5 exercises for being productive—and innovative—at the same time

You don't have to sacrifice productivity to be more creative, Karla Lant-Zapier writes for Fast Company.

In reality, creativity can boost your productivity by pushing you to work smarter—not harder, she argues. While some may be predisposed to creative thinking, anyone can get their creative juices flowing by adopting a few simple habits.

Lant-Zapier identifies a few exercises to foster creative thinking without losing your focus.

Exercise 1: Establish some distance. To unleash your creativity, you need space to allow your ideas to take shape. Psychological distance can fuel creative thinking, according to Lile Jia, an assistant psychology professor at the National University of Singapore. To establish distance between yourself and the problem, try taking frequent breaks or tackling the project from different perspectives, Lant-Zapier suggests.

Exercise 2: Adjust your workflow. Work on your toughest problems when you feel the most focused, she recommends. Most people are at their sharpest in the morning, research has found. To make the best use of your day, assign administrative tasks to your off-peak hours and more intense work to your peak-hours, Lant-Zapier recommends. To identify your optimal workflow, observe your energy, focus, and motivation throughout the day, recommends Chris Bailey, a productivity consultant.

Related: How leaders can make more time for creativity

Exercise 3: Set constraints. It may seem counterintuitive to impose constraints while trying to nurture creativity, but setting limits can actually grease the wheels of free thinking, Emma Seppala wrote for Harvard Business Review in 2016. Researchers have found that constraints, like fewer resources, can fuel creative problem-solving, Lant-Zapier writes. Establish creative-boosting constraints by setting goals or deadlines for yourself, she suggests.

Exercise 4: Limit your stress. Stress and anxiety can lead to creative blocks, writes Lant-Zapier. When you're stressed, you may be less likely to welcome new ideas. To reduce your stress levels, consider limiting your caffeine intake or going for a run.

Exercise 5: Visualize your thought process. Creative people don't always think in a linear way and may link together seemingly disparate ideas, she writes. Mind mapping allows you to trace the connections between your ideas and give others a glimpse into your thought process, she adds (Lant-Zapier, Fast Company, 3/19).

Want to be more creative? Try being bored.

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