Recently I was asked to deliver a presentation at a conference coming up at the end of April. I donâ€™t typically turn down opportunities to take a trip and talk about something of interest to me, so I agreed. The topic was in the neighborhood of my comfort zone, but not exactly on the same street if you know what I mean.
I sat down and started putting the presentation together and realized I had no idea what I wanted to talk about or what direction I wanted to take the slides. The time seemed to drag on over a couple of evenings while sitting in my favorite creative spot in the house, i.e. sitting on the floor with my back against the couch in front of the TV. The problem wasnâ€™t the desire, but rather the approach. It felt forced. Itâ€™s much easier to be productive when you have something in mind and are working toward that goal. Creativity on the other hand seems to flow when you give your brain some time to rest and focus not on the task at hand, but something you enjoy.
Anyway, I forced myself to put the presentation aside and forget about it. Fast forward several days to the weekend and Iâ€™m sitting in a convention center in Sacramento watching my daughterâ€™s cheer competition; nothing unusual about that. During a break in the action the MC was talking about something and made a small gesture with his hand. For reasons beyond my comprehension it sparked a thought that ended with me coming up with the content for the presentation I was working on. When I got back to the hotel that night I quickly hammered out the outline for the presentation and filled in the content a few nights later.
Whatâ€™s the moral of the story? Itâ€™s really quite simple: creativity isnâ€™t something you can â€œthink aboutâ€ or force. It usually comes when youâ€™re doing something you enjoy or when you take the time to quiet your mind. The typical work day is full of distractions that lead not to creativity, but productivity. As strange as that may sound itâ€™s true. So I encourage everyone to take some time to simply â€œzone outâ€ and let your mind wander. Itâ€™s worth it.