After weeks of pleading and persuading, the higher-ups finally assigned you a project worthy of your creative talent. Something big. You plunk yourself down at the keyboard, eager to dazzle the entire office with ideas that will redefine the industry.
But nothing happens. Not one drop of the ingenuity you know is bottled up inside gushes forth. Meanwhile, your deadline nears.
Creativity doesn’t flow from a tap that we can simply turn off and on. It’s fickle. Like a Broadway diva, it often needs some pampering and encouragement before taking center stage.
Luckily, there are a number of simple ways to jump start the creative juices:
1. True Blue
Surround yourself with the cool, calming color of blue to give your creativity a boost. A 2009 study published in the journal Science outlined how colors take on certain associations. Red makes us anxious, while blue allows us to relax. The study found that people who faced a blue computer screen were better able to unwind and allow fresh ideas to develop. Simply go into the settings on your computer and change the background on your desktop to a more calming color and see if it works for you.
2. Keep It Random
Grab a magazine or book, flip to any page and just start reading. Turn on the TV to a show that’s half over and watch it for a few minutes. Don’t try to catch up on the plot—pay attention to the phrases being used or emotions being conveyed. Your mind will start to fill in the gaps, which can create new ideas.
3. Be Cheerful
Watch a video of your favorite standup comic. Mood is a significant determining factor in creativity. While anxiety can focus a person, good cheer and happiness can foster new ideas, according to one study published by the National Academy of Sciences in 2006. Just watching a clip of a laughing baby has shown the potential to boost one’s creativity.
4. Feed Your Creativity
Certain foods provide nutrients that help foster fresh thinking. Antioxidants found in vitamin C- and vitamin E-rich foods (such as broccoli, spinach and sunflower seeds) are known to promote creativity.
5. Map Your Mind
This technique is like brainstorming 2.0. Jot down a central topic or word on a piece of paper and then link related terms or ideas around it. This creates a visual way of seeing how different ideas and concepts are linked while providing a unique perspective on your subject.
6. List It Out
Creating lists can help you organize those tangled thoughts. Take a question that’s central to your project and then rattle off as many answers as you can. Don’t overthink it—the responses must be spontaneous, allowing your subconscious to take the lead. Stay focused and make the entire list in a single sitting for best results.
7. Embrace the Absurd
Try thinking of your project in a completely different way. Go nuts! One method called Janusian Thinking involves connecting two opposite or ridiculous concepts to create an original idea. Consider markets or audiences that have nothing to do with the project you’re working on. A strange combination could spark a great idea.
If you can find a nice, quiet spot to escape from your usual work routine, meditation might help you stoke the creative flame. A recent study published by Frontiers in Cognition showed that certain meditation techniques influence the divergent and convergent styles of thinking—the main two ingredients for creativity. It will also help you relax, which is never a bad thing.
9. Perform Menial Tasks
Pick up a broom, do the dishes or even pave the driveway—any menial work that will allow your mind to wander. This frees up your subconscious and will allow new ideas to enter. At the very least, you’ll get some of the housework done.
10. Switch Your Medium
Break out of your comfort zone by being creative in a different way. If you’re a graphic designer, try writing. If you’re a writer, give sketching a shot. This will force you to look at your project with a new perspective as you strive to overcome different challenges.
Jennifer Motian lives in Chicago and writes for a company that provides patent brokerage services. When she’s not working and writing, she can be found doing yoga and seeing live music around the best city in the world.