You know that you need to be creative to solve complex problems, support innovation and make progress. A lot of tasks, however, cause you to put too much on your plate and you have little time. Therefore, you need to be quick and focused. However, excessive emphasis on efficiency usually kills creativity. It only helps – if you focus less on it, your results will be better.

Complexity of the “mhm” phase

Creativity is the engine of innovation. In fact, raw ideas are transformed into innovations, something new that people are actually willing to pay for. Creativity has different aspects. It is not only a group of people who meet in large rooms with colorful notebooks and highlighters. On the contrary, the creative process should include time for reflection and silence. All of us have certainly experienced the moment of “mhm” that comes with a flash of understanding. However, ideas do not appear suddenly. They are like seeds that have been “sown in your brain” over time, and have grown stronger thanks to the neural pathways that allow you to connect ideas in new ways.

Bringing together different ideas

Creativity comes when you bring together things that you wouldn’t say could be together. That is why the solution may come from, for example, a new person who has just joined the project as it has no effect on him. Diversity often brings unexpected ideas that help solve the problem in a new way.

Keep in mind, however, that you need experience and time to combine different ideas. Creativity cannot be hurried, planned or managed. A study from Baylor University even found that leaders who are too focused on the end result, endanger the performance of their own team.

If you want to be really effective, take the following 7 steps into consideration:

1. Take time to reflect

As you are always available and always have a device in your hands, you are missing the time to think. While you are waiting in the dry cleaners, you check your emails. While you commute to work, you have a conference call with colleagues. However, filling every minute of the day in the name of efficiency can be an obstacle. Your brain also needs to breathe, think and deepen. Resist the urge to be available at every moment and take the time to reflect.

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” – Maya Angelou

2. Connect with people who are different than you

You often spend working days with people who think like you because they are part of a business, industry, or function. This is great for efficiency because shared thinking and similar world views help you move forward quickly. However, if you want to be more creative, you should try to connect with other people. Find people who have different jobs, spend time in different places and think differently. Their ideas will encourage your thinking.

3. Look for unexpected experiences

You tend to search for a routine and get predictable patterns into your business. Week after week, everything goes almost the same. However, you can be more creative by searching for experiences outside this standard. Take a different journey to work, register for a course outside of your comfort zone or go on vacation to an unusual destination. Whether it’s small changes like cycling instead of using public transport, or bigger ones like yoga stays during spring break, unusual experiences will help you find lost creativity.

4. Express creativity beyond work

It can be difficult to awaken creativity at work if you rarely use an innovative spirit in other areas of your life. According to one study, your imaginary creative muscle can build up different manifestations of creativity, making your brain more efficient. It is therefore sensible to express oneself also through non-working activities. Whether you’re creating a holiday photo book, learning a foreign language, or attending dance lessons, these activities can stimulate your creativity.

5. Find places that fill you

Evolutionary speaking, our ancestors spent thousands of years in the wild and lived. And now you are just interested in managerial positions and sitting in drab offices. That’s why your brains are incredibly bored. Make sure you find sites that stimulate brain activity. Stand up from your desk and work side by side with colleagues in the café. Make an appointment in a comfortable space near the windows instead of in the conference room. In addition, sit back in the park or find a forest path to take a walk to relax.

6. Create challenges for yourself

It is creative stagnation that is the greatest killer of our progress. If we do not have the need or motivation to drill creative skills on a regular basis, we do not logically move far. That is why there are challenges – they encourage work when we just wave our hands and leave things as they are. But the challenges we set ourselves will not allow us. We do not have to put all our effort into it at once. It is enough to start gradually, for example by practicing creativity on a regular basis, or by achieving a creative milestone to some point. It can be a new level of a foreign language, a song on a piano, a drawing technique, just anything that makes you get up and sit down to work.

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” – Pablo Picasso

7. Enjoy your sleep

Rest is also important for the creative process. Efficiency can dictate you to spend the night and finish the project or get up at dawn and catch up with all your emails. However, this can jeopardize your creativity. Sleep is good for the brain, helping to sort thoughts. If you want to think properly, you must also relax correctly.