Are you exhausted?

No wonder we’re exhausted. Our working lives have been catapulted into chaos.  Many of us have experienced furlough, restructures or redundancy (or all three).

We’ve had to adapt quickly to working remotely. Most charities have been forced to cut back and adapt their products and services while the need for services has increased. We’ve had to change quickly without preparation and without knowing how long for or what might happen next.

Uncertainty is a natural and unavoidable part of life. None of us ever have absolute certainty over what tomorrow will bring. And as the coronavirus outbreak has shown, life can change quickly and unpredictably.

The challenge for all of us is that human beings are wired to seek certainty. When we’re faced with uncertainty our brain believes our safety is threatened.  This triggers us into a fight, flight or freeze response. When we’re in a fight, flight or freeze state our ability to make decisions, collaborate and solve problems is impaired. We want to feel safe and have a sense of control over our lives and well-being. In an uncertain world, our need for certainty fuels worry and anxiety and makes the management of uncertainty a constant in our lives.

And it’s exhausting managing worry and anxiety, especially over a long period of time. And when we’re depleted it has a knock on effect on our resilience and our confidence.

So if you’re feeling exhausted, worn out and that you’ve not got much left in your reserves then you’re not alone. And you’re forgiven if your confidence has taken a nosedive too.

I work with fundraising managers who are leading teams, helping them respond to constant change under the increased pressure to raise money for services that are a) changing and b) more in demand than ever before.

I believe that one of the most important factors in successfully managing any sort of change; whether you’re responding to it, for example a global pandemic or you’re creating it, for example developing new products, services and processes, is keeping your confidence high.

If you’re feeling the pressure of managing uncertainty or you’re just exhausted which is knocking your confidence I’ve recorded a quick 25-minute training webinar on keeping your confidence high at work. You can watch it here.

 

How to remember names – every single time!

A guest blog by William Wadsworth.

‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ Maya Angelou

You’re out making waves in the world: networking with potential clients, donors, business partners, or simply meeting new friends. Nothing makes a person feel valued like you remembering their name. But there’s one problem: just how are you supposed to remember all those names and faces!?

Could there really be a version of ‘Future You’ where you can wander around a room effortlessly soaking up new names, secure in the knowledge that you won’t forget a single one?

Where the next time you see someone, you’ll not only greet them by name confidently, but also go on to ask about their job, kids, or anything else you talked about first time round?

With the help of these four memory strategies – firmly rooted in the science of memory – that future could be yours.

How to remember names

As with anything in life, you get out what you put in, so I’ve organised the strategies into four levels, depending on how far you want to go with your ‘how to remember names’ mastery.

Start with Strategy 1 for some easily achievable ‘good’ results.

Add in the techniques from Strategy 2 (‘better’) and 3 (‘best’) to really go above average on this important career / life skill.

Or if you really want to get incredible with names – like, future-presidential-candidate incredible at names – then keep going all the way through to Strategy 4 for some next-level tactics.

Ready to get amazing with names?

Let’s dive in:

Strategy 1. ‘Good’: Make Visual Connections

A quick name-learning hack that takes almost no extra effort is to build a visual image out of someone’s name.

Good things to picture for people’s names are:

  • A mental picture that represents what their name means as a word (or could mean, if you’re being imaginative!)
  • Someone you already know with that name (either a person in your life, or a celeb)
  • Someone you know with a SIMILAR name. I find a lot of novel names I encounter can be made into a familiar name just by changing a single syllable or letter.

This is partly based on the psychological principle of chunking, where you find a way to ‘group’ lots of individual units of data into a smaller number of easier-to-remember ‘chunks’. Names can often have lots of syllables (= lots of individual units to remember = hard), so translating it into an image means you only have to remember one or two ‘things’ (your chosen mental image) rather than having to remember lots of things (the syllables).

Here are a few examples of this in action:

  • Rachel Cox? I’d imagine Rachel from friends coxing a rowing boat.
  • Max Shepherd? Easy. He’s an ENORMOUS shepherd.
  • Shakila Jones? I’m mentally mashing Tom Jones and Shakira.
  • Janet Slimings? Janet is surprisingly hard for me because I happen not to know many Janets first-hand, and there’s no obvious mental image for a ‘Janet’. So after a moment’s pause, I might think Jan = January, while ‘slimings’ makes me think of dieting. So she’d be one of those January diets. (Ugh.)

With a little practice, you can start to do this on the fly, mid-conversation… BUT that isn’t always easy. So to really get the most out of this trick, see Strategy 4, which is all about preparing in advance.

Strategy 2. ‘Better’: Test Yourself On The Name

If you ask a cognitive psychologist about the secret to learning anything, most will start by pointing you to retrieval practice.

‘Retrieval practice’ simply means testing yourself: bringing knowledge back to mind from memory. I.e. ‘practising’ the process of ‘retrieving’ information from your memory.

It’s a simple idea, but incredibly powerful.

You’ve probably heard the trick to repeat people’s names back to them after they introduce themselves to you.

This is a great idea.

Not only does it give you a chance to check your pronunciation, it also gives you a first valuable round of practice at retrieving that name from memory.

Repetition is key here, so look for subsequent opportunities to retrieve that name from memory again through the conversation (don’t force it too much!), and at the very least, as you say goodbye.

‘It’s been so lovely to meet, Janet!’.

Strategy 3. ‘Best’: Space Out Your Learning

Any retrieval practice is excellent.

But spaced retrieval practice is even better.

Because no matter how well you learn something initially, your memory fades over time. (That phenomenon even has a name to memory psychologists: the forgetting curve.)

So how do you overcome the forgetting curve and remember for good?

The answer lies in spaced learning: the science of revisiting what you’ve previously learned at different time intervals – later that day, tomorrow, a few days later.

And the best way to ‘revisit’ information at those spaced intervals is to do retrieval practice.

Hence the term ‘spaced retrieval practice’.

Spaced retrieval practice is basically the most powerful and flexible way to memorise pretty well anything – here’s a nice free guide from some cognitive psychologist friends of mine (no email needed!).

Learning to remember names is no exception.

So how do you do spaced retrieval practice for names?

As well as repeating the person’s name there and then in the conversation (Strategy 2), consider repeating it later in the day, after a time delay.

You will find this harder!

But if you can fish that name out of your memory just before you would have otherwise forgotten it – maybe that night, maybe the next day – you’ll stand a much better chance of remembering it for good.

Try grabbing a bit of scrap paper when you get home from an event, and trying to recall those new names from your memory.

You might not keep the results of your scribblings (and it might not be appropriate to – so shred it when you’re done) but the exercise of retrieving the names from memory after a time delay will work wonders for getting the new names to stick.

If there’s that one name you couldn’t quite remember, first (and don’t be tempted to skip this bit!), try your best to remember the name with a good old rummage around in your memory. Then second, go look it up, either on the attendance list or with a quick LinkedIn scan.

Try and have another go at remembering it later on to see if it’s starting to stick (if not, rinse and repeat those two steps as necessary).

If you’re really committed to learning those names, you might even repeat this whole ‘scribble-them-down-from-memory’ exercise a second time a little later in the week.

Strategy 4. ‘Genius-Level’: Study For Success

I’m a great believer that you can’t always count on being the smartest person in the room, but if it matters to you enough, you can make sure you’re the best-prepared.

And so it can be with remembering names.

If you get a heads-up on the names at an event, brush up on them beforehand.

Some conference platforms will list out all the delegates online in advance of the event, sometimes with a headshot, if you’re lucky. This is a gift: take advantage, and study up!

And if you’re wondering HOW to study – our old friend from Strategy 2 /3, spaced retrieval practice, is here to help 😊. Test yourself on the names, perhaps by making flashcards with a printout of the face on one side, and the name on the back.

But what if you don’t get access to the names in advance?

If you’re really serious about becoming AMAZING with names, you can even start studying lists of names out of context.

Your objectives are to:

  1. make sure you’re FAMILIAR with all the common first names (and surnames if you’ll need them), then
  2. have a clear image ready-and-waiting (Strategy 1) for each common name.

Use Census data for your country to check out ALL the names people might be called. For example, in the UK, for first names, here are the top names for babies born 1904-1994, 1998-2008, and 2011-2019. Be targeted in your studying: if you don’t meet children in your work, don’t bother with the 2011-2019 lists. If you need to be good with surnames too, try here.

The end goal for this is to get to a point where this instant a new name comes up, you can jump straight to your go-to mental image for that name and jump-start the name-learning process instantly.

If you’re going for this ‘genius level’ approach, to remember names then little and often is key to effective studying. Consider making a daily ritual out of studying up on your names, and make sure you’re following the right steps to get the habit to stick.

However far you choose to take it, have fun getting at least a little better at name-learning!

William Wadsworth is a memory psychologist and exam success coach, who helps students ace their exams by studying smarter not harder, whether that’s at school, university, or professional qualifications in business, finance, medicine and more. He was also our guest expert on memory at the Lucidity Network. 

 Have you ever been subjected to an excruciating ice breaker?

Have you ever been to an idea workshop or ‘brainstorming session’ with the objective of generating new ideas and been subjected to an excruciating ice breaker or warm-up exercise?

My most painful one was a few years ago now and still sends shivers down my spine. There were about 15 of us and the facilitator made us stand in a circle. The first person had to throw a ball at someone else who had to catch it. As you threw the ball you had to say your own name. In addition to your name, you had to pair it with a supermarket shopping list. For example, I was Lucy lettuce. I threw the ball to someone who turned out to be Sarah sardine who threw to Dave donut who threw to Martin mango. You get the idea.

It was stressful.  Having to throw a ball to someone else felt fraught. The pressure of catching a ball and then the added indignity and anxiety of having to invent a shopping list name alliteration was dreadful.

Sound familiar?

What was the point?

I think the purpose of this ‘game’ was a ‘fun’ way to learn names.

My advice is if you want people in your workshop to know each other’s names, give people name badges and name cards where they are sitting and save people the anxiety of forced fun.

Why do these excruciating ice breakers exist?

Research shows that creativity and the flow of ideas come more easily for most people when they’re relaxed and in a playful mindset. So when you arrive at an ideas workshop, the use of warm-ups or ice breakers are intended to put participants at ease and create a relaxed atmosphere in order to get the most out of the session.

We all have engrained ways of thinking that can inhibit our creativity. We default to approaching problems in the same way that we have before, which is efficient on a day to basis, but can stifle new thoughts and creativity. In addition to helping people to relax, well facilitated warm-ups and ice breakers help to shift people away from ‘how we do things’ and help them come at the workshop challenge from a different perspective which can help creative ideas to flow.

A well thought through and well-executed warm up or ice breaker exercise can create the right environment and trust for generating ideas.

A badly thought through or poorly executed warm-up or icebreaker exercise can make people feel stressed out and do more harm than good.

My tips for warm-ups and ice breakers if you’re planning a workshop

  1. Think about your audience. What do you know about them? What are their usual ways of working? What might make them feel at ease, relaxed? What type of exercise is likely to change the dynamic without creating fear and anxiety?
  2. Think about the purpose of your warm-up exercise. Why are you doing it? This forms part of your workshop design. Is it to introduce people to each other? Is it to set the tone of the session? Is it to get people thinking about the topic? Think carefully about why you’re doing a warm-up exercise.
  3. Make it easy. For example, pose a question that anyone can answer. A question that connects people as human beings. Avoid anything that might have a judgement attached to it. For example, I’d avoid asking people who don’t know each other to share something ‘interesting’ about themselves. Participants worry that they’re not interesting enough and then struggle to think of anything at all. Ask something that’s less inviting for our inner critics to catastrophize over, ask something really simple that everyone can connect to like your favourite biscuit, first single or last film you watched. For putting people at ease and creating rapport, in my experience the more irreverent the better.
  4. Relate the warm-up to what the workshop is about. It can help to ask people a simple question that gets them thinking about the topic in an abstract way. For example, when I run storytelling training, I ask people to remember a favourite story from their childhood, if your workshop is about improving customer service you might ask for their best or worst customer service story, and if you’re running a big picture strategy session you might ask people for the big newspaper headline about their organisation’s achievements ten years from now.
  5. Drawing something. Drawing might feel risky but if delivered right can really help to get into a different mindset. You have to make it safe. For example, ask people to draw something that doesn’t have a right or wrong; a page of circles, a ball of tangled wool or abstract shapes. You show your not particularly good drawing first to put people at ease. Then get everyone else to show their different interpretation of the brief. Then ask them to draw something else simple, a cup of tea, an alien (no correct drawing here) or what’s on their desk. Drawing exercises, if you facilitate it well and are brave enough to ask people, in my experience are a fast track to shift peoples thinking and open up their creativity.

And my final tip is to invest in a facilitator. Having an independent person to design the flow of the workshop, including the warm-ups and ice breakers, and to facilitate to ensure everyone gets a voice, that the workshop keeps on topic and to ask the naive questions that you don’t even know to ask will help you get the most from the people in the room.

I hope this blog is helpful (and thank you to recent CIOF innovation and creativity training participants for the inspiration for this blog). And if you would like a facilitator to help you plan and deliver an ideas workshop without excruciating ice breakers then do drop me a line to lucylettuce@lucidity.org.uk or book a call here. 

Feeling lost in your career? How to get unstuck and have the work life that you want

It’s a weird time right now. We’re all riding the corona coaster as best we can. While some have been on and off furlough, others have been keeping the organisation ticking over and many have been getting through home schooling and taking one day at a time. We’re all facing uncertainty. Many of us are facing restructure, redundancy or being asked by our employers, yet again, to do more with less.

I’m having a lot of conversations about career opportunities and how the situation is actually helping people get unstuck right now though. Restructure, redundancies and realising we can live differently, with less, has provided an opportunity for many people to rethink, regroup and reset. Many people who were feeling dissatisfied with their career before Covid-19 hit have taken the opportunity to think carefully about what they want their working life to look like in the future. They are now working on new strategies to get themselves unstuck and get the work life they want.

Over the years I’ve helped hundreds of people who’ve told me they feel stuck in their career to get unstuck. People have told me that something had to change for them to break free and be happy, but they lacked the confidence to take that step.

Covid-19 has forced rapid change. Work has changed and jobs have changed. And you don’t need to be stuck in your career. This is an opportunity to rethink what you really want from your work life and go and get it. Go on, get yourself unstuck.

Read on to find out how you can stop feeling stuck in your career, and have the confidence to break free, get unstuck and get the work life you want.

Here are my top ten tips for getting unstuck and getting the work life you want.

1. Make time for you

If you’re feeling stuck, frustrated, or unhappy with how your career is panning out, the first step is to work out why.

Maybe you’ve arrived in your current career by accident and haven’t ever made time to deliberately think or plan what you’d love to do and how you’d get there.

Prioritizing time to think is the first step you need to take to stop feeling stuck and start getting ahead. Book some time into your day where you can have an uninterrupted meeting with yourself. This is your thinking time.

Work out what makes you happy at work, what doesn’t, and where you might want to go. Decide on the steps you want to take to progress your career in the direction that you want it to take.

For example, are there training days, evening courses, or online learning that you can do? Have you considered getting a mentor to help you get ahead?

By booking in a meeting with yourself, it signals it’s important (to you and your colleagues) and also stops others spotting a gap in your day and filling it with a meeting.

2. Grow your network before you need it

Who you know is more important than what you know for career progression. Don’t wait until you’re feeling stuck in your career to start expanding your networks. Do it now.

Adam Grant, the author of Give and Take, says you’re 58% more likely to get a new job through your weak ties than through your strong ones. Your strong ties are those in your immediate circle whom you interact with often. Your weak ties are your friends of friends. They move in different circles to you, they know different people, make different connections, and are more likely to introduce you to new and different opportunities.

When I was thinking about setting up my current company, Lucidity, I turned up to every networking event. I drank a lot of coffees with a lot of different people to understand what they did. I asked for advice, unpicked what their problems were, and looked for opportunities for collaboration and connections.

It paid off. When I launched my business, I let my network know how I could help them, and soon I had my first clients.

Pay attention to building and nurturing your networks and focus on how you can add value to other. That’s where your next career opportunity is most likely to come from.

3. Surround yourself with people who inspire you

According to Tim Ferriss, ‘You are the average of the five people you most associate with’, and his associations with different people ebbs and flows depending on what he’s working on and trying to achieve.

For example, if you’re wanting to be fitter, it’s easier if you hang around with people who love doing exercise–they help you to up your game.

If you want that promotion, a career change, or to set up your own business, seek out people who are excelling at it already. They’ll have valuable things to teach you about breaking free and getting ahead.

4. Work on your personal brand

Jeff Bezos defines a personal brand as ‘what people say about you when you’re not in the room.’ People will talk about you when you are not in the room anyway, so you might as well be deliberate about what you’d like people to say!

Your personal brand isn’t about pretending to be something you’re not. That can actually keep you feeling stuck in your career. It’s really about being your best ‘real you.’ It’s about owning your strengths and being purposeful about how you want to be perceived by others.

What do you want to be known for? By being more deliberate about how you want to come across and what you’re looking for in your career, you’ll increase your chance of attracting the right opportunities.

Once you’ve given your personal brand some thought, make sure that you show up online. Is your LinkedIn profile up to date? And if you don’t have one, get one. Make sure it communicates what you want to be known for and that it’s consistent with your other social media profiles.

5. Get unstuck and be accountable

Achieve your career goals faster, and grow and learn by making yourself accountable. Tell other people your goals and a timeline, and have them to hold you accountable.

For example, you might want to get a promotion by the end of the year, have decided the sector you want to move to by the end of the month, or have got your new business idea before the next pay day. Whatever your ambitions are, you can tell a friend or a colleague, or share this with a mentor or a mastermind group.

When we tell other people our goals and intentions, they hold us accountable, and we are more likely to make progress faster.

6. Make sure your values are aligned with your organisation’s

All the professional development, goal setting, and networks in the world won’t make you happy if you’re working for a company that ultimately has opposing values to yours.

Figure out what’s important to you in a job. For example, does your company’s product help people live a better life? Do you feel strongly about your company’s ethics and social responsibility? Does the company culture allow employees to be themselves and shine? Or maybe flexible working and more holidays for employees with families is where your heart is?

Some companies put their employees well-being at the core of their business; others put profits first. If you feel that your values don’t match the core values of your employer, it could be a reason why you’re feeling stuck in your career and unhappy.

It’s important to work through this and identify whether it’s the job that is not right for you, or if it’s a great job but the organization or sector is wrong for you.

7. Get out of your comfort zone

Your comfort zone is your safe place. For any change to happen, you have to step out of your comfort zone. Many of us have been forced out of our comfort zones right now, perhaps we’ve been on and off furlough, been through restructure or redundancy.

It’s actually much easier not to change anything and to keep grumbling on about how you’re stuck and unhappy than to step outside of your comfort zone to address the fearful unknowns associated with change. It’s part of human nature that we’d put up with the devil we know rather than risk the devil we don’t.

This is true even if the devil we know is a boring, unfulfilling job because we’re wired to think that making a change to find a better option might actually leave us worse off.

If you feel stuck, it might be that your confidence has got the better of you.

To get ahead at work, start taking small steps outside of your comfort zone. Consider what you’re scared of that is stopping you from making a change. Then, tackle that in small steps.

For example, if you know that to move into the job you want, you’ll have to do more public speaking, but public speaking terrifies you so much it’s stopping you from going for the job, then start small to build your confidence. You can speak up more in team meetings, then slowly build from there.

You might also choose to set up or be part of a specific group. One of my clients, who found that confidence was holding her team back in achieving work goals, set up a ‘get out of your comfort zone club.’ Here they challenge and support each other to build their confidence by regularly leaving their comfort zones.

8. Learn to embrace failure

Failure is part of life. A New York University study found that children learning to walk averaged 2,368 steps and fell 17 times an hour. Failure is simply the natural path to success.

The truth is that we don’t get everything right the first time. We fail, we learn, we pick ourselves up, and we try again.

In my experience, it’s common that whilst the theory of learning from failure is supported, the reality of being open about failures to enable personal learning is much harder to achieve.

We don’t like to admit that we’ve failed. We have a fight or flight response to failure. It’s a normal gut reaction to ask ourselves: ‘Will I get away with it if I don’t tell anyone?’ We are fearful of criticism, of losing face in front of others, or even being fired for failure.

However, if you’re going to stop feeling stuck in your career, you must be open to learning from failure.

Reframe failure by viewing everything as an experiment. You can’t have a failed experiment, you just learn whether something works or not. Think of Edison inventing the lightbulb, when he said:

‘I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’

9. Build your resilience

Resilience is the ability to tackle difficulties and setbacks, to bounce back, regroup, and to keep going.

Getting unstuck in your career, taking a different path, and achieving the results you want will take resilience. Having resilience is also the capacity to choose how you respond to the unexpected things that life throws your way and adapt and thrive in times of complex change.

Given that the world we live in is in constant flux, and the only thing that is certain is uncertainty, the ability to adapt and bounce back is an important life skill, as well as a career skill.

In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth’s research shows that when measuring success, the ability to persevere beats talent every time.

10. Get unstuck – ask for help

It can be hard to ask for help, as it can make us feel vulnerable.

No one person can be expected to have all the answers. That’s why we need a group of people that we can go to for help to get unstuck, people who can pick us up when we have setbacks and also help us to celebrate success.

My advice is to be deliberate about creating your group. You can do that with a tool called a ‘Me Map’:

  • Write down all the things that you might need support with, like help with career progression, interview practice, making new connections, talking through business plans, learning from failure, etc.
  • Next to each thing, write the names of the people you go to when you need that particular thing.
  • Make sure you get in touch and regularly connect with them.

 

When was the last time you took some time to reflect on your work life and identified the right opportunities to pursue?

Are you ready to fully step into your greatness and get that dream leadership role?
Are you asking yourself how you can get support and what you should be prioritising?

It’s hard, working alone to bring your big dreams into focus, prioritise the steps that will get you there fastest, and stay on track amid distractions.

You are not alone.  Take this as your call to get clear on your next career steps.

Join Juliet Corbett and me, for a 90-minute webinar where we’ll show you our tried and tested process to identify your strengths so that you can harness the accelerators already driving you and pinpoint your sticking points holding your career back.

Accelerate your career webinar with Lucy Gower and Juliet Corbett

We’ll also give you the tools to take action straight away and make significant progress in your career.

The webinar is for you if…

  • You know what you want your work-life to look like, but you’re not sure how to get there
  • You’re facing challenges that are getting in your way of creating what you want
  • Dips in confidence are getting in the way of you making progress
  • You’re ready to take action but you’re procrastinating about where to start.

We can’t wait to see you online on Thursday 22 April – 12 pm (UK time). Sign up today!

Is lockdown making your creativity nosedive?

Do you feel like your creativity has taken a nosedive in the last year? Are you struggling to focus or getting ‘brain fog?’ Do you struggle to find inspiration or motivation?

I was thinking about this. If you’ve nodded to the above, it’s no wonder really. And don’t give yourself a hard time about it. Here’s why.

For the majority of people, we’re in the flow with our creative thinking when we’re relaxed. For example, I’ve asked 1,000s of people to tell me where they do their best creative thinking. They answer that it’s when they’re relaxed and not thinking about work, when they’re walking the dog, running, driving or in the shower.  Whilst a deadline might help some people focus, the majority of people think more creatively when stress and anxiety are low and when they’re doing something non work related.

Now lets think about our stress and anxiety levels over the last year. Broadly speaking would it be fair to say that they have been heightened these last few pandemic months?

Many of us are feeling isolated, and at the same time finding it difficult to disconnect work time from home time. Many employees and managers are fighting feelings of presenteeism as they adjust to flexible working. Working flexibly doesn’t mean being available from 9-5 yet many people feel they should be at their desk and available that whole time which can cause a huge amount of stress.

In addition to this, human beings crave certainty. It’s a basic survival instinct. When we don’t feel safe (like when we’re under stress) it triggers a threat response and our bodies are flooded with cortisol and adrenaline and we get ready to fight, flight or freeze. Our blood thickens and moves away from our prefrontal cortex (where we do our thinking which explains brain fog) to our vital organs. This was helpful when survival looked like running away from or fighting a wild animal, but less helpful in today’s working environment. It’s also exhausting.

It’s no wonder that our creativity is impacted by living in a higher than ‘normal’ state of stress and anxiety.

Where do good ideas come from?

According to Steven Johnson in his book Where Good Ideas Come From, creativity is making new connections by putting old ideas together in new ways. Therefore, to be creative, we must expand our portfolio of knowledge so we have more old ideas that we can put together when needed.

In order to have concepts to bring together we need a portfolio of resource, we need experiences, we need inspiration. Over the last year of lockdown and social distancing we’ve become increasingly more isolated more insular and as a result lacking new experiences and inspiration.

Consider the difference between working from home and working from an office. At home we get up we’re in the same space and we’ve got the same things around us.  We might doom scroll social media or watch TV or look at the news but the amount of new stimulus for our thinking is massively reduced than if we were leaving the building on a regular basis.

Remember back to the days of commuting. You leave your home and walk down the street, consciously and subconsciously you are taking in information.  You notice a new shop window display, read the headlines on the newspaper stand, notice somebody in a colourful hat that reminds you of the time you played ‘Guess Who?’. Your brain is gathering material to turn into connections for creativity.

It’s not just what you see either, you’re experiencing sensory overload, different smells, sounds and textures. Even by the time you arrive at work the amount of stimulus that you’ve opened your brain to is way more than perhaps the stimulus that some of us have had in the last year of working at home. If ideas are connections put together in different ways and the premise is that we need to have a portfolio of ideas and connections to go to for our creative thinking the pandemic has significantly inhibited our creative thinking portfolio.

How to give your creativity a boost

If stress and lack of variety are having an impact on your creativity then test out my tips below.

  • Pay more attention to and be more deliberate about lowering your stress levels. Look after yourself, eat healthily, get exercise and take regular breaks. When you are stressed or anxious it’s very difficult to think creatively.
  • Start to notice. For example, go for a walk and focus on noticing. I’m a big fan of the fake commute so when you’re going for your walk round the block notice your surroundings. Look for details. Are there plants growing out of cracks in the pavement, what is distinctive about the buildings you pass, or the cars that are parked on the street?
  • Decide to be curious. Play and experiment. Take the course that interests you, learn the instrument you’ve always wanted to play, read the book you never have time for. Can you ask more questions and set yourself a challenge to learn one new thing every day?
  • Talk to other people. Replace the water cooler chat where ideas are exchanged that’s missing when we work from home. Allocate time at the beginning and end of phone calls or Zoom chats for those random conversations about anything.  (That’s one of the reasons we organise random connections over at the Lucidity Network)

If you feel your creativity has taken a nosedive then come and join us over at the Lucidity Network. With regular training topics, group coaching and random connections it’s the place to get your creative mojo back.

Testimonial for the Lucidity Network

Thank you to Kate Sanders-Wilde and Tammy Palmer for your chat that inspired this blog.