Can you guess what the top soft skill employers that employers look for is?
According to LinkedIn, during the past two years it’s creativity.
The ability to come up with original ideas and innovative solutions is extremely valuable to employers.
Creativity helps you stand out and communicates to employers that you have the edge they need to hire you or give you a promotion.
But creativity may sound like a bit of an abstract concept, right?
What does it mean to be creative? How do you access it and what if you don’t think of yourself as a creative person?
Well – this article delves into the neuroscience of creativity.
By defining what creativity is and exactly how to access it, you can unlock this top soft skill that employers look for!
Table of Contents
1. Create a Firm Knowledge Foundation
2. Access Creativity on Demand and Know When You’re at Your Most Creative
3. Make Sure You’re Getting Proper Sleep
3 Things You Need to Know to Unlock Your Creativity
1. Create a Firm Knowledge Foundation
You might not think you’re a creative person.
For example, you may find it easier to work with scientific data than come up with new ideas.
However, did you know that existing knowledge and creativity are two sides of the same coin?
One cannot exist without the other!
In fact, creativity is basically your brain’s ability to reshuffle what it already knows in original ways.
This means that you need to have a solid knowledge base in order to fuel your creativity.
It’s like cooking – at first you might need recipes and specific directions or techniques for the dishes you love.
Over time, thanks to your knowledge of how these recipes and techniques work, you can come up with original dishes!
So, what are the best ways you can fuel your brain to be more creative?
Learn with Brain-Friendly Breaks
Learning is not just about reading and taking in new information. It’s also about being able to retain it and retrieve it on demand.
And to ensure that your brain properly absorbs and holds on to your learning, neuroscience advises brain-friendly breaks!
This is because your brain is simply not equipped to learn in a single, long stretch.
When you’re learning something, in real-time, you brain is using your working memory.
This is a temporary type of memory.
Think of it like a kind of waiting room. You keep a couple of items of information in short term memory before they move into your long-term memory.
But the thing is, this waiting room has limited capacity. And if you add too many items to it, you overwhelm it.
It’s like trying to pour water into an already full cup. What’s inside will spill out along with what you’re trying to add into it.
If you keep trying to learn despite your working memory going over capacity, you’re likely to lose both what you’re learning and what you’ve already learned.
Have you ever sat in a meeting, and though you were paying attention, your mind just started wandering partway through?
This is because your working memory has hit its limit.
Luckily, neuroscience offers an easy solution – taking a short break.
Just a 5-minute break can restore your working memory to full capacity. And here’s how to access creativity!
Scientists and learning experts recommend short learning focused work sessions of 20-25 minutes, followed by a quick five minute break!
And that’s not all. During a break, make certain that your mind wanders and that you don’t begin a new task, take a phone call or scroll social media.
During your five minute break when your mind gets to wander, is exactly the window for accessing creativity!
Think Einstein and others who changed the world with their creativity! They all say when their mind was at rest that they came up with their best and most creative ideas.
During a break where you’re taking a walk, or just staring out the window, your brain isn’t using its resources to hyper focus on something and filter out distracting information.
It’s free to wander and explore, and it connects the dots between what you learned and what you already know.
This helps you figure out solutions to existing problems, project the future, and come up with new ideas!
In fact – have you ever had a eureka, ah ha moment while you’re in the shower, making some coffee, or taking a walk?
That’s because of the interplay between your working memory and brain-friendly breaks!
Remember that these breaks have to be brain-friendly – and put you in an alpha brain wave state, so no checking email or social media scrolling!
Try some slow, deep-breathing even covering your eyes lightly (cupping them), grab a drink of water, or do some easy stretches!
2. Know When You’re at Your Most Creative
Ever run into a mental block trying to brainstorm new ideas or solutions?
No matter how much you wrack your brain, you might be struggling to come up with something good enough.
But this does not mean that you’re not a creative person!
It means that you’re not in the right state of mind to be creative.
In the Total Recall Learning course, you’ll discover more in depth, precisely how to access your most creative states.
In fact, there are two stages to creativity, Your brain waves and neurotransmitters determine when you’re alert and focused or when you’re primed for creativity.
The first stage is when you’re in discovery mode – your brain is exploring and shuffling information around in novel ways.
In this state, when you’re taking a break, a shower, walking in nature, etc. your brain waves are slower (alpha, theta) and this is when creativity and novel ideas kick in. I was once lying by the pool not thinking of anything in particular, when the title for a new book I was going to write just “popped” into my mind. That book turned out to be a best-seller!
The second stage is a more linear, strategic mode, when you’re implementing the ideas or solutions you came up with.
This second mode works best when you’re highly alert, and highly focused.
When you’re in this state, you’re best prepared to put into action something you already have a strategy for.
Your adrenaline and acetylcholine levels are high during this stage.
Adrenaline primes your brain and body for action, keeping you hyper aware and ready to respond in a jiffy.
Acetylcholine helps narrow your focus down on to what you’re learning or working on. It also filters out distractions.
As you implement your strategy, and make even a little bit of progress, your dopamine levels spike up as well.
This neuromodulator regulates your motivation and gives you the drive to keep working toward your goal.
On the other hand, neuroscience demonstrates that you are at your most creative when you’re calm, and even slightly sleepy!
The time of day you’re in this calmer state of mind will vary from person to person.
If you wake up in this state, schedule tasks that require creativity for earlier in the day.
If you wake up more alert and activated, schedule creativity related tasks for later, when your alertness wanes.
Knowing when you’re at your most creative doesn’t only help you improve your productivity. It also gives you confidence in your own creativity and lets you take control of it!
3. Make Sure You’re Getting Proper Sleep – Better Sleep Equals More Creativity
This might surprise you, but sleep is critical not just for learning but also for your creativity!
Just as letting your brain wander helps you shuffle information around to come up with new ideas, and so does sleep.
Despite you dozing off, your brain stays active. And among the many important functions of sleep in your learning and well-being, here are two pertaining to creativity.
First, your brain processes and consolidates different types of information during different stages of sleep.
It reviews what you learned through the day, connects it what you know, and reinforces neural pathways holding this information.
If you pull an all-nighter on a project, while you might remember what you learned the next day, a couple of days later you might notice you forgot a lot of what you just learned.
So, sleep is integral for your long-term memory and building that firm knowledge base you learned about earlier. Plus it will help you unlock the top soft skill that employers look for.
In fact, sometimes after a couple of 20-25 minute sessions and 5 minute breaks, you can even take a longer break for a nap, to really solidify what you learned.
Second, your brain can better draw ideas from different parts of your brain and connect them with sleep.
It’s precisely this randomized rearranging of information that can give birth to original and novel ideas!
Keep a journal by your bed, and if you had a dream the night before, place it in your journal. Your dreams my give you clues that lead to high levels of creativity!
So, instead of pushing yourself, with very little rest each night, do your best to get enough rest!
Find out more about brain-friendly strategies for better sleep here.
If you want to know more about accessing creativity on demand, check out the Total Recall Learning course.
With these strategies, you’ll know exactly how to unlock the top soft skill that employers look for!
Pat Wyman is the CEO of HowtoLearn.com, HowtoLearn.Teachable.com, best selling author and an internationally noted brain and learning coach known as America’s Most Trusted Learning Expert.
Pat’s superpower is helping people learn, read and remember everything faster. She has helped over half a million people in schools and corporations such as Microsoft, Intel and Google improve their lives with her learning strategies, learning styles inventory and courses, including Total Recall Learning™.
She is the best-selling author of more than 15 books, a university instructor, mom and golden retriever lover!
Contact Pat to find out more about super-charging your career and your learning with the Brain 2.0 Brain Advantage Learning and Career Assessment and customized faster learning programs for professionals and students.