Breaking routines for creativity


Routines can give you structure, but they can also help boost your creativity.

It’s through routines that we go about our typical day. You likely have a morning ritual you go through regularly, or a set time you use to write or work or study. Routines help us to structure our time and often aspects of our life, but they can help us become more creative as well.

As Jack Cheng puts it: “One of the biggest advantages of having routines is what comes out of breaking them.”

Think to a time when you were stuck in a routine, doing a specific action again and again for much longer than you would have liked, and then, suddenly, doing something differently. There’s a burst of energy when a routine is broken. “Bursts of creativity happen when you break the cycle. When you get used to sleeping at 11 every night, staying up until 4 can lead to a new spectrum of ideas.”

What routines can you break to fuel your creativity? Which ones are absolutely unbreakable? Why?

Can music change your mind?

What type of music do you think creative people tend to enjoy?

Wait, don’t answer that, it’s a trick question. Obviously the type of music someone listens to doesn’t affect whether or not they’re creative, right?

According to one study done by the University of Utah, music doesn’t just reflect who you are but can actually influence who you are.

Jessica Turner, a music therapist with the University of Utah’s Neuropsychiatric Institute, explains that “Music changes the physical makeup and wiring of the brain. As you listen to music, new connections and synapses in your brain are formed.”

So what genre of music would someone who’s very creative listen to? Not surprisingly: most genres. At least, according to Professor Adrian North, PhD of Herriot Watt University, who found that those who listen to blues, jazz, classical, opera, reggae, dance, indie, bollywood, rock or heavy metal, and soul music are typically creative, while those who listen to pop music are not.

Music undoubtedly influences mood and occasionally behavior (you’re likely to feel energized with louder, faster music than you are with a classical violin solo), but does it impact creativity, self‒esteem, and productivity?

What do you think? Read the whole report summary here and then decide what you think, and whether the music you listen to affects your creativity.

How to be a creative leader

The Harvard Business Review has a great article up titled How Companies Can Develop Critical Thinkers and Creative Leaders, but don’t let the title of the article fool you: there’s a lot of valuable advice in the article for anyone who wants to grow into a creative thinker.

In the article, Col. Bernard Banks discusses how the U.S. Army trains soldiers to become creative thinkers, rather than just doers. Col. Banks explains that “The goal is not to teach them what to think, but to enhance their ability to think critically and creatively about the myriad of contingencies posed by a fluid environment – in essence to teach them how to think.”

Did you get that? One of the most important aspects of becoming a creative thinker – at least according to the US Army – isn’t learning what to think, it’s learning how to think.

Let that description soak in for a minute.

“The goal is not to learn what to think, but how to think.”

Have you been focusing on discovering the right answers, or have you been searching for the right process?

That, and more, here: How Companies Can Develop Critical Thinkers and Creative Leaders.

Mistakes really matter, and here’s why

“It is true that a thousand days cannot prove you right, but one day can prove you to be wrong.” ‒ Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Nassam makes an excellent point in the quote above. A thousand days can’t prove anything right, but a single day can definitely prove something wrong. Which explains a lot about mistakes and why they’re so important to creativity.

Ask any successful creative how they got to be so successful and they’re likely to mention something about making a lot of mistakes along the way.

Why are mistakes so essential to discovering success? How does making a mistake enable you to be creative, and is it really that necessary to make mistakes in order to be creative?

Mistakes, as Nassam Nicholas Taleb – author of The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable – points out, help us to “get closer to the truth.”

In his book, Nassam explains exactly why we don’t learn from truths, but from falsification, or mistakes. Nassam writes:

“We can get closer to the truth by negative instances, not by verification! …Contrary to conventional wisdom, our body of knowledge does not increase from a series of confirmatory observations… It is true that a thousand days cannot prove you right, but one day can prove you to be wrong.”

Discovering the truth about something is nearly impossible. You have no way of knowing for sure that something is the way it is; it would take hundreds of thousands or even millions of situations to prove something is actual fact. You can, however, quickly learn what is not fact.

Take the leading example from Nassam’s book: the idea that our ancestors believed that all swans were white, simply because they had only ever seen white swans. Then comes along a black swan, a real, live and breathing black swan. Suddenly the truth that our ancestors believed was proven false.

Mistakes then – and, similarly, seeking falsification, not justification – enable us to learn faster than pursuing perfection or acknowledgements of what we think we know.

Rather than pursuing a life which avoids mistakes, where your knowledge is limited to very little, actively chase mistakes. Learn what doesn’t work and what is not true, and you’ll find yourself opening creative doors to new ideas faster.

Not even a thousand days can prove an idea works, but one day can prove that an idea doesn’t. That’s the creative power of mistakes.

Now get out there and try something new, then hope it fails.

How to Have an Idea, by Frank Chimero

Where do ideas come from?

Or, an even better question to ask is: where do good ideas come from?

You could spend hours or even days trying to come up with a good idea, but what’s holding you back may be something that doesn’t even need to. Are you worried about the process? Maybe you’re worried about making a mistake? Perhaps you’re not sure what generalizations or points to begin with?

Frank Chimero (who is an incredibly talented, and creative designer and illustrator) has come up with a semi‒sort of comic to help you get past your initial hesitations and get started making ideas. Frank calls it: How to Have an Idea.

Frank’s comic is worth not only taking a look, but also bookmarking, downloading, printing off and hanging in your bedroom, and whatever else you can think of doing with it.