Productivity

5 Times You Don’t Need to De-Clutter

de-clutter

What the heck is it with all this sycophantic love for the art of de-cluttering!? I know they say that cleanliness is next to Godliness, but the only people that can know that for sure are dead, and I don’t trust dead people, do you?

I know that most of us in the western world have way too much stuff. The upkeep of said stuff can weigh us down, no doubt. But the pendulum can swing the other way. This obsession with de-cluttering can make us feel like the only right way to live is to sell everything we own and spend the rest of our lives living out of a backpack.

I did that once, by the way. And it was AWESOME. But it couldn’t last forever. I had kids. And having kids means having a home and all the things that come with it. It means ferreting away rock collections, half-coloured drawings, and bits of shiny-sparkly shrapnel found on a walk – to the back of the cupboard. It means waiting for the precise moment (of exactly 21-days to the minute – the time from whence they last mentioned those items) to signal that it’s safe to throw those things away without suffering the wrath of hoarder-children.

Personally, I love throwing stuff out. Or recycling or donating it. It makes me feel good. It frees my mind. But it’s a delusion really. My stress doesn’t come from having too many clothes or knickknacks. But for some odd reason, getting rid of excess stuff makes me feel like I’m shedding stress. Even though I’m not, really.

On the other hand, I know many people who struggle with de-cluttering. Its hard work for them and completely overwhelming. They like their stuff. They don’t feel better by shedding it – in fact, they feel weighed down by the very notion of getting rid of it.

To those people I say, consider this post a permission slip. It’s not always a good thing to de-clutter your home. And actually, there are a few occasions when it’s actually a bad idea:

1. When it doesn’t actually bother you or the people you live with

The whole point of the de-cluttering movement is to make our busy and stressful lives easier. If your stuff isn’t getting in your way or bogging you (or anyone you live with) down – then leave it alone.

2. When it’s an organized mess – you know where everything is

Assuming point number one is true for you, then another reason to leave your clutter alone is when it’s what we call an “organized mess”. Personally, I can’t cope with too many visual distractions. Visible clutter invades my brain and makes it hard for me to think clearly. But that’s just me. I know many people who know exactly where everything is in their piles and heaps. Those people, often, struggle to find things when they do put stuff away.

If you can access the stuff you need, exactly the way it is – don’t worry too much about changing it.

3. When your mess inspires your creativity

Creative people are often connoisseurs of the artefacts they have created, or the works of others that inspire joy. That’s what a home should be about – inspiration and joy. If you feel those things from a minimalist palette – then start de-cluttering. But if you’re more of an eclectic who’s inspired by many different things – keep your collage of stuff and don’t worry about it.

4. When de-cluttering is procrastinating on getting the real work done

I’m super guilty of this. Usually, when I start de-cluttering, it’s because I have something difficult I need to do, and I just can’t face it. Cleaning makes me feel like I’m taking charge, but really I’m just avoiding the thing I really need to do.

Avoid the procrastination trap. If you can work in the mess, then… work in the mess. You can always de-clutter later.

5. When it costs more to de-clutter than it’s worth

It should be cheap and easy to get rid of stuff, but that’s not always the case. I know that most experts say that if you haven’t used something in a year, you probably don’t need it. Sometimes, though, you might need that thing once every two or three years, but that thing would cost far too much to replace each time you needed it. So keep it.

Likewise, if its going to cost and arm and leg to de-clutter, by way of expensive storage systems or hired advice from an organizing-professional, then maybe it’s not worth it. This is especially the case if all the previous statements I’ve made are true for you.

While de-cluttering can be a godsend for many people who are struggling to keep on top of their lives, it’s not a panacea. Sometimes, the best way forward is to learn how to navigate around or through the mess, rather than simply getting rid of it. What are your thoughts on clutter? Yay or nay? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Creativity

How to Make Ideas Happen When You Have LOTS of Ideas

make ideas happen

There is a yin and yang to fertile minds. Creative ADDers can have lots of ideas, but little output around those ideas. This juxtaposition is a huge obstacle to overcome if you want to be productively creative, or in other words – you want to actually do something with your ideas, not just daydream about them.

Stop Dreaming and Start Doing

First, we need to acknowledge that we will always be in surplus. The amount of ideas we conjure up will always outweigh our ability to follow through on all of them. We have a lot of interests and curiosities. But we can’t pursue all of them, or we wouldn’t get very far on any of them. Ever eat at a buffet and think: “Well, that was good, but I didn’t really enjoy any of it”?

Secondly, ADDers are constantly interrupted by tirades of distractions that thwart our efforts. When we’re working on one project, something(s) else calls out to us: “What about me!?” Our minds have no filters. Whatever gets in (and it all gets in) seems just as important as whatever we are doing in the present moment.

I struggle with this every day. Each post I write conjures up ideas for two or three more posts. But I can’t write them all simultaneously, and sadly – the inspiration for the other ones often vanishes as quickly as the ideas pop into my head.

One of my clients is an incredibly imaginative artist, whose mediums span a wide range of endeavors. She might be working on a piece of art, then have an idea for a song – it can be a struggle to know where to put her attention.

Another friend of mine is a talented photographer. He’s also an idea generator. I would estimate that he’s probably come up with no less than 20 great ideas for businesses he could start, none even related to the photography business he already runs. But he’s only one guy. If he followed through on every impulse, the business he already has would sink into an abyss.

The biggest problem for people like us is this:

If we chase all our creative impulses, they will stay just that – impulses. Creative people aren’t satisfied with just having ideas, they want to make things and bring their imagination to life.

What do you do when your heart yearns to make something, but your brain is at the mercy of a bountiful imagination and insatiable curiosity, with no reigns on either of them?

How to Make Ideas Happen

1. Let it go

We have to learn to let go of some ideas in favor of others, at least temporarily. Don’t gorge at the buffet table, making yourself sick on a little of this and a little of that. Pick two to three projects you really fancy and stick with them. Enjoy them. And leave the rest aside for now.

I suggest picking two to three projects for a couple of reasons. One project is unlikely to satisfy you – you’ll get bored and fed up. That’s the way the ADD mind is built. Plus, as we’ll talk about in a minute, you need to have an array of tasks to choose from, according to the frame of mind you are in. Working on one project means that you always have to be in the mindset that project requires. Not possible.

Any more than three projects and you’ll find yourself right back there at the buffet table.

 

2. Pick your priorities according to your frame of mind

This means knowing, intuitively, what you’re up for. Some days are great writing days for me. The words flow almost faster than my pudgy little fingers can two-finger type. Obviously, I choose to write those days.

Other days, my mushy mind can’t string two intelligible words together. (That’s assuming my writing is usually intelligible, but I’ll gamble on that hunch.) Those days, usually after a long day at work, I don’t write. This goes against most writing authorities’ advice – almost all suggest to write every day, no matter what. But screw ’em. I’ve got my process, they can keep theirs.

On the days I have brain-fatigue, I do other things. I do research or do something physical. Like painting or gluing stuff to other stuff. It doesn’t always work out (I haven’t decoupaged the dogs, yet…) but it feels good to do something with my hands.

Figure out what you’re in the mood for, and do that.

 

3. Define a work period. Period. 

Creative ADDers have this funny habit of believing that thinking about something is the same as doing that thing. Like mysterious little imps will bring their ideas to life while they sleep, such as The Blue Fairy in Pinocchio. Sorry my friend, you aren’t Geppetto. You have to carve out time in your schedule to make your magic happen. Preferably, every day – even if only in short bursts. This is where the writing authorities are right – do it every day. It just might not be the same goal you work on every day.

Even short bursts of activity can be super-productive. Check out the Pomodoro Method to find out more about how you can supercharge an hour or two of work time.

 

4. Manage Distractions

Find a quiet space, turn off your email and phone, blah blah blah. Yeah, we know all that. In truth, we’re most likely to get distract by… wait for it… other ideas! Get yourself a notebook, and quickly jot down those inspirations. Learn to tolerate the impulse to follow those shiny things right now. Just say “no”. Just say “not now”.

Yeah, like me, the inspiration may leave you. That’s okay. See point number one. The really good ones – they’ll come back again if they’re worth it.

 

5. Go Faster

We ADDers tend to over-think things. Often, we want to get things “just right” and that pursuit of excellence can actually hold us back. Sometimes, we need to just sit down and churn out the work. It might not be our best stuff – but we can always tidy it up later. Again – it’s a mindset thing. Editing and revising require access to a part of the brain that is not friendly to creative thought. For example, it’s pretty sucky to write and edit what you are writing in the same sitting. It makes the whole process arduous and painful. Write first, edit later.

When people are struggling to motivate themselves to do the work, it’s usually because the work feels tedious. The best way to get around this is to go faster and charge through it.

 

Though you may feel boggled and scattered by having so many ideas, its not a bad thing. It can be a blessing when you don’t give in to the impulse to follow all your brainwaves. Often, you will find that a few of your ideas actually tie together into one great idea. Other times, you will find that some are best left alone. These are my 5 preferred ways of bringing ideas to life when I’m inundated with many of them. I’m sure you guys have some even better tricks than the ones listed here – I’d love to hear them! Share your thoughts in the comments and don’t forget to sign up for free ADD tools in the box below!

Creativity

For Creative People Who Can’t Quit Their Day Job (or Life for That Matter)

creative people

Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people.
Leo Burnett

Motivational sages pretend that making your dream come true only requires elbow grease and a decision to never give up. This is mostly misleading. It’s true, in the sense that it works if all you dream of… is making your dream come true. But most of us want ketchup and gravy, not plain old fries. We want a purpose, a home of our own, a partner to share it with, and a few holidays for flavor.

We don’t have just one dream. We have many. It is the rare few who enjoy (endure?) a single-minded focus on the pursuit of one overriding purpose in life. That leaves the rest of us trying to slot in a bit of time here and there, pursuing passions that don’t bring in paychecks or take us out for romantic dinners.

In other words, we really want to be writers and painters and wood workers and entrepreneurs and graphic designers and music producers and (fill in your creative preference here ______), but…

We have to fit it in between yoga class and bedtime.

Guess what that means? Not a lot of time to pursue what makes our hearts sing. Amateur creative people are adept at squeezing creativity into small spaces.

Maybe this is just my experience, but I’ll share it with you in case you relate:

I love to write. I feel most in flow when I’m playing with words and ideas. I dream of one day writing a book. But I only write a couple nights a week. Because I also love my husband, my kids and my dogs. I love entertaining friends, coaching clients and renovating our home. And – I have a day job. I couldn’t imagine giving up one of those things to pursue writing exclusively. Except for my Newfie when he binge eats his own feces. I might consider it then.

Author Ryan Holiday’s advice for becoming a writer is not about prolific work ethic or the relentless honing of your skills. He simply states:

“Go do something interesting.”

It’s what we do in our everyday lives that gives us something to say.

I don’t write for a living. But my living, professional and otherwise, has given me something to write about. I write when I can. When you love something, you’ll find the time to do it. You’ll write your book on the toilet and create websites on a commuter train to your real job.

For most creative people, this won’t feel satisfying AT ALL! Ten minutes here and there will feel like putting out a prairie fire by peeing on it. But if, like me, you’re not willing to sacrifice all your dreams for the sake of one, you’ll make do with that.

You can be more fulfilled by piecemeal creativity.

 

Embrace the toilet time and morning commute as life’s way of giving you stolen time. Use every minute of stolen time you get.

Be awake and mindful in your everyday life. Your muse speaks when you’re going about your business, not just when you’re creating.

Let life inspire your work. Look at the ordinary in extraordinary ways. Glean material from overheard conversations and ideas from glitches in your work day.

Do something interesting. If you can’t thinking of anything interesting to do, just try saying yes more.

And remember this always:

Creativity is not sitting down and working at your craft. Creativity is all around you, in everything you do. If you open yourself up to be inspired by every moment, no matter how mundane it may seem, you transform from an amateur creative to someone who is in that creative space 24-hrs-a-day.

How much more fulfilling is that?

Creativity

Have You Lost Your Magic and Can You Get it Back?

magic

In a poignant post I read awhile back, Austin Kleon urged us to keep it light and remember to do what comes naturally. He was referring to writers and artists who want to be taken more seriously. Sometimes in pursuit of mastery we can lose that spark of magic that makes us unique.

The advice could be applied to anyone. We’ve all had experiences that sap our spark. When we fail a college entrance exam. When produce a piece of work that nobody cares about. When embarrassed parents shun our silliness. When we do something really cool and awesome and special but nobody claps. Or nods. Or even smiles. Not even the tumbleweed.

We’re sensitive little souls, us creative-types. We create stuff because it’s who we are. But we cling to external validation so we can feel like we’re acceptable.

Please smile. Please clap. Please say “well done”, so I can feel like I matter. Because I don’t – feel like I matter.

That’s when we lose the magic.

magic baby

When we decide that the magic is in being accepted. As if Renoir or Mozart are only magical because a bunch of people of people decided their work was worth seeing. (Posthumously, mostly.)

I didn’t know Renoir or Mozart personally- they’re quite a bit older than me. But I could make an educated guess that acceptance wasn’t a big consideration in their creative head-spaces. If I run into them in the afterlife I’ll check for accuracy, but for now let’s suppose my theory is true.

It’s not about what you get back, in terms of praise, it’s about what you put out. Ryan Holiday is spot on when he suggests:

It’s far better (and more resilient) when doing good work is sufficient. In other words, the less attached we are to outcomes the better.

When fulfilling our own standards is what fills us with pride and self-respect. When the effort—not the results, good or bad—is enough.

We lose our magic when we play it safe. We dampen down our spirit to be less annoying but end up dull. We take the so-called “sure path” to success and end up on a grid-locked road full of other play-it-safers. We censor our words so we don’t look stupid and end up saying nothing important at all.

We stop being light and doing what comes naturally.

True magic lies in authenticity. It takes courage to be authentic and try new things, regardless if we’ll be met with applause or thumbs down. But without authenticity, without letting your all your best stuff shine even if your best stuff could be crap… You risk becoming something much, much worse:

Stale and unoriginal.

Creativity

Non-Conformity and Being Prolific: An Interview with Bryan Hutchinson

bryan_hutchinson_positive_writer_5

While ADDers are well-endowed in the creativity department, many of us find it difficult to bring our multitude of ideas to life.  For this post, I have had the wonderful opportunity to pick the brains of Bryan Hutchinson – one of the most productively creative and inspiring ADDers I know. Let’s get to it – enjoy!

 

Andrea:  Bryan, you have published eight books, including the best-selling “Writer’s Doubt”, created two hugely successful blogs, and authored featured articles for national magazines and newspapers. Most ADDers I know struggle with finishing stuff.  Yet when it comes to productive creativity, you’re kind of a machine. What’s your secret and where can we buy it?

Bryan: Ha! You’re very kind, Andrea. My secret is actually quite simple, I stopped trying to conform to linear ways of doing things.

Most people with ADHD fight with themselves all of their lives, trying to do things in standards ways in which they have been taught. I remember in school, already at a very young age, I did things in non-standard ways and I would always get in trouble for it. Sometimes I needed to walk or fidget in order to think. I always got in trouble for that and the teachers thought I was lazy and I didn’t care, and frankly, so did my parents.

As an adult I can work on my own personal projects in any way I please – and I do. And because I do, I have become extremely prolific. But that happened in my 30’s. The problem with most of us with ADHD is that because of how we’re taught to behave in school, we think there is something wrong with us and most do not ever become comfortable doing things their own ways.

 

Andrea: I’ve noticed that too. In the opening of your book “10 Things I Hate About ADD”, you describe ADD as a gift that comes with some side effects (darn that falling pipe!). This philosophy is what has always drawn me to your writing. What is your reaction to the naysayers – who claim that ADHD is exclusively a disorder whose “gifts” are merely incidental – and how should we punish them?

Bryan: The problem here is actually very simple. Linear thinkers see non-linear thinking as defective thinking. This is normal. It’s like the writing advice that says we should write every day and we should write a specific number of words. That’s absolutely linear thinking. I write when I feel compelled to write, and when I think of writing a specific number of words for a day, well, that makes me want to throw up. I write however many words I’m compelled to write. Period. When I decided to embrace my quirks (which writing, when compelled, is seen as), I felt less guilty and I excelled. No one holds us back more than we do.

 

Andrea: Sadly, you’re right. Often we are our own biggest enemies – whether that relates to our ADHD or to our creativity. This is not necessarily a chicken-or-egg question… but how do your ADHD traits influence your creativity and, conversely, how has creativity influenced your ADHD? (If chickens or eggs are involved, that’s fine.)

Bryan: My ADHD traits are my creativity, so this question doesn’t make sense to me anymore. And frankly, I’m okay with that. As an adult who has become successful at doing things his way, it’s hard to see my ADHD traits as defects anymore. We’re taught we are defective as children because we don’t settle and do things appropriately, but I was pretty unhappy and unproductive trying to conform.

 

Andrea: Speaking of doing things your own way, I’m curious about your writing process. When I’m writing a blog post, one idea leads to another and another and another. Before I’ve written one full post, I usually have at least five other beginnings to other posts. I don’t watch you write because that would be creepy and impossible, but I imagine you probably have “too many” ideas too. How do you keep focused on what you’re working on, but still keep track of all the other thoughts that come into your head?

Bryan: I don’t have a perfect method for this. I’m not sure I even have an answer. I used to try to keep track, but it’s too difficult. This is one of those things where I accept what I remember and try not to regret what I forgot, but a notebook doesn’t hurt (when I remember to use it).

 

Andrea: I love how at ease you seem with your ADHD, and with your own creative process. Whether you’re writing about ADHD or the art of writing, positivity is a theme that runs through your work. What inspires your positivity and how do you maintain it!?

Bryan: Hmmmm… I think this is because I’ve been pushed down so much in my life and the more negative I felt, the more negative consequences I had, whether anyone was pushing me down or I was doing it to myself. At some point, I realized that positivity really does work. I know, there are a lot of naysayers out there who say positive thinking is a waste of time, well, their path takes them in one direction and mine takes me in another. Which one is right or wrong? I don’t know, but I do know I am quite productive being positive.

 

Andrea: I have to agree with that one. Negativity has never made me, or anyone I know, better at anything – apart from complaining. Because you have mastered what it takes to be a Positive Writer, I wonder what one piece of advice you would give to other ADDers who aspire to become writers? (Yes, this question is largely self-serving!)

Bryan: Be a writer. It’s that simple. No one needs my permission or anyone else’s permission to be a writer. If you write, you’re a writer. So be one. Keep writing until you get to “The End.” However, with that said, it doesn’t hurt to be inspired, and in all honesty, the best writing is inspired writing. So, find ways to become inspired. Whatever makes you happy. Take a trip. Explore a new store or mall. Watch a movie you love. Do something out of the ordinary. Meditate. Or, read my new book. 🙂

 

I must say, Bryan Hutchinson has always been a source of inspiration for me – for both his message and his creative output. Whether you are trying to get ahead in your own creative career, or just need a lift when ADHD is getting you down, check out Bryan’s books here. And make sure to check out his latest book:

Inspired Writer: How to Create Magic with Your Words (Sold nearly 10,000 copies in the first 3 days!!!)

My biggest, gushiest heartfelt thanks to Bryan. As prolifically productive of a writing-machine that he is, he still took time out to participate in this interview with me. I have to say guys – we’re lucky to have him as part of our tribe 🙂

Creativity

Mediocrity and Cultivating Creative Confidence

creative confidence

How many times have you scrapped a project because you were sure it was going to turn out like crap?

Or – frantically scribbled down a clever idea in the middle of the night, only the rip it apart the next day, cursing: “What was I thinking!?”

Or – failed to try your hand at something, because you were sure that you couldn’t do it very well so why bother?

We live in a world that obsesses over excellence. We revere it like an ancient god with powers far beyond our own. And in turn, we reward it with acclaim, adoration, idolatry even.

Why do we seem to think that the only creativity worth admiring is the kind that is exceptional?

And what does that do for the creative confidence of us mere mortals?

Cultivating Creative Confidence

Creativity is not a gift. It’s an attribute we all possess. We don’t manifest art because we are creative. We’re creative, plain and simple. What we produce is an expression of our souls.

Being good at it shouldn’t even be a consideration. Who stops having sex because they aren’t the best lover in the world? Expressing creativity is a human need. We shouldn’t stop making stuff just because it might not be the best-thing-ever.

Being creative takes courage to be uncertain about your talent and make stuff anyway, because that’s what your soul needs you to do.

Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.

Erich Fromm

Reveling in Mediocrity

Personally, I’m sick of awesomeness being so exclusive.  I want to see more okay or not-too-bad things get the spotlight once in awhile, and “average” people getting attention for their efforts. I love watching amateur theatre or admiring the work of aspiring artists and writers. It brings me joy to see the work that comes from someone else’s joy. It doesn’t have to be amazing for me to appreciate it.

Don’t get me wrong: I love masterpieces too. But few of us are prodigies. Excellence, in fact, is born of repeated effort. Perhaps if we embraced this a little more – if we loved our crap simply because it was our own effort that produced it – we would have the creative confidence to work at it until excellence emerged.

Sadly, I – like other people I know – have passed up many opportunities to express my creativity because I thought my work would not be good enough. I missed out on getting better. But, as I grow older, I am getting more courage to tolerate uncertainty and let my okayness shine. Do you have the guts to embrace mediocrity and keep making, even when it feels like you’re not good enough?

For more on this topic, check out this post: Anything Worth Doing is Worth Doing Badly.

 

Creativity

Keep Making

keep making

Synopsis: How do you stay positive when you’re not sure that what you are creating is good enough? Simple: keep making. 

Every dream is burdened with a doubt that one day you will be good enough to succeed. You create – with no certainty that what you’re creating is good or will ever get noticed. How do you keep going?

When you feel like you can’t stand the uncertainty of success: Consider nature in all her creative power and prowess.

The sun doesn’t ask why she rises each morning and sets at dusk. She doesn’t lament that, despite her best efforts, the snow remains cold, completely unaffected by the charm of her warm kiss. She doesn’t complain when the clouds dilute her beauty or when the night overshadows her light in a blanket of obscurity.

She concerns herself with only two things:

Rising and setting.

It’s not her business who sees her or whether she’s liked. Her business is to keep shining.

The waves of an ocean or lake don’t cry over their brevity, their crests and troughs fizzling as they reach the shore. They don’t worry that bigger waves are always right behind them, ready to take their place. They don’t fight against the tide that drags them back, to start again.

They concern themselves with only two things:

Rising and falling.

It’s not their business how long they last, or how many times they’ll have to start all over again. Their business is to keep flowing.

And so it is with your dream, no matter how big or small, important or insignificant it may feel at times.

Do not worry if it is good enough.
Do not care if other people like it or notice it all.
Do not fear the darkness that eclipses your efforts or the bigger waves that threaten your progress.
They are momentary.

Concern yourself with only two things:

Rise and set.
Ebb and flow.
Keep making. And resting.
Keep making. And resting.

It’s not your business whether you’re good enough. It is your business to bring your creativity to the world – your art, your writing, your business, your service – whatever it is.

When it’s not good enough – keep making.
When someone else is doing a better job – keep making.
When no one is paying attention and you feel all your work is for nothing – keep making.

Like the sun and the waves,

Your time will come.

Creativity

Exercise Your Imagination

imagination

What role does imagination play in your life?

We know that good eating, sleeping and exercise habits promote health. Likewise, stress management and positive thinking foster good mental health. However most of us want more than health. We want happiness too.

Imagination is a key component of happiness. For one, it allows us to recognize what a happier life would actually look like. But more importantly, it gives life a more magical quality to it, rather than just the same old-same old.

Imagination is Magical

Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere. Albert Einstein

Imagination is the one human attribute that has no limits. Your muscles, attention span, even memory – all have a maximum threshold. Imagination has no parameters. This gift, as far as we know, sets us apart from other beings.

For creative-types who invent, innovate, and make the world a more entertaining place – imagination is a vital function that must be exercised regularly. Without it, creativity wouldn’t exist.

Use It or Lose It

Just as laziness leads to muscle wasting, a life filled with activity and no “mental play” leads to an emaciation of imagination.  Your mind becomes satiated with pre-frontal cortex stuff like planning and organizing, while imagination withers away.

Ideas to Exercise Your Imagination

If you want to give your imagination a workout, here are some exercises to try:

1. Photo-bomber Fun

Examine the background stuff in a few of your photos, like the people who became unknowing photo-bombers in your holiday snaps. Who are they? What must their lives might be like? Why were they there? Write a short story about them.

2. Take a Test

Developed by JP Guilford in 1967, the Alternative Uses Test challenges your creative boundaries. Examine an ordinary household object, like a coffee cup or paperclip, and think of as many possible uses for it as you can. The more absurd or random the better! Try this game with a kid – they will teach you a lot about removing the boundaries that confine imagination.

3. Have a Brain Dump

Set your timer and write for ten minutes – about anything and everything. Let one thought flow into another, even if there is no real association or logic between the two. Play with words – try out new combinations or ridiculous metaphors. The idea is to write fast and frenzied, then see what comes out of it.

4. Play the Free-Association Game

Talk with a friend (or yourself, if you’re so inclined). Shout out one random word, then the next that comes immediately to mind. Don’t think too much about it. Write down each word that comes to mind, and see if you can find a connection between them. Again, this is game is a great one to play with a kid.

5. Thought Experiments

Use your imagination to investigate the nature of something you don’t fully understand or to explore all the potential consequences of a particular theory that may not be provable in real life. Here are some mind-blowing examples to get you started.

6. Nap or Daydream

Give your brain a break from tedium of the day to get its creative juices flowing. Dreaming is the ultimate expression of an unrestricted imagination. Take a cat nap and as you fall asleep, notice the images and sensations that send you off. Or, spend some time relaxing in a daydream about … anything you can possibly imagine! Notice what comes up when you don’t force your mind to think about anything in particular.

These are just a few ideas to help you exercise your imagination. Feel free to share what comes out of these exercises for you, or share a few ideas of your own!