7 Ways to Boost Your Imagination at Work

Oct 2, 2018 at 6:00 p.m. ET
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You’re so used to performing the same tasks day in and day out. Where’s the fun? Has your mind wandered elsewhere? There’s a difference and a connection between “wandering” and “wondering.” When you brainstorm, your mind goes on a vision quest of its own, but when you feel stuck and stagnant, your brain chews on worry, stress and distraction. So here are seven ways to expand your imagination at work.

1. Chew on bite-size goals

Focusing on the big picture too much gets scary and stressful, and then your perfectionist self kicks into full gear. You get stuck and cranky, which doesn’t make you a pleasant person with whom to work or be around. When tasks and details overwhelm, chew on bite-size goals instead of resorting to your worrywart tendencies. Break each goal into smaller actionable goals that excite you — or at least don’t make you want to bang your head against a wall.

2. Stand on your head

When you reach that point or feel blue in the face, stand on your head. You need to get the blood flowing back to your brain and circulating in your body. Break out those office asanas and breathing techniques. Jog around the building twice and make people laugh. Walk around for a change of scene. Release the power of endorphins like the Kraken, and get to cracking!

3. Expose yourself to nature

Sitting in the same chair at the same desk with the same gray walls or too-bright environment gets to you after a while. Your brain likes variation, and humans belong to nature. So expose yourself to nature in whatever dose you can find it in. One study found that backpackers were 50 percent more inspired after four days out on the trail, but you can get a boost in under 30 minutes. Unplugging restores your focus and boosts your performance and creativity levels. Remember how good it felt to sit under a big tree and read as a kid? Find your tree. Walk a nearby greenway in the mornings, evenings or during your lunch break. Create a succulent garden on your desk or in the break room.

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4. Cultivate disciplined creativity

Order and chaos seem at odds with one another, but when yin and yang find a balance, so do you on your path to creativity. Structure allows innovation to seep in according to expert and professional speaker Erik Wahl — the wildest of minds need order to get the space they require to roam free without distraction and home in more on the details they love to develop and nurture so much. He shares how, every day, Beethoven sat down from daybreak to midafternoon and composed. Kafka’s go-to time was sitting down to write at 11:30 p.m. Mozart achieved a work-and-creative-life balance by teaching lessons in the mornings and composing during the evenings. By following similar practices, you can also unleash your imagination.

5. Put a timer on downtime

“Downtime” usually means taking a break, but being down means focusing on the things that keep you down for far too long. Lift yourself back up to brainstorming territory — it’s beautiful up there! Take downtime breaks to reset your focus, and if you find yourself distracted by other matters, put pen to paper and let it all out. When you write something down, you process your emotions and thoughts better and are more likely to focus on your goals. Set a time limit for how long you can worry — put it on paper and let it go. Who knows? Your pen may wander onto creative solutions in its meandering.

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6. Envision rather than assume

You know what happens when you assume — don’t do that to yourself, your team or your clients. When you get caught up in a downward spiral of negative thinking, return to the original vision and take the art of visualization further. Use it in a way that works for you. Perhaps that means creating a vision board of motivation or envisioning the positive payoff when you succeed. You might walk yourself through the worst-case scenario and reassure yourself that you have the support you need. Think of visualization as a walking mental meditation, and let it assist you in your brainstorming process. Don’t assume. Envision.

7. Do karaoke under your breath while brainstorming

For ages, music has served humanity as a source of expression and inspiration. Most people have a playlist for when they work out, so why not make a playlist for work? Certain types of music make you feel specific ways. Match songs to a client project, and sing under your breath as you brainstorm. Many students use softer melodies to get started and faster-paced music to match their inspiration, impact and execution levels. What’s a good song if you don’t sing along? But you don’t want to make every dog within a mile of you howl, so do karaoke under your breath while you work through ideas.

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Use these seven tips to expand your imagination at work and achieve success, probably while making your coworkers laugh a bit. That’s what amazing work culture does, though — generating innovation and imagination with good humor, positivity and dedication.

A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards and career advice.

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