3 ways to be more creative at work.

Yesterday I wrote about my struggle to take the time to stop and be creative. In order to deal with my tendency toward blind efficiency, I’ve made it my goal to arrange my day in a way that makes more space for creativity to surface. These three tactics have really made a difference:

  • Meditation: I am horrible at meditation. Clearing my mind and focusing my thoughts is one of the most difficult things I do all day. This is why I know it is so important for me to practice. Being still and being present for a few minutes at the beginning of my day helps me start off on the right track – I’m already ahead of the game when it comes to stopping and allowing time for creativity. I recently discovered an app called “Stop, Breathe, & Think,” which has been really helpful. Guided meditation is still difficult, but it’s been way more attainable for me than just trying to sit in complete silence for even 5 minutes.
  • Time tracking:  Because I work in a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) I don’t have to track my time and report it to anyone. I just have to produce results (i.e. get my job done). I love this because it empowers me to make the best decisions about where and how I spend my time. But I realized recently that even on my most productive days, I am often moving so quickly that I don’t even know where my time has been spent. This alarming realization led me to look for a way to be more cognizant of how I’m spending my time. I found Toggl and have been using it regularly for the last few weeks. It’s amazing how freeing it has been to know where my time is going. One of the big distinctions I was able to make with this tool is labeling certain types of work as “Reactionary” – things like responding to emails. This awareness of how often I am reacting vs. acting (creatively) has been huge for me. It has caused me to work on whittling reactionary time down by focusing on turning emails into actionable items and scheduling a time to dive in and focus on them. From there I move on, rather than letting my day get hijacked by trying to respond to every request in real time.
  • Controlled Tunnel Vision: This is the time I spend focusing on one project and one project only. Creativity happens here. I do my best to block out distractions by turning off notifications on my phone and desktop, putting on my headphones, and diving into action. Sometimes I even leave my desk and find another place to work, like a phone booth or a quiet room somewhere else in the building. I love spending time in Controlled Tunnel Vision mode. Reactionary time is  a necessary evil, but I’m constantly working to find ways to spend more time focusing, acting, and creating, and less time reacting.

These are the ways I’m trying to shift my focus from blind efficiency and productivity to creativity and quality. I still love the thrill of plowing through a ton of tasks in one day, but I am growing to appreciate the opportunities I have to dive in and spend the time it takes to make things better.