Creative Techniques: You must assign the time to think.

I hate the shower timer. That waterproof egg timer aberration that suction cups to the bathroom tiles and tells me not to waste water.
I don’t hate it for making me save water, that’s why we have it (well, more to stop my 11 year old ending up with more wrinkles than me every morning). I hate it because my morning shower used to be serious thinking time. Now, I’m in and out in 4 minutes, barely enough time to contemplate what to have for breakfast, and nowhere near enough time to think up that better mousetrap.

If your job demands creativity, then time is both your friend and your enemy. Coming up with ideas, solving problems, working through options all demand time. But I’ll lay odds you don’t have enough to spare, right?

My core role is thinking. I’m paid to come up with ideas to solve client problems, and to build proactive concepts in a variety of areas. However, my thinking time is shared with managing my team time, meeting time, paperwork time, family time, spouse time and once a year between 11 and 11.05am on a Tuesday, me time. It’s difficult to balance, and ensure I’m doing the best for my family, my employer, my team, my clients and myself.

So I have to use my time wisely. From the creative standpoint, I have to make sure I dedicate the right sort of time to do the thinking needed.
I believe creative thinking comes in two flavours; active thinking, and passive thinking. Active thinking is the time you spend actually working on the issue… defining the problem, self brainstorming ideas etc. Passive thinking is what happens afterwards. It’s what bubbles away in the background while you’re doing other things. Passive thinking subconsciously refines your creativity. It’s why you often wake up with a new idea or a problem solved.

However, it’s vital that you commit time to active thinking. A few minutes in the shower won’t cut it. You have to get yourself in the mindset that active thinking time is just as important as any other type of time. Use it properly though, don’t just put your feet up and assume the champagne ideas will start flowing. Use whatever techniques work for you to ensure you’re moving forward in whatever you’re working on.

Personally, I get out of the office and walk when I can. I set myself a task to work on and head out for 15 to 20 minutes. I also have a rule that the car radio only gets turned on in one direction wherever I’m driving to. When I drive back, it goes off.

Find your own time, but commit to it. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you must be seen to be doing something. Thinking itself is doing something. Something vital in creativity.

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