Allow ideas an incubation period
Schedule time during major projects for your initial ideas to incubate—you’ll almost always think of ways to improve upon them. One University of Sydney study found that when people worked on a specific assignment, setting aside time for a completely unrelated task was a key factor in boosting quality. For the experiment, participants were given four minutes to come up with as many uses for a piece of paper as possible. The first group worked on the task continuously. The second group was interrupted after two minutes to work on a related task (generating a synonym for each word from a given list) and then asked to return to the original task for the remaining two minutes. The third group was interrupted after two minutes and given an unrelated task (a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test) and then asked to return to the original task for the remaining two minutes. Despite working for the same amount of time, the third group was most successful in accomplishing the original goal. The takeaway? Start assignments with enough time to set them aside and reassess them with a clear head. These are the things all highly creative people do.
Try this brain game on your commute
Keep your brain in top shape by actively exercising it in your spare time. You can try these skill-building online games, but for an offline option, try toppling, a free association practice in which you generate a string of words that are each related by a different kind of connection. Begin with a random word. “If you start with ‘carrot’ you can’t free associate another vegetable; instead, you might pick ‘stick,’ as in the phrase ‘carrot and a stick,’ then ‘glue’ because you’re thinking of a glue stick,” writes Christina Desmarais in Inc.