Five Simple Steps to Greatly Increasing Your Creativity.

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By day, I am a Creative Director. My team and I routinely complete multiple creative projects in minimal time. At this moment I have at least twenty active projects. The copywriters, designers, and art directors I work with are juggling at least three to five projects each. We are known for the high quality of our creative output. We work quickly and efficiently. Every day, multiple creative projects are completed. Missing a deadline is not an option.

In my free time, I am equally as passionate about my personal creative pursuits. I love photography, writing, and painting. The difference between my on- and off-the-job creative output? In stark contrast to my daytime productivity, I have not put pen to paper, lens to eye, or brush to canvas in a long, long time. Why am I effective, efficient, and inspired to produce at work and so creatively unproductive at home?

To answer this question, and more importantly, to move beyond this disparity, I am taking a hard look at what works at work. I’ve outlined five simple things to carry from work to home to amp up my personal creativity. They are:

1. Establish a Deadline
Work gets done at work because it has to get done. Every project has a deadline and missing deadlines is not an option. So many of our personal goals are less specific. We’ll work on those watercolors when we get a moment or we’ll experiment with black and white self-portraits when we have a free afternoon. That’s what we tell ourselves anyway. If work projects were structured so nebulously, they’d never get completed either. Without a hard and fast deadline, projects just won’t get done. Starting today, establish a deadline for your personal creative goals and make yourself accountable to meet your own deadlines. As with work deadlines, failure is not an option.

2. Prioritize Your Work
You can’t accomplish something if you are trying to do everything. Having too much on your creative to-do list will overwhelm you. Decide what your top five creative goals are and then rank them in order of importance. Establish your deadlines based on these priorities. I would never get those twenty work projects done if I didn’t know which one I had to tackle first.

3. Assemble a “Team”
One reason that work gets done at work is because there is typically a team of people working towards the same goal right there beside you. This one is a little less transferable to home, but there are ways. The simplest? Take a class. If completing a watercolor is your priority, take a watercolor class. You’ll get that watercolor done. If taking a class is not an option, enlist the help or support of a friend who shares your interest. Don’t know somebody? Join a group or club. There are lots of ways to assemble your creative “team” at home.

4. Create Your Own Inspiration
Don’t wait for creative inspiration to strike – strike out for your own inspiration. The idea that great creativity only results when inspiration strikes is a myth. We do great work in our agency because we have to and it’s due, not because we had a random brilliant idea. It’s the act of working on the project itself that often brings forth those all-important lightbulb moments – not the other way around. Get out the paints. The great ideas will follow.

5. Overcome Perfection Paralysis
Your painting doesn’t have to be a masterpiece; your writing doesn’t have to be the Great American Novel. This is not to say you shouldn’t establish lofty goals. You should. But if you are overcome with making sure what you create is absolutely perfect, you’re less likely to create anything. At work, projects get done because they are due. Great work often results. Just get started. Keep pushing. And embrace the messy, less-than-perfect, creativity that results.

That’s it. My new rules for increasing personal creativity. I know they work. They’ve been working for me – at work – for more than a decade. It’s just time to bring them home.


About Patty Cara

Patricia Cara, our Vice President of Creative Services, has an eye for design no doubt honed by years of painting, photography, cooking (and school-projects). Every AE's go-to goddess at deadline time, Patty, with Alstin for more than 24 years, keeps it real with impromptu office dance parties and the latest iPhone apps.