Global pandemics don’t care that you’ve got a Thursday deadline and that, as of Wednesday afternoon, you’re still staring at a blank screen, waiting for inspiration. While those of us who can are working at home and trying to keep business running as usual, it can be challenging on several levels. From the psychological toll of isolation, uncertainty and fear to the demands of caring for a family or dealing with a roommate who’s suddenly home 24/7, all while trying to remain productive, the struggle is real. And, if your job involves coming up with ideas and bringing them to life, you know this new normal definitely doesn’t feel like a great situation for getting creative.
But I’ve found a few things that are helping me push through and, heck, even kick out some of the best work I’ve done recently:
- Breathe. It’s hard when the pressure’s on and each day’s news seems a little worse than the last. But stress can be a huge killer of creativity and in order to get those creative juices flowing, we’ve all got to exhale. Whether we practice traditional meditation, breathing techniques like the Wim Hof Method or just clock some miles on the treadmill, taking a moment to breathe deeply and clear our heads can make a difference.
- (Re)connect. Social distancing may be keeping us from those in-person brainstorms that build camaraderie and produce amazing ideas, but it doesn’t mean collaboration is dead. I’m having a lot of good-old-fashioned phone calls and “face-to-face” conversations on Hangouts — but not just with work folks. I’ve also made a point to reach out to former colleagues and old friends whose voices I haven’t heard in a while. Over Zoom happy hours, we’re not just catching up; we’re also inspiring each other and coming up with creative ideas for apps, activities and household tips to help us stay sane. Others are using Houseparty for group gaming sessions and Netflix Party for movie nights. Finding creative ways to keep conversations going and share what we love is more important than ever.
- Learn something new. Even with consistent workloads, homeschooling, housekeeping and the constant search for household paper products, many of us seem to have a lot more down time lately. Using some of that time to learn something new is a perfect way to stimulate creativity because it requires using different parts of our brains. I know people who have taken up cooking, gardening and cross-stitch. And I’ve finally cracked open Babbel, after downloading it months ago, to learn Spanish.
- Try un-scheduling. I know every productivity expert will probably disagree with me. We’ve all been told to keep to a schedule. Get up every morning, shower and get to work. But I believe creatives are different animals who thrive on flexibility. Ideas don’t come on demand because you’ve blocked off an hour on your calendar to think about something. In his book Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, author Adam Grant says “When you procrastinate you give yourself time to incubate instead of rushing forward with your first ideas. This gives time for you to have all sorts of new ones to consider. Non-linear thinking enables you to make unexpected connections and make more random leaps.” A spontaneous break in the middle of the day to fold laundry and finish up Tiger King or go for a bike ride just because the mood strikes might be exactly what your brain needs to reset and reach a breakthrough.
- See the inspiration everywhere. Sure, we’re cooped up in our own homes, but within these four walls, there’s a lot to spark creativity. Personally, I’ve got plenty of books, old records, new Spotify channels and watchlists to keep me going for a while. And we live in amazing times when we can visit the Louvre, wake up or wind down with a worldwide dance party or even cook with a Michelin star chef — all from the comfort of our own homes. Tapping into any of these resources is a great place to start if you’re feeling uninspired.
I know, these are just little steps to boost creativity, but what’s cool is that they’re ones we can adopt and carry beyond this crazy time. And that’s important, because no matter how endless this situation may seem, it won’t actually last forever.
Originally published on LinkedIn.