After two weeks off, I’m thinking about how to boost your creativity on this two for Tuesday. The lawyers among you may be wondering how that applies to you, if at all, but there’s room for creativity in all professions. When we take the time to refresh, let different ideas in, and open our minds, sometimes the answers to critical problems can make themselves clear much more easily.
So with that, I bring you this week’s Two for Tuesdays!
Tip One: Read Something Different
We all do a lot of reading for work. Briefs, arguments, new legislation, blog posts, articles, news items, you name it. So it can seem daunting to try to add yet one more thing into the mix. But how about, for today, taking a break from all of that and reading something absolutely unrelated to your work?
Perhaps you’re a mystery buff, or you enjoy trashy beach reads (don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone). Maybe you’ve wanted to dive into that bestseller that everyone has been talking about, or reread a favorite classic novel.
Whatever it may be, as long as it’s NOT related to work in any way, shape or form, ditch the guilt and get reading. If you don’t drive for your commute, use that time on the train or bus to read a few chapters. Give yourself 15 minutes before bed, or force yourself to sit outside for a half hour at lunch, and read.
It seems like cheating, but you’re actually helping your work – by giving yourself a break, you’re doing a kind of reset for your brain. You’re thinking about something totally unrelated to the minutiae of your day to day work, so that when you come back to it, you’ll have somewhat of a clean slate to start with.
That may help you find a creative solution to a problem you’ve been stuck on, or a new tactic to use. Even if you’re not having brilliant new ideas, at the very least, you will have given yourself enough of a break to feel more motivated to dive into your day.
Tip Two: Take a Real Break
When I was a kid, my dad would take two weeks off in August (he worked VERY long hours and those were the longest breaks he ever took). He said that he needed the first week to stop thinking about work, and the second week to really relax. My neighbor was also in the finance industry, and he told me that he would take three weeks once he became a vice president – he said it was the best decision he made.
For those of you in Europe, that sounds like entry-level vacation time, I know. And you’re the smart ones. We may pride ourselves on our martyr-like work "ethic" here in the US, but are we really working smarter and harder? Or are we burning ourselves out?
So if you can manage it, take a real vacation from work this year. You don’t have to go anywhere (I didn’t!), but you need to mentally take a step back from the office. Start a new project at home, get a change of scenery, sit on the beach for a few days, remember what your family looks like outside of the glow of your mobile device.
When we get away and disconnect, we are giving ourselves a fresh start. We return to the office better rested, with clearer heads and more motivation to face the challenges ahead of us. I’ll admit, it’s hard. I definitely checked emails while I was "away" and even took a few hours to answer them on a couple of occasions. And I was wondering yesterday morning when digging through several thousand emails and dealing with computer issues whether it was more trouble than it was worth to take the time away.
But when I allow myself that break, the freedom to not stick to a set schedule, to explore and relax (ish) and breathe, I am a better professional when I return to the office. I have more clarity about the work ahead, more balance and energy, and that ultimately makes me better at my work.
What are your tips for boosting creativity? I can already think of many more (must be that two week break!), and I’d love to see yours in the comments!