An Executive's Guide To Finding Creativity

I recently worked with a few executives looking to explore their “long dormant” (their own words) creative sides.  Despite having similar histories of creating successful products and services, they each felt lacking in recent creativity - and were committed to rejuvenating that side of them. 

Is that you too?  These guidelines helped them:

1)    Create a detailed inventory of how your time is spent every day.  Include business and personal tasks.

2)    Be brutally honest with yourself.  Highlight all the tasks that are “busy work” – the voluntary distractions, the time-fillers, the things that are cheaper for you to pay someone to do, than do yourself.  You know what I’m talking about.

3)    Delegate that busy work.  I mean it, be ruthless here.  It’s cheaper to outsource or delegate certain tasks.  Use your valuable time to focus on revenue-generating activities.

4)    Get organized, get disciplined.  Track your remaining tasks in a task tracking system. Create a system that is so easy for you to use, that it becomes effortless for you to be disciplined.   Using a system like this daily can free up a lot of mental energy.   All that stuff previously being stored in your head goes right into the system.  Now you have more time for creativity!

5)    Make it a date.  Now that you have more time to create, schedule an appointment for yourself at the same time every day.  There’s a lot of productivity talk out there about getting up at the ass crack of dawn and getting all kinds of things done.  This may or may not work for you; if you are a night owl, go with your natural creative vibe.  Find a regular time that suits you, and then stick with it.  Protect that time as if your very creative life depends on it - because it does.

6)    Create the physical space and own it.  Once you have made the time and found a cadence that works for you, create a supportive environment.  Wine and dine your creative side.  A creative space ideally should be separate from your work environment. Trying to be creative while sitting at a desk filled with bills and papers is not ideal.  It doesn’t need to be expensive or wild (unless you like it that way).  Even the act of creating the space and having some fun with it will encourage your creative side.  The physical environment that you created mentally moves you from work thinking to creative thinking, and this will spark creativity too.

7)    Manage all your ideas.  Create a system to manage ideas in a personal innovation portfolio.  A reliable system that collects ideas from everywhere both frees the mind and creates the security that all ideas are being captured.   It also lets the innovative person see how much they are creating and how they might be distracting from the executing on any of them, because they keep filling their mental product pipeline with more and more stuff, and not getting anything actually done.   A mental product pipeline allows for the prioritization of the ideas, and a system to choose if they actually go to production.

These incredibly busy professionals, with multiple business ventures generated more new ideas within the few months following this exercise than they had in the previous year.  They all experienced a renewed sense of creativity, and used the mental product pipeline to prioritize ideas that genuinely deserved further action.

The biggest challenge for these entrepreneurs going through this process was surprising to them.  Over the years, each of them had gradually taken on more and more “busy work” tasks that sapped their creative time and energy.  They properly qualified only a percentage of their tasks as important uses of their time - and understood how much they gained by delegating.

Busy doesn’t necessarily equate with productive, and it is likely sabotaging your ability to be creative.   Take the creativity framework outlined above and make it your own, the right side of your brain will thank you.