Everyone has a time of the day where they are most creative. Whether it’s the early morning, late afternoon, or well into the night, our productivity and creativity spikes at infrequent times. 9-5ers are limited by the clock and expected to produce their good work then. While freelancers, entrepreneurs and startups folks, fortunately are able to cash in on their most creative hours. Regardless of the time of day, in these moments relaxation is essential to creativity, but with your busy schedule, peace comes in fragments. Between coordinating product launches, working through dinner with your development team, masterminding PR endeavors, and competing for your next funding round, you never find a moment to sit and think.
In your world, relaxation is something that you plan in advance. Instead of sleeping in, you wake up before the sun rises to have some time to yourself. Every so often, you take lunches alone so that you can decompress.
But how do you leverage that time of day for the spontaneity of a healthy brainstorming session? How do you stay productive when mentally and physically, you just want to let go, space out, and do the exact opposite?
“Some of our top talent are night owls. To force them out of bed at 9 a.m. to be creative is a joke. They peak at 2 a.m. – way past my bedtime – but get the work done (and done well for that matter),” says Onboardly’s Co-Founder, Renee Warren. “We have created a culture that harnesses our team’s creative schedule, not that of a business days’. It works for us.”
What you do is meet yourself halfway with good old-fashioned pen and paper. Let your mind unwind and capture fleeting ideas as they come to you. Bring a camera or a voice recorder. Think now and do the hard work later.
1. Find inspiration in everything
You don’t need to spend your downtime at your desk. Go to a park. Talk to some strangers. Grab a cup of tea at your local café. Go for a run or bike ride. Whatever you do, however, do it introspectively.
“My secret to never-ending story ideas is this: any event that occurs – any conversation I have; any movie, ad or person I see; any meeting I go to (whether it sucks or not); anything I overhear or observe in the street, any blog or news story I read – all of it is fuel for story ideas,” said blogger and entrepreneur, Shane Snow.
With an open mind, all day can be “that” time of day.
2. Don’t be a perfectionist
There is a time and place for perfectionism – like next week’s VC meeting. But during “that” time of day, don’t sweat the small details. Sometimes, imperfections are productive, especially if you have a great idea. Just let it out and see what happens. You can pretty it up later.
“No matter how hard you work, you will never be perfect. Perfection is an idea, not a reality,” said blogger, Jennifer Blanchard. “Humans weren’t born to be perfect. They were born to make mistakes and to learn from them.”
During, “that” time of day, your creative mind should propel you forward, so don’t let your otherwise-intense work ethic hold you back.
3. Get sidetracked
Rather than making your brain focus, let it do what it wants. Pursue tangents. Run that extra lap. Focus on what’s right in front of you rather than your crazy-structured day ahead. Instead of looking for answers, ask lots of interesting questions.
“If you talk to Nobel Prize winners about how they came up with their brilliant idea, they’ll often tell you it was easy after they’d discovered the question – which was the really hard part,” said Shawn Coyne, co-author of Brainsteering: A Better Approach to Breakthrough Ideas.
When you’re brainstorming, distractions are healthy. Let them inspire you to find new directions.
About the Author:
Ritika Puri is a Los Angeles based marketing and business blogger who writes about trends in data, internet culture, and entrepreneurship. She’s inspired by the intersection between technology and sociology, which she writes about via UserGrasp.