Just want to let you all know that this post on simple switches for creativity is sponsored by Boise paper. All opinions are my own. Thanks, Boise, for helping make it possible for me to do this job that I love so much!
As an author and a blogger, my challenge is always to find simple switches for creativity.
I don’t have a lot of time or the energy to completely uproot my life, go on a 3-month trek through the wilderness to “reset” everything, so I rely on quick fixes instead. It’s less stressful, more efficient, and often extremely effective.
No matter what you’re aiming for in life, creativity is going to help you get there. Finding new ways to study so that you can do better on exams. Thinking of a new way to approach that story so that your article stands out from everyone else’s. Coming up with new ways to convince kids to eat vegetables. Whatever you end up doing, creative thinking will be a real asset.
But we get so caught up in the automatic world that we’re in that we never really seem to think creatively anymore at all. We don’t read or write, we watch Netflix. Instead of going for walks, we play video-games. It can be really easy to get into a rut!
Now, I’m not here to bash all of those things. I love me some Netflix binge-watching. It has a time and a place. But what we need to do is shake up the routine a bit so that our creative brain has to kick into gear again. When you’re in a negative schedule of get up, cell phone, Netflix, facebook, work, home, facebook, Netflix, sleep, there isn’t much room for real productivity, creativity, or general self-growth.
Lots of posts have been written about how to completely change your lifestyle so that you can have the life you want. I’m all for that, and I binge-read those articles regularly. But for a lot of us, like I said above, it’s just not feasible to do a huge back-packing trip to “re-find” ourselves. We’ve got to start smaller.
And that’s where I come in! I’ve put together 6 simple switches for creativity that will help you break your mind out of its rut that you’ve been stuck in–without uprooting your entire life. Creativity doesn’t need to be rocket science–you simply have to lay the right foundation.
So let’s go!
1. A healthy breakfast instead of sugar cereal
You would be surprised what a huge difference this can make. Connor and I always eat relatively healthy foods (although we do get chips as a reward every now and then), but having a good breakfast has always been something I’ve struggled with. Connor’s great at getting up and making some eggs over toast, but I generally just wait until lunch time to eat. (I know, I know…)
I started having breakfast for the dumbest reason, though. I started having breakfast because it got cold. And oatmeal is so nice and warm. Not for a single health reason, no–because I was cold.
But eating breakfast has quickly become a simple switch for creativity that I cannot preach enough! Since I started making Connor and myself oatmeal with lots of healthy toppings every morning I’ve had a ton more energy, I’ve been more scheduled, and it just makes you feel so much more awake when you’re trying to tackle the day. And when your brain is fuelled it’s much easier to do that creative thinking.
2. Good quality supplies over cheap options
I’m an author/blogger, so I spend a lot of time printing off pages and pages of my work. When I was in college (I graduated as of Sunday, so YES, that is past tense!), I probably used thousands of pages of paper to print off studies or papers or notes for exam prep. It seems like such a small part of your day, but having nice supplies for things like printing paper can make a huge difference.
I used to work in an accounting firm in high school, the semester before I moved to university. I did all the non-specialized paperwork tasks, like organizing files and printing off T1 information packets. I absolutely loved the job, and the office was filled with some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. But one thing always got me frustrated:
Our paper jammed like crazy.
And that frustration (it happened like 5x a day minimum) really impacted my stress levels when it came to tax season and we were in crunch time! When you’re stressed already, one little thing can quickly seem much larger than it really is. So paper jamming became the bane of my existence as a tax assembler.
I’ve noticed that now, in my life as a blogger, author, and when I was a college student, those little things still make a difference. Having a really nice pen to take notes with. Drinking a nice, rich cup of coffee. Using paper that is reliable and of great quality. These things can really make a difference.
So when Boise asked me to review their product by doing a little experiment, I was pretty excited. I love experiments. So I took a piece of Boise paper and a piece of competitor paper and printed off one of my favourite motivational quotes in huge, black letters to compare them. The Boise paper didn’t have any leaking to the other side, despite how much ink that quote used, which impressed me! I was expecting to be able to see through it, since I used the heaviest font I could find. (I like a challenge.)
One of Boise paper’s major wins for me was that they didn’t jam.
If you look at the picture to the left, the edge of the competitor paper actually jammed a bit, making it look much sloppier than Boise paper, which stayed completely clean and crisp! I was actually quite impressed.
On a completely subjective level, I also found that Boise paper felt thicker and more sturdy, which makes it a great choice for printing off anything you want to be professional, whether it’s proposals for work or papers at college.
Using good quality products helps you be more creative in two ways. First, it alleviates some of that stress that comes with having poor-quality products. This leaves your mind much freer to use the resources it would have used stressing for creative thinking instead. Second, using good-quality office products just makes for a better work environment. When you’re more comfortable, you’re more able to think outside the box and the daily tasks like printing, writing, or whatever they may be are more enjoyable.
3. Instead of only watching Netflix, insert a creative hobby into your daily routine
Creativity is like a muscle, guys, you’ve got to work it out! Now, this is something that people often take too far. We think “I want to be more creative!” And then a simple switch for creativity turns into a complete upheaval of your entire life schedule. We think “if I want to paint more, I need to paint ALL THE TIME!!! If I watch Netflix ONCE in the next month I’m a failure and not creative enough!”
That kind of thinking isn’t helpful.
Instead, let’s look at realistic, small steps. For me, it’s journalling and playing guitar. If I can get 3 sessions in of either over a week, I’m happy. (It helps that my job is very creative, but find what works for you.)
Try it this week: switch out 1 hour of Netflix/gaming time for 1 hour of creativity!
4. Listen to your body, instead of dismissing its needs
A lot of my struggle with creativity comes from being tired, lethargic, or just stressed. And a lot of that can be alleviated by simply allowing your body to tell you what it needs. I need to acknowledge that I need to sleep at night, I need to eat healthy meals, and I need to be active.
Often, though, we tend to sacrifice being balanced for being productive. But listen to me: that just leads to burnout. Yes, everyone else may be at the office until 2 in the morning every night, but does that mean you have to? If you want to be living a fulfilling, creative life, you’re going to need to fuel your mind. And running yourself into the ground isn’t going to do that for you.
5. Stop and appreciate beauty rather than rush by it
Have you ever noticed that we always seem to be in a rush? It’s something that really bothers me, since it elevates stress levels like crazy and really doesn’t allow for any happiness.
Something I did last year when I was having a really rough time at college was commit to going to the National Art Gallery 3 times every semester. Thursday nights are free nights here in Ottawa, and I know that 3 nights over 3 months doesn’t sound like very much, but it helped.
You know by now if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time that I’m a very anxious person. One of the things I hate most about my anxiety is how much it just turns off any creativity I have–my brain can’t handle it. Learning to stop and appreciate beauty, just sitting in that moment, has helped me re-discover that side of myself. Creativity necessitates an ability to sit in the unknown, in the present, despite what has happened or will happen. I cannot stress this simple switch for creativity enough, since it helps you train the very fundamentals of what being creative is all about.
6. Instead of letting the week race by, practice a Sabbath
Busyness is the bane of creativity, let’s be real. Most of our problems are not that we don’t have the motivation, or the desire, to be creative–it’s that we simply don’t have the time!
But what if we do?
I saw this post online once that said this:
Instead of saying “I can’t, I don’t have time,” try saying “I can’t, it’s not a priority right now.” You do have time–you have exactly enough time for what you need to be doing. How you use that time is your choice.
Wow. That’s hard to swallow.
But it’s so true, isn’t it?! It completely changed my outlook on busyness and my stress about not being able to get everything done. And one of the things I felt very convicted about once I read that was Sabbath practice. For those of you who don’t know what a Sabbath is, it’s a day of rest (usually on Saturday or Sunday) that you take to just sit, pray, and simply be. You don’t work, you don’t think about work, you just rest.
Now, I’m a Christian, so I’ve rededicated myself to practice a Sabbath for religious reasons, but the benefits of taking a day to just sit and be are universal. It’s how we’re wired–we’re not supposed to go and go and go and never stop to take a breath. Taking time to sit and slow life down for a bit is one of the best ways to rekindle creativity in anyone’s life. It helps reduce stress, actually makes you more productive throughout the week since you’ve had a whole day to restore your energy, and gives you greater perspective, as you’ve spent a whole day just praying, meditating, reading, or journalling. I cannot stress its impact enough.
So there you have it–my six simple switches for creativity! What are some ways you rekindle creativity in your life when you feel it’s died down? Let’s talk about it in the comments!