10 Hacks to Get Your Creative Juices Flowing Again


Creativity is seldom discussed in marketing circles.

Yet it is a crucial aspect of our work, isn’t it?

I, for one sometimes feel unfortunate for having a creative job. It usually happens when I sit at my desk, staring at a blank page, cursing the whole world for lack of ideas. Some days it feels as if my right brain went on vacations and forgot to let me know.

Not ideal, I am sure you’ll agree. Especially if you have deadlines looming ahead.

If you find yourself in the same boat, struggling with ideas, be it some new ways to build links or content, hopefully this list will help you hack your way back to creativity.

Hack 1. Impose Limitations

Oftentimes when faced with a creative challenge we tend to choose the path of the “least resistance”. This means that when generating ideas we tend to take the least effortful way for instance by focusing on ideas we already have.

Therefore placing self imposed limitations can break you out of your comfort zone, force you to take risks and find new creative solutions.

Writer and comedian, John Cleese describes creativity as something so elusive that it has to be trapped with constraints:

You have to create boundaries of space and then you have to create boundaries of time.

So, stuck for ideas? Restrict yourself and watch creative juices flowing again. Work with only one particular asset or decide to write copy of certain length (or to start lines with specific characters and so on, there are no limits here – no pun intended).

Hack 2. Use Ambient Noise

It may seem obvious that silence is the best for creative thinking. Research shows however, that it’s hard to be creative in a quiet space. Researchers from the Chicago University found that:

a moderate level of ambient noise is likely to induce processing disfluency or processing difficulty, which activates abstract cognition and consequently enhances creative performance.

Silence can help to sharpen focus. Moderate ambient noise on the other hand can force you into more creative state of mind. So open the window and let street noise in or fire up apps like Coffitivity.

Hack 3. Work at a Messy Mesk

Being a fan of minimalist works spaces, I never thought I’d be sharing such advice. But as this research suggests, messy environment leads to better creative thinking. No comment.

Hack 4. Generate a Random Input Connection

One of the techniques described in Edward de Bono’s great book, “Lateral Thinking” is generation of a random input. The method is extremely simple – all you have to do is choose an object at random (say, a noun from a dictionary) and associate it with what you are thinking about.

It works because our mind works like a self maximising memory system. According to de Bono, in such system there is a limited attention span. This means that any two inputs cannot remain separate no matter how unconnected they are. No matter how unlikely the connection between the two might seem, your mind will find it and start generating ideas.

Hack 5. Exercise

We all know that exercise, among other things can increases your ability to think creatively, partially due to its ability to get the heart pumping and put you in a positive mood. As Psychology Today explains it:

Sweat is like WD-40 for your mind-–it lubricates the rusty hinges of your brain and makes your thinking more fluid. Exercise allows your conscious mind to access fresh ideas that are buried in the subconscious.

Hack 6. Physically Detach Yourself from the Problem

I never tried this approach so can’t vouch for it. But according to research pointed out by Gregory Ciotti detaching from a task and creating a psychological distance also helps to spur creative thinking. When stuck for ideas, try to imagine the task at hand being distant or disconnected from your current location. Doing so will make the problem more accessible and encourages a higher level of thinking.

Hack 7. Take a Nap

Naps can be problematic. On one end, we all know that they are good for concentration and regaining strength. But there is a catch. According to this research, they only work if you’ve already done some work on a task. So, before you take a nap to skip starting on a task, be honest with yourself and do at least some work on it first.

Hack 8. Feed Your Mind with Something Surreal or Absurd

I always loved surreal or absurd art but never realised how deeply it can affect creative thinking. Apparently our mind always tries to make sense of what it absorbs. Therefore, exposing it to surreal or absurd art or literature can put it into a temporary overdrive as it tries to analyse and make sense of what you feed it with. This goes in line with what Edward de Bono taught (see above).

Hack 8. Shift Your Eyes Horizontally for 30 Seconds

Yes, you heard it right. A research by The British Psychological Society indicates that shifting your eyes horizontally back and forth for 30 seconds can boost creativity. How does this work? Well, you might look silly doing so but apparently it will help with communication between two hemispheres.

Hack 10. Brainstorm Ideas on Sticky Notes

Sometimes the problem might be that you have too many ideas. My personal way to overcome this is to work on one idea at a time. To hack yourself into doing this, work on your idea on a sticky note. It’s big enough for one idea but too small to expand on it or include more ideas. If you have other ideas, use separate stickies for them. This way you will build a collection of ideas from which you can then choose the one you want to work on.

What hacks do you use to get creative juices flowing? Let us know in the comments.

Creative commons image by Even Normann / Flickr

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *