Being more creative at work is at a premium these days. What, with open floor concepts, an increasing focus on innovation, and catchphrases like design thinking becoming popular in every office, it can be overwhelming for us average office workers to be more creative than we feel like we should. The good news? Being more creative doesn’t have to be a chore. Try one of these ten simple tasks (with a focus on simple) this week to make you feel a bit more creative, immediately.
Change Your Position or Your Desk
A few months ago, my company moved into a temp space. The office used to house a super traditional law firm, featuring corner offices with panoramic views and cubicles jammed into every possible square inch. Normally, we’ve got tons of standing desks, but law firm cubes don’t exactly offer the greatest degree of desk flexibility.
To keep things fresh, we adopted a “sit where you land” policy. When you get to work, you pick a space and work there. The next day (or even the next hour if you want), you pick a new space and call it home. This kind of setup may seem confusing or chaotic, but it also creates the opportunity to work near different folks and expand your ability to deal with discomfort effectively. And, for many of us, the challenge of cobbling together a bunch of file cabinets and cardboard boxes to make a standing desks takes real-life creative problem solving to the next level.
Create Your Own Ideas Notepad
Let’s face it—people are really bad at writing down their ideas. I bet you’ve got tons of ideas. But, I also bet that you probably work at a company that either doesn’t value your creativity or isn’t capable of it. Keeping a notebook of your ideas is a small step in the right direction. Spend one week writing down every idea you have. On Saturday, once your week is over, read through your ideas and start writing down how you can actually put your best ideas into action. Only your best, most creative ideas will rise to the top, and you’ll start your week with the fuel you need to get things done.
Keep a Sketchpad By Your Side
I’ve led a lot of fun design workshops in my day job. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that every company hotshot things he or she can’t draw.
If only their first-grade self could hear that.
Everyone can draw, no matter how much practice you’ve had. Spend one day during the week where every free moment you have is taken up by drawing something. Instead of turning on Netflix pick up a pad of paper (or buy a sketchbook) and just draw. When I worked in crappy jobs, I never drew. I did everything on the computer and felt creatively dead every minute I worked. It’s possible that if you feel like you can’t draw either, a part of your creative mind has gone to sleep. Wake it up!
Accessorize Your Space
There’s a reason companies make big money manufacturing “fun” versions of boring old office products. For my 30th birthday, my wife bought me a packet of mustache sticky notes that mimic the mustaches of authors like Edgar Allan Poe and Mark Twain. I mixed this little creative act with a design thinking workshop, and participants spent 15 minutes sticking them on their upper lips and making funny faces. When was the last time you engaged in creative play with your co-workers? Accessories are one of the best ways to prompt others to start conversations with you or with those around you and get ideas flowing.
Lead a Group Brainstorm (the Right Way)
The average workday is (roughly) divided into equal periods of meetings and “work.” If you spend any amount of time researching “what people do at work” you’ll find articles on topics like dealing with interruptions, finding your flow, getting away from email, and making meetings more productive. But, what if you chose to break out of the work/meetings drudge instead? Grab some of the most creative people you know, find a room with a whiteboard, turn off your phones, and lead a brainstorm about a problem you and your co-workers are having. Chances are the people around you have great ideas but are too afraid to speak up. Problems don’t get solved until someone like you shows up to solve them. Ignore all the blog posts about why brainstorms don’t work, and just start talking.
Play a Game
If you’ve ever watched a workplace comedy like The Office or Parks and Rec, you’ve probably picked up on the office games the characters sometimes play. I’m thinking specifically about the Saber printer caption contest (The Office) or the Jerry fund kept by folks in Parks and Rec (every time Jerry does something dumb, some of the characters put a dollar into a fund, which they later use to have a great night out). There’s a reason the office game theme is a popular one. It not only makes the workday more fun, it also keeps you in constant conversation with your colleagues and enhances your office friendships.
Take Your Meetings on Foot (Walking Meetings)
No explanation needed. Conference rooms are terrible if you have to sit in the same ones every day for hours. Spice up a walking meeting by picking a unique destination within walking distance, like a museum or a park.
Pick a Unique Outfit
There are a billion ways to get conversations started. Like your mustache sticky notes, a fun outfit or wearable accessory can give the people around you a reason to chat with you and, perhaps, tell you a story about their favorite quirky piece of clothing. Use these conversations as a way to inspire out of the box thinking for yourself and those around you.
Shadow Someone You Admire
Even if you work for a company you don’t totally believe in, there’s bound to be someone there who is better than you about something you do or would like to be doing. Put some time on that person’s calendar and ask if it would be ok to shadow him or her. If shadowing won’t work, either because of your schedules or because the tasks aren’t exactly shadow-able, interview this person about something that could ultimately help you grow creatively. Ask specifically about actionable steps they took in order to get something amazing done.
The Cop Out: Watch TED Videos
TED videos exist for a reason: make people like you and me think more creatively about our world and workplace. Some companies, like Causely, have scheduled TED talk watching time. Adopt a schedule where you can disconnect from work and simply watch a video. Be present in the moment as you watch so that you can feel what the speaker intends you to feel. Afterward, spend five minutes in reflection about what you’ve learned or felt.
Does something on this list strike you as worth the time? Something sound dumb? Let us know in the comments.