A few months ago, my creativity was waning.
Anytime I sat down to write or paint it felt like I had a first class seat on the struggle bus. I’d rather have been back in middle school trying (and completely failing) to do a pull-up in front of my entire class for our annual physical fitness test.
I wondered if I should flip over the couch cushions and look underneath the beds to see if my creativity had hidden somewhere.
So…I did what I always do when I have a problem. I researched.
And, I found a class on CreativeLive that looked like a great fit: Get Into Your Creative Flow taught by Steven Kotler.
I wish I could tell you I did something really cool like went on a three-month sabbatical to India, Indonesia and Italy, Eat, Pray, Love-style. But I’m more of a research girl.
This course was just what the doctor ordered. I absolutely recommend it, but for today, I want to share the three things I learned from this course that I’ve turned into daily habits.
If you’re anything like me and need a boost in creativity (and productivity), you should adopt these daily habits, too.
Thanks to Steven, I’m feeling much more creative…and productive…and happy.
Here are the three daily habits:
1. Using my trigger list.
One of the strategies from this course I found the most helpful was creating a trigger list and using it daily.
A trigger list is a list of release activities that you use when you’re in the struggle phase of the creative process in order to reach flow.
Release activities are also something you use between 90-120 minutes of focused creativity in order to prep for the next one. When you do a release activity between blocks of work, you’re less likely to burn out and much more likely to reach flow throughout the day.
Steven describes triggers as low-grade physical activities–something where your body is moving (not at an extreme level) and your mind can wander.
My release activities range from walking my dogs to pilates to embroidery sewing to knitting to repetitive cleaning.
Takeaway: Build your own trigger list and do release activities for 25-45 minutes in between 90-120 minutes of focused work throughout the day.
It might seem like this would make you less productive, but it does the complete opposite. If you can reach flow when you’re working, you’ll get a lot more done in the 90-120 minute blocks of time. Steven says it can increase your productivity by 500 percent.
Tip: Television and movies do not work for release activities. They drain you of the neurochemicals needed to reach flow.
2. Ending focused work with a question.
At the end of one of the 90-120 minutes of focused work, I now think of a question and write it down.
This question relates to something I was struggling with during that block of time or what I know I’m going to be working on when I come back to work after my break and doing a release activity.
Steven teaches that ending with a question will give your subconscious time to ponder the answer while you’re doing your release activity. When you come back to work, you often know the answer or can come up with the answer pretty quickly.
When I sit back down to work, I spend five minutes journaling the answer to the question that I wrote at the end of the last block of work.
It works pretty darn well!
I don’t always have an answer, but I’ve done a lot of creative problem solving with this technique.
Takeaway: End every block of focused work by writing down a question at the top of a piece of paper. When you come back to work after your break, spend five minutes journaling the answer.
3. Reading nonfiction outside of my niche.
If you’re new around these parts, you might not know that I adore reading. That includes nonfiction, but when I read nonfiction, it’s mostly business and productivity type books. Those definitely fall into my niche.
During Steven’s course, he talked about the importance of reading nonfiction outside of your niche in order to spark creativity more often.
He explained that creativity comes from pattern recognition and to have this happen more often, you should read books outside of your area of expertise. He recommended 25 to 50 pages per day.
Since taking the course, I’ve been reading about 25 pages in a nonfiction book outside of my niche most days and I agree with him. It has amped up my creativity.
It makes you think about things in different ways, come up with ideas you never would’ve thought of and more.
I’m currently reading Lagom: Not Too Little, Not Too Much: The Swedish Art of Living a Balanced, Happy Life and then I’m going to read Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory. I have a couple options after that.
Takeaway: Make a reading list of three to five nonfiction books that are completely outside of your niche. Pick books you’re interested in–topics that you enjoy! Buy those books or check them out of your local library and read 25-50 pages each day. Once you’re done with those books, repeat the process.
See if it doesn’t help you to think more creatively!
Those are the three big takeaways from Get Into Your Creative Flow that I turned into daily habits.
I learned so much more from the course, but these three habits have made me a happier and more creative person.