productivity. The neurochemicals you want to increase our serotonin for creativity and dopamine which is the feel-good hormone.
You can support brain function by eating the right foods like healthful dishes with high protein. Coffee can work, but only if you’re already feeling great. If you’re feeling anxious already, the caffeine can make you downright jittery and unproductive.
5. Use a Mind Mapping App
Mind mapping is like taking down notes whenever you have a creative idea. However, unlike regular note-taking mind mapping is less structured and rigid so it helps better with creativity. It involves making a diagram with a central idea and then with various branches of ideas around it. It basically gives you a visual of how your interconnected thoughts and ideas actually connect with each other.
To go into detail, you will need a pro to help guide you and that’s why an app is a great tool for you. It helps with your creativity and since you can use it at any time it boosts your productivity as well. Among the popular mind-mapping apps you can use include MindNode, iThoughts, and MindManager.
Admittedly, creative ideas can’t be produced whenever you want. But these 5 tips can help foster your ability to be creative, while you don’t have to sacrifice your focus and productivity. When you’re able to focus your creative energy every time you need it, you will notice a great improvement in the quality and quantity of your work.
Also, check out the top skills every Product Manager needs to build a winning product.