creative thinking

You sit down in front of your laptop. You put your hands to your keyboard, ready to craft a beautiful piece of writing, solve a problem, send an email, or do some brainstorming.

But nothing comes. 

You’re not alone – everyone on the planet experiences this. Our creativity comes and goes. Sometimes it’s there, and sometimes it’s not.

But there are things we can do to take back our creativity and increase our chances of generating great ideas at a moment’s notice. We just need to cut out some of the things that harm our creative health.

One of the biggest creativity culprits in our world is a full brain. We literally don’t have space for creative thought because of how hard we work and drain our brains throughout the week.

We’ve got to create space in order to think creatively.

How to Maintain Brain Space

The ability to consistently produce great work is only possible if we have the mental capacity to do so. Unfortunately, our minds are limited, so maintaining brain space for creative production is necessary.

So who is the culprit? What is stealing our brain’s ability to generate great ideas and think creatively?

There are actually two culprits:

  1. Doing important things: work, solving everyday problems, parenting, deciding what to eat for breakfast (is there a more important decision in a day?), decorating your living room, etc…  
  2. Doing unimportant things: mindlessly scrolling through social media, watching the news, organizing our collection of books (just me?), etc…

Maintaining the brain space necessary to produce great work requires focus, planning, and pruning in both of these areas.

The first thing we must do is become aware of how our mental energy is being spent. What is filling our brain space? I’d recommend keeping a journal of where your time is going. If you’ve never done this before, you may be surprised at what you find.

Once you have a good idea of where your time is going, you need to do two things:

  1. Identify and limit mentally draining activities
  2. Manage the necessary, draining activities

The first is pretty easy, but how can you manage draining, yet necessary activities? Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Can this be automated or outsourced? For example, you could auto pay bills, buy pre-made meals, or pay someone to clean your home to save yourself brain space. Of course, not everyone can, but if it meant doing better work, it could be worth the price.
  • Can this be batched? Many productivity thought leaders are fans of “batching” to reduce mental load. For example, if cooking is mentally taxing for you, you might consider meal prepping big meals once at the beginning of the week to save you time and energy mid-week.
  • Can this be managed? If it can’t be eliminated, automated, or batched, it needs to be managed. In other words, you need to be aware that these activities can be mentally draining, and you need to create space for them. Do your best to plan for them, don’t neglect them, and know that you may need to re-energize afterward.

The benefits of creativity are well worth the focus required to maintain brain space. Protect and manage your brain space, and you’ll find yourself producing better work in no time.