3 Creativity Hacks for Normal People

December 16, 2016 | Get free updates of new posts here

Everyone’s looking for a shortcut. Everyone’s looking for a way to get more bang for their buck. Everyone’s looking for opportunities to come up with new ideas and new solutions. Creativity is one of those mechanisms that helps us go from obstacle to output but where do these creative ideas come from?


One of the fallacies of creativity is that people who are labelled as creative have access to some secret stash of inspiration that’s not available to the rest of the mortal world. Whatever it is that you find to be the most inspirational for your creative output – nature, technology, conversations, art – is the same inspiration that is available to the people who are known as the most creative.

Inspiration is not the difference.

Attention is the difference.

If you want to be more creative,
you have to pay more attention.

I wish there was more of a shortcut than that but there really isn’t. Once you pay attention you begin to see new things, think new things, dream new things. You begin to see patterns and connections between events or songs or words that you didn’t see before. You begin to understand what it is that impacts people beyond the beauty of the work you do.

(I wrote more on the weird idea that creative is used more as a noun than as an adjective:
There are no creatives. We are all creatives.)

So what are some ways that anyone (whether you have that label of creative or not) can take advantage of to be more creative? What are some creativity hacks to help you pay attention?

1. Stay curious

When is the last time you learned a brand new skill? Have you ever pursued a hobby or interest with which you had no previous experience? Keeping your brain engaged on new skills forces creativity simply because you are forcing yourself to work through new problems.

This is the main reason why we started keeping bees a year ago on our property. Did I know anything about beekeeping? Nope! Was I willing to invest time and a bit of money to learn? Yep! So now the result is we’ve got two healthy bee colonies in our backyard, some delicious honey but more than that I’ve kept pushing in my desire to learn a new skill and to stay curious about something I knew nothing about.


And ask my friends, they’ll tell you that I’ve learned to apply some of what I’ve learned through beekeeping to other parts of my life and my leadership.

What is something you’ve always wanted to learn but haven’t said yes to yet? Stay curious enough to be engaged!

2. Capture the moment

Creative inspiration and ideas will happen at the craziest of times and despite your best efforts and your self-assuredness, you will not remember that great idea when you get home or when you have a chance to write it down. Inspiration is a flash of lightning and if you don’t catch that shiny thing in a bottle it will vanish.

I’ve also found that when I do happen to remember that idea or inspiration down the road, I’m much less drawn to the idea and I’m less willing to give it a chance because it feels like it’s lost some of its shine or excitement.

You must have a way to capture inspiration right in the moment. For me it’s the notes app on my phone. I can tap out some words, I can grab a quick picture, I can make a quick voice recording. Everything is right there for easy access.

In the past I’ve used the Evernote or Google Keep apps but if you’ve got a smartphone you’ve got a great capture solution in your pocket almost all the time.

For larger, more complex ideas or to turn an idea into a more fully formed concept I keep a Moleskine notebook in my briefcase which comes with me pretty much everywhere I go. I love my Moleskine and knowing that I can transfer notes from my phone or event from a moment of inspiration down onto paper right away gives me a great way to capture that moment and not lose it forever.

3. Long hot showers

Ok this one may be a bit tmi for some of you but it’s the most hack-ish of the three ideas. I can’t give you all the science of why this works (read here or here or here for more on this) but giving yourself time for a long shower with warm/hot water hitting the back of your neck or the lower part of the back of your skull will release dopamine.

The combination of the dopamine with a distraction-free environment of the shower and the opportunity to let your mind wander is an incredible way to let creative ideas flow. Memories stored away, inspiration which has hit you over the past couple of days, recent significant events will all bubble to the surface and you will have the time and the creativity to process these ideas in new ways.

Of course then it goes back to #2 and you need a way to capture those moments, even in the shower!

Inspiration is not the difference.

Attention is the difference.

Creativity is really the habit of paying attention and applying that inspiration to some form of output that generates a response from people. There are so many ways to generate these attention-increasing habits in our lives but these three – stay curious, capture the moment, long hot showers – are ones that have worked for me over the years.

What about you? What are your creativity hacks?

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