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How to Give Your Imagination a Boost

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You’re so used to performing the same tasks day in and day out that work can become a slog—and you feel like you’re stuck in a rut. Where’s the fun? A stagnant mind lands on worry, stress, and distraction, and you need to kick things up ASAP. You deserve better.

Here’s where tools you learned as a kid come in: It’s time harness the power of imagination. If you use your imagination at work, you’ll find that letting your mind wander is key to creative thinking, which has significant productivity and other professional benefits. (Think: enhancing your problem solving skills or nurturing your memory.) Here’s six ways I get my imagination going on the job that will add some fun back into your day and get you bursting with new ideas.

1. Stand on Your Head

When you reach that point of frustration where you simply can’t see a path forward on a project, stand on your head. You need to get the blood flowing back to your brain and circulating in your body. But don’t stop there: Break out those office asanas and breathing techniques. Jog around the building twice. Walk around for a change of scene. Release the power of endorphins and when you sit back down at your desk, you’ll feel renewed and ready to tackle whatever issue comes your way.

2. Get Out in 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 in nature. So, expose yourself to the outdoors in whatever dose you can manage. 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. 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 an office plant garden on your desk or in the break room. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find that new ideas start flowing as soon as you start breathing in that fresh air.

3. 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 zoom in more on the details they love to develop and nurture. He notes that every day, Beethoven sat down from daybreak to mid-afternoon 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, regimented practices, you too can unleash your imagination.

4. 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 on to creative solutions in its meandering.

5. 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.

6. 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? Match songs to a client project, and sing under your breath as you brainstorm. What’s a good song if you don’t sing along?

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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