From a business perspective, usually an employer can not understand what we are talking about, this is especially the case in corporate America. You are hired to get a job done in most cases, and they are not overly concerned with your passion or need for design creativity. This can lead to a designers worst nightmare of not being able to put their own creativity into projects. We like things to be inspired and an extension of the vision we have for the task given.
From time to time we lose our passion for creativity at work because maybe its not our own vision, or the deadlines don’t allow for fresh, new design ideas. However, its important to not lose your passion to create new and unique things, as this is a good designers first misison. Below are a few tips to keep you inspired in a corporate type setting, and help to keep those creative ideas flowing, instead of sucking out what is left of your creative soul. These tips should help you to still manage to get out of bed in the morning!
Tips For Staying Creative in a Non-Creative Soul Sucking Environment
1. Dress the Part
In the corporate world, your appearance is a necessary evil that must be paid attention too. For most of us, it rings true that if you dress better and look nice, you feel better about yourself and are more prone to productivity. In addition to feeling better about yourself, it changes how people look and respond to you, and tend to make them more willing to let you go down your own path of the task given. In the corporate world 9 times out of 10 appearance is everything. The clothes you wear and the way you groom yourself will change the way other people hear what you say. It will subconsciously tell them if you’re like them or if you’re different. It will determine whether they listen or ignore. Trust or distrust. How you dress yourself changes who you are. It changes the value of what you have to say. At least to the people who are looking and listening.
2. Clean Your Workspace
A cluttered and messed up workspace is a symptom of a cluttered mind. Clear your space, and clear your mind. This is a simple trick of zen. This is a contributing factor of why it seems you’re more productive at the local Starbucks than in your office. You aren’t surrounded by a mess of distractions. Try to separate your personal clutter from what you need for work. For example, if you have all this months bills laid out next to your layout scheme for a new magazine, your mind will be torn between the two switching back and forth. Try to avoid doing personal endeavors while in your office. Instead focus on the task at hand, so that they time seems to go faster, and you have less anxiety about the things going on outside of the office.
Zen Tip #1: Keep a few books or magazines by people or companies you admire in plain view. Or keep subjects sitting in plain view that direct relate to what your tasks are. When you glance you will not only be entertained, but it will not take your mind of your project (while still allowing for a break) since the subjects are containing the same ideas.
2. Drink Less Coffee
Caffeine is all too often an addiction for many people. If you’re taking it just to function, another cup won’t likely inspire a next bright idea beyond the next bathroom trip. Use it sparingly and to your advantage. I try to limit myself to 1 cup of coffee in the morning and a caffeinated beverage for a pre-workout drink. And when I have more, it leads to a binge, that results in anxiety and a busy feeling but very little done, and a horrible feeling of detox after. If you can limit yourself, the burst of caffeine can turbo charge your creativity. When it comes to the health effects of coffee, there are both short- and long-term symptoms. Let’s talk about the short-term symptoms first, which are mostly related to the caffeine itself. Caffeine works primarily in the brain, where it affects the function of neurotransmitters and exerts a stimulant effect. If you drink too much coffee in a short amount of time, you will experience symptoms mostly related to your brain and digestive system.
3. Find Creative, Like-Minded People at Work
We need to be a bit more descriptive here, so lets explain. You can surround yourself with really creative people who are coming up with great ideas while power lounging in bean bag chairs and lost in a haze of bong smoke and while that contact high might spur some creativity it probably won’t lead to much productivity. Instead, surround yourself with adaptive, crafty people, that share the same creative passions for your industry. These are the people who transform setbacks, mistakes, flaws and failures into opportunities, features, differentiators and innovations. Surround yourself with people who put the “create” in creative. Talk is cheap and is often confused with value. Crafty, adaptive people build things, respond to circumstances and make adjustments. You can learn from them and work with them, and in turn will help keep your own creativity running to catch up.
4. Don’t be Afraid to Collaborate
1) Chat with qualified professionals- Someone who understands what you’re trying to accomplish and why, has a related background, and isn’t threatened by your efforts, or motivated to compete with you. Ask them questions about your project. Ask them as a peer- and equal brain on the project. True collaborators will jump in and give you feedback or advice on the project presented to them.
2) Cultivate your personal advisory board. Round up a few people with great communication skills and zero understanding of what you are doing and see if you can explain it to them. Grab some pros, some grey hairs, and one or two people you admire enough to follow into battle. Ask for their opinion on occasion and filter it through yourself. Not only does this give you a face, but helps those around you to better understand exactly what it is you do. Doing so can greatly increase the chances of being able to implement your own creative vision, if people can make those people see your vision too.
5. Create a Framework
Using the google tip from #23, you’ll discover that a framework is a basic structure underlying a system. There are many creative frameworks out there. We use our own H6 framework for experience design and brand narrative exercises. Frameworks help bring you through a process to a desired result our outcome. It’s easy to get lost in research (cat videos on Youtube), but it’s more effective to introduce the constraints of a framework.
Book Recommendation: Gamestorming (for creative processes)- This book provides many creative exercises for individuals and teams that you can directly use or can use to inspire the creation of your own creative framework.
6. It is Okay to Make Mistakes
Not all of our projects succeed. We do not market our brand on perfect results- neither should you. Don’t place unreasonable expectations on yourself, your brand and business. Failure is a part of the game. Be aware of your past mistakes; the actions/thoughts that lead to them, own them, and then do the best you can to correct them. Overtime you’ll develop an understanding of what leads to failure, including the practices, attitudes, tools and mindsets. Knowing how not to do it is valuable information, marching on through mistakes with a smile, will most likely lead to a successes.
7. Get Lots of Rest
This is an excerpt from the National Sleep Foundation :
“If you’re nodding off during meetings, yawning at your desk, or your thoughts are foggy throughout the day, it won’t surprise you to hear that sleepiness can drastically affect your work performance. When you’re drowsy, your brain is not as creative and won’t process information as quickly or retain important facts as well.
We know from large-scale studies of the U.S. population that many of us don’t get proper sleep and feel tired throughout the day. A lot of people show up to work drowsy and say they turn in sub-par work performances on a regular basis. A 2008 Sleep in America® poll found that 29 percent of people said they had fallen asleep or became very sleepy at work in the previous month, and 12 percent were late to work in the last month because of sleepiness. More than one fourth of workers said that daytime sleepiness interferes with their daily activities at least a few days each month. The workers who seem to be hardest hit are those who either have extended or irregular work hours (more than 50 hours per week) or juggle multiple jobs (including shift workers).”
Sleep is a very important part to the creative process.
Have you ever sat down with an over-planner? Do you try to force enjoyment in a party by structuring every detail? Or do you bring a boombox, a keg, a few inner tubes and find a river to float down and let the magic happen? Creativity is best served like the ladder. Add a little bit of structure and send it an invitation but don’t force things into some contrived, unnatural knock off.
9. Bring Your Playlist
Tap into your genre on Pandora. Monitor where it takes you. Try some classical, but leave before it slows you down. Try some techno, but leave before you find yourself at a rave in the woods throwing glow sticks and candy at the local wildlife. Music has the power to inspire, mesmerize and distract. Be mindful as you listen to music with lyrics. The emotional roller coaster of songs sneaks into your unconscious mind and affects your motivation and performance.
10. Finish a Project Start to Finish
It is all too easy to get distracted or to lose motivation with an undertaking. Pick something and finish it every now and again, even if you hate it. Make sure you’re capable of seeing things all the way through. Many people cannot it seems. It’s true that giving up or shelving a project is sometimes the right course of action, but don’t let your closet, portfolio or hard drive fill with half finished projects.