Author and creativity consultant Todd Henry makes the following observation in his book The Accidental Creative
: many people agree that coming up with great ideas is a key factor to achieving professional success, but hardly anyone schedules dedicated time to generate ideas.
One reason for this discrepancy is that a lot of people believe great ideas only come spontaneously, through inspiration – they don’t think generating creative ideas can be done purposefully.
But as Henry points out, establishing a “creative rhythm” can give structure to your creative work, even when things are busy.
To do this, look into the below 5 areas, which you can memorize as FRESH:
Focus: Our minds are naturally good at finding patterns, but it’s hard to take advantage of this ability if our thinking is cluttered.
To help keep you focused, identify your “Big 3.” Here’s how: list all of your personal and work-related projects; select those that are most in need of a conceptual breakthrough; and of these remaining projects, ask: Which 3 are the most pressing?
Relationships: Many of our relationships are based on convenience or obligation, but Henry recommends being more strategic.
Organize a circle of like-minded people who inspire you with their vision, strategic thinking, and their track record of executing great ideas.
Energy: It’s hard to come up with creative solutions when you’re exhausted, so it’s important to manage your energy as well as your time.
Whenever possible, put your effort into activities that will really make a difference – here are some examples:
- You can uniquely add value because of your position or expertise
- They increase your capacity to generate ideas (e.g., studying)
- They make your team more cohesive and effective (e.g., clarifying priorities, celebrating wins)
- They feed your energy (e.g., sleep, exercise)
Stimuli: Henry writes that the adage “you are what you eat” also applies to your mind. It’s important to make sure that the information you’re feeding your mind is high-quality – it should be challenging, relevant, and diverse.
Hours: Although time is the “currency of productivity,” not all hours are created equal. Building “idea time” into your schedule allows you to grow your capacity, generate ideas, and think strategically about problems instead of just reacting to them.