How to Be Creative on a Daily Basis, According to Science

Updated 08/31/19
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Anyone who's experienced writer's block knows just how debilitating the lack of creativity can be. But you don't need to be a writer (or an artist of any kind, for that matter) to want to know how to be creative on a daily basis. Contrary to popular belief, creative inspiration isn't as evasive as it may seem.

"We tend to think of creativity as this flash of inspiration that comes unbidden and when we least expect it," explains author and entrepreneur Brigid Schulte on a recent Quora thread. "But there are some things we can do to create more opportunities for these kinds of eureka moments that lead to more creativity, innovation, and insight at work."

As it turns out, a simple time management trick might be the secret to getting inspired. That's right—the secret to unlocking your creative potential is ironically utilitarian. Ahead, we're breaking down the science behind creativity and sharing a simple tip that will help you feel more inspired at work.

creative person
Talisa Sutton/Badlands ; GRAPHIC: Viviana Duron

The Science Behind Creativity

Creativity is a fickle beast, one with a tendency to disappear in the shadows just when you need it most. Scientifically speaking, you can't force yourself to be creative—on the contrary, neuroscientists Mark Beeman and John Kounios have found that your mind must be in a relaxed, diffusive state in order to produce truly groundbreaking thoughts or ideas (which explains your spontaneous shower brainstorm sessions).

The Benefit of Daydreaming

Although you can't force creativity, there are some simple ways to draw upon your ingenuity at a moment's notice, mainly by toggling between your brain's "concentrated" and "diffuse" mentalities. Concentrated mode is used when we're "directly focused on a task or paying attention specifically to something" while diffuse mode is in action when we're "daydreaming, spacing out, or not thinking of anything in particular," explains Brigid Schulte. Crucially, your mind needs to be in "diffuse mode" for the creative process to happen.

The Simple Trick for How to Be More Creative

Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, goes on to emphasize the importance of the diffuse state when trying to set yourself up for creativity. Specifically, she recommends taking time to pause and reflect throughout the day, working in no longer than 90-minute increments, and taking walks or setting aside time for daydreaming between these work sessions. Although most offices are not necessarily conducive to this laid-back mindset, you could argue that a creative job almost requires this mental down time.

This post was originally published on October 31, 2016, and has been updated by Megan Beauchamp.

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