5 Tips to Improve Your Creative Thinking Skills
Many people think creativity is a natural talent: either you’re born with it, or you’ll never have it. With all the talk of left brain versus right brain, Type A personality versus Type B, it’s easy to fall into this trap. We assume that because we’re not naturally gifted, it’ll never happen to us. But there’s good news: anyone can learn to be creative.
Even if you’re in a non-creative field and have never thought of yourself as having a creative bone in your body, you too can be on your way to channeling your inner creative genius by following a few helpful tips.
1. Become an idea machine
As entrepreneur and business maven James Altucher says, “Ideas are the currency of life.” Rather than money, ideas are what make great businesses successful and professionals of any arena stand out in the crowd. Altucher argues that anyone can become an idea machine simply by practicing coming up with ideas on a daily basis. Try making a list of ten ideas per day. The ideas can be about literally any category (e.g. “Movie Scripts I Could Write About My Life” or “Foreign Foods That Should Be Popular in America”). They don’t even have to be “good” ideas. Just get thinking!
2. Exercise without distraction
There’s nothing like a long walk to clear your mind. It’s proven that any type of exercise can increase creative ideas, especially when it’s done without watching TV or listening to music. Try going for a run, pumping some iron, or even wandering aimlessly around town. Many companies are even incorporating “walking meetings” because they’re proven to be more productive and spark more insight than when employees sit in the same old conference room every day.
3. Do something outside your comfort zone
All of us tend to get into routines. Routines are simply . . . comfortable. We go to the same restaurants, hang out with the same friends, see the same type of movie, listen to the same type of music, etc. But studies show that trying something new can greatly improve your creative thinking skills. Even if you just eat Indian food rather than your usual Friday night burrito, you’ll benefit from the exposure to something new. Bonus points if you travel to a new place or take the time to get to know someone very different from you. Learn about their outlook on life, and you might be surprised by what you find.
4. Work under constraints
Perhaps there’s a good reason so many college students procrastinate until the last minute: constraints force us to really get creative. Time constraints are the first thing many people think of when it comes to restrictions, but there are other types of constraints that can be conducive to creative thinking. Sometimes unlimited options are too overwhelming. The next time you have a project to tackle, try setting your own constraints like writing a great story in less than 100 words, using only two colors to draw a picture, or asking someone else to give you a problem to solve.
5. Try a creative ritual
There are many ways to “set the mood” when it comes to creative thinking. Many people actually think more creatively at night rather than in the morning, as their thoughts start to blur and reality becomes a little less “real.” Dimming the lights can also create a more creative environment. But you can take it a step further and participate in a daily ritual to stimulate your creativity muscles. Try any of these popular methods and stick to one that works best for you:
- Read in the morning
- Light candles at night
- Listen to your favorite music
- Talk to an old friend on your commute
- Practice deep breathing while standing in line
- Write in a journal
- Get 8 hours of sleep
- Take an afternoon power nap
- Spritz your face with water in the morning
- Drink tea or hot lemon water when you wake up
Like physical muscles that need exercise to become stronger, creative thinking is a muscle that requires regular mental workouts. Creativity is proven to better your health, improve your mood, and increase productivity in the workplace. Clearly, creative thinking is something we can all benefit from.