If you’re like most people, you’re most productive in the morning. But as the day wears on, you start to slow down. Your productivity slumps, and you struggle to focus. Here are six creativity-boosting activities you can do at work.
In other words, you need a break. Breaks are essential for creativity. If you want to come up with new ideas, you have to give yourself a breather after deep work. Here are a few ways to help you recharge, refocus, and end your workday hitting on all cylinders:
1. Eat a snack.
Whether before or after lunch, eating a snack is one of the best ways to get your brain back in gear. Consider your portions carefully, though: Bigger meals can bog you down and cause you to feel sleepy. Instead, eat something light to keep you alert when you return to work.
Just as importantly, choose your snack wisely. Grabbing whatever looks good from the company cafeteria may be convenient, but it isn’t going to do your creativity any favors. Plan ahead to make sure you’re refueling with foods that can supercharge creativity: nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, and salmon are all great choices.
Make sure to stay hydrated as you eat, too. Contrary to what you might have heard, drinking water during a meal improves digestion. Drinking enough water keeps your mind clear and ideas flowing.
2. Practice a hobby.
If you’re feeling dried up, creatively speaking, the solution isn’t to cease all creativity. Instead, try working in a different medium.
If you’re a writer, find a place where you won’t disturb others to practice some guitar lessons. If you’re a graphic artist, pause partway through the day to write a page in your journal. And if you’re a fashion designer, take a midday break to sketch the landscape out your office window.
What’s important isn’t the hobby itself; it’s that you’re giving yourself a new space to play in. Don’t judge what you create. Just have fun, and see where your creativity takes you. Keep the journal, work of art, or musical recording at work for inspiration.
3. Get some exercise.
You know that antsy feeling you get when you sit in place for too long? Take that opportunity to get up and move. You’ll come back feeling invigorated yet relaxed, a combination only exercise can deliver.
Go for a jog. Rent a bicycle from a kiosk near your workplace. Stop by the gym. Go stretch in the parking lot. Even taking a stroll down the sidewalk can help you detach from the stresses of the office.
When the weather is good, get outdoors. Even compared to indoor exercise, outdoor activities enhance mood, reduce depression, and improve self-esteem. When you get back to the office, you’ll be able to dive right back in with your blood flowing and your brain clear.
4. Take a nap.
The boss probably won’t be happy if you sleep the day away, but naps are great ways to recharge your creative batteries. Many of today’s top companies have acknowledged the value of the midday power nap, including Google, The Huffington Post, and NASA.
The ideal power nap is just 20 minutes long, and it can do wonders to melt stress, increase alertness, and improve your mood. Resist the temptation to extend the nap: Not only is it unprofessional, but it can also cause you to feel foggy or even more tired afterward.
Get permission from your direct support if you want to try this creativity-boosting tactic. Assuming you get the green light, bring a small pillow, an eye mask, and a light blanket you can store next to your desk. If you snore, avoid distracting others by finding a spot with fewer people.
High levels of stress hamper not just productivity, but also creativity. If you’re working on a stressful project or have client calls ahead, take a break to meditate.
Different people meditate differently. Some people focus on their breathing. Others simply listen to the sounds around them. Still others chant a mantra or repeat a positive affirmation. What’s most important is that you silence your inner critic for a few minutes.
6. Play a game of chess.
Chess may not be your favorite game, but it’s a great way to get your creative juices flowing again. Research suggests that playing chess can foster originality, fluency, and mental flexibility.
The reason is that chess requires players to combine patterns in novel ways. Regular chess players recognize early-, mid-, and end-game patterns. Winning requires putting them together in ways that catch one’s opponent off guard.
Trying to force creativity is like trying to squeeze more toothpaste out of an empty tube. At some point, applying more force doesn’t put any more paste on your brush. If you get to that point, stop squeezing: You’ve earned a break. Take it, and you’ll return with your creativity restored.