Are your days so full of activity and noise that you can’t find time to think about your goals, much less take action on them? Let’s talk about some things we can do to create time and space for creative thinking.
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How can you make time to think?
Somebody asked me recently for tips on making space for creativity. It got me thinking about how hard that can be. Sometimes it seems like our world is so full that we can’t find a moment to think, much less create. So I’ve been thinking about things we can do to create a little margin, make some space for thinking and creativity. Whether we’re talking about artistic endeavors, business planning, or strengthening the relationships we care about, we all need time and space to let our creative minds do their best work!
1. Write everything down.
Studies show the mind can only hold a finite number of thoughts. If you’re using your mind to remember things (pick up the dry cleaning; bake cookies for the office holiday party; get my driver’s license renewed . . .), you’re using up mental bandwidth that would be better used for more creative thinking. So write everything down. That keeps your mind clear and free to concentrate on the things that really matter.
Use a calendar for all appointments and other date/time-specific events. Use a project/task manager for other to-dos. Keep a notebook (paper or digital) to capture ideas, reference information (I love Evernote). Keep it as simple as you can, but make it as robust as you need it to be. Have the tools handy, and use them consistently.
2. Forget multitasking.
Multitasking is a myth. Science tells us the human brain cannot multitask. If we try to do two things at the same time that both require thought and attention, we are not giving our best thought to either one. It’s actually less efficient, not more. Focus on the tasks at hand, and you’ll accomplish them more efficiently, buying more time for what matters.
3. Practice stillness.
Sometimes our problem isn’t that there’s no time to think, but that we don’t allow our minds the space to think. We fill up our lives with noise–people or the TV or music or podcasts–always something to occupy our attention. Sometimes our mind needs the tension of silence in order to motivate it to speak up. I have a hard time being silent and focused. It’s a muscle that needs exercise to function at its peak. I’m finding the guided meditation exercises in the Headspace app to be very helpful in developing my ability to be quiet and still–which is having a positive impact on both my peace of mind and my creative thinking.
Routines help us be more efficient, saving time that we can use to think and be creative. Rituals help create an environment for productivity, training our minds and moods to work in the right circumstances. Both create helpful habits that can buy us time to think.
Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is the result of good work habits.” ~ Twyla Tharp
5. Give yourself permission to take tiny steps.
Our big dreams and grandiose ideas inspire us, but they can also intimidate us to the point that we never begin. It’s okay to break those big dreams down into tiny, bite-sized pieces, and work on them in small increments of time. Among other things, this can help us overcome the resistance that keeps us from beginning. I highly recommend you read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles.
6. Focus on what’s truly essential, and eliminate everything else.
Know yourself. What really, really matters to you? What things in your life are consistent with those values, and are moving you in the direction of the life you want? Focus on those things. Eliminate the projects, activities, possessions, and ideas that are cluttering your space, your mind, your life, and you will find you have ample time to think about and do the things that matter most. Read Greg McKeown’s life-changing book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
What do you think?
Do you have a tip or technique that helps you create mental space to do the important creative thinking you need to do? Please share your suggestions in the show notes below, on the Facebook page, or via email.
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