Creativity and productivity are too often seen as opposing forces battling for your time and the soul of your work. But working longer and harder isn’t the only way to be productive, and thinking creatively can achieve amazing results. It’s all in how you approach your work.
Even after decades of extensive research, we actually still know relatively little about creativity, let alone how to make ourselves more creative. What we have been able to identify are patterns and traits that affect creative thinking. Based on those, we can create hacks and tools based on what stifles creativity and what helps it thrive.
It starts with the four “Ps” of creativity, first described by educational scientist Mel Rhodes. There are two factors that you can’t really control–the traits of creative Persons and the Products (or outcome) of your creativity. Then, there are two traits you can control–the Processes you use and the Press or environment you work in.
The following hacks and tools for creative thinkers can help anyone be more creative. Each one plays into one of the two Ps that are within your control–either your Process or your Press (environment). Instead of ways to get more done, here are five tricks to bring creativity to your work to get better work done:
1. INDUCE A STATE OF PSYCHOLOGICAL DISTANCE
Ever noticed how you might feel more creative about a problem when you’re further away from it–perhaps when taking a shower at home after work? That’s psychological distance at work. Psychological distance helps creativity, according to psychology professor Lile Jia. Our minds are more likely to think creatively about things we aren’t experiencing right here, right now, without stress.
That means to be creative, we need to feel a little more removed from the problem. One way is to take another person’s perspective. Ask yourself: Who else is working on this problem or talking about this issue?
Another way to create psychological distance is to reformulate the task by thinking of the central issue or question as if it was hypothetical, unlikely, futuristic, distant, or unreal. For example, if you want a team to come up with all possible solutions to traffic jams in a city, don’t choose your city. Find a sister city that is thousands of miles away, if possible, with similar statistics, to get the creative solutions started.
Another way to achieve psychological distance is to switch to another project anytime you start to feel overwhelmed, and to schedule regular breaks. Whenever you step away from a project, you can approach from a more objective, distant perspective when you come back.
Best of all, combine all the ideas. Take a break, and then when you come back to the task, ask yourself how others would tackle the issue and consider it from alternative perspectives.