6 tips for preserving your creative edge.

As children, creativity was not only encouraged—it was embedded in our day. Between recess, art projects, band practice and after-school activities, our creative minds had plenty of opportunities to run wild.

As adults, however, we’re often responsible for making our own time to flex our creative muscles, despite its importance to our productivity. A study on the Global Creativity Gap conducted by Adobe found 80% of employees believe creativity is critical to economic growth, yet nearly the same percentage said they feel pressured to be more productive than creative at work. Research has shown not having the time to spend on creative projects slows down problem-solving skills, innovative thinking, and results in an overall feeling of disengagement.

Creativity is a muscle with a fickle memory. Without being exercised often, it can forget how to complete a task that requires that kind of cognitive process. Whether you’re the owner of a business or an employee, it’s critical you take a proactive approach in order to maintain your creative edge.

Consider how you spend your time.

Status updates, tweets, and Internet rabbit holes will take hours out of your week. If you’re confident incoming text messages or phone calls can wait, turn off your phone. While it’s satisfying to see those real-time notifications, they’re working against you. Multitasking not only takes a toll on your energy, it increased the likelihood you’ll make a mistake. Not convinced? Try this simple exercise from Psychology Today to see the impact multitasking has on your time.

Instead of spending any downtime checking your notifications, dedicate that time to activities that will get the gears turning. Indulge in an art blog or personal essay, listen to music that inspires you, or simply allow yourself to brainstorm and daydream. If you’re the boss, consider building this time into your employee’s work day. For example, Google attributes many of their innovative projects to their 20 percent time policy, which encourages employees to spend a certain amount of their time at week working on outside projects.

Be adventurous.

A fear of failure keeps you from trying something new, like attacking a task from a different angle. The trick is to acknowledge failure is a possibility—and accept that’s okay. Then, use your resources to set yourself up for the best results. Collaborate with colleagues whose feedback you trust, and share your progress with them. Challenge your ideas by seeking out varying perspectives. You’ll either feel more confident about your path, or spot red flags while there’s still time to change direction.

Don’t dismiss your curiosity.

Instead of shrugging off something you that sparks your interest because you’re worried about time or relevance, give yourself time to investigate. A little obsession here and there can be an excellent source of inspiration—so get as much out of it as you can! Seeking out creative stimuli, even if it’s not relevant to your current projects, will change the way your brain processes information.

If the muses call, answer!

You may not have time to drop everything and create a modern masterpiece, but jotting down a few notes to refer back to will help you preserve the spark. Prepare yourself for any possible light bulb moments—save notes and voice recordings on your phone and always have a backup notebook handy. Whenever you have some time to delve further into your idea, follow through. It may take some patience and discipline to work your way back into that head space, but the longer you wait, the less likely it will be that you revisit the idea.

Breaking down deadlines into smaller goals.

Working on a project that relies heavily on your inspiration and creativity can really put on the pressure. Setting an expectation each day that is reasonable will diffuse any creativity-killing stress. Start by making a list of all of the individual tasks that are required to finish a project, then put those in the order you would normally complete them. Think about how much time each of those things take using past projects for reference, but also be generous with your estimation. Finally, map out your timeline in a way that will keep you on track. Outlook reminders, checklists, or actual timeline diagrams are all great tools to use for this purpose.

Remind yourself of your successes.

Keep a log of all of the creative projects you’ve completed, no matter how small. Add notes you think will be helpful in the future, such as sharing any struggles, your process, the timeline you used, etc. This can be especially helpful when you hit a slump. Use it to squelch your inner naysayer!

A structured work environment combined with a repetitive work load can do a number on your creative spirit, so it’s up to you to keep it alive. Manipulating your time and your environment is key to making it happen. Now close your browser and let your imagination run wild!

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