PUSH: Productivity at Work, Part 4: Creative Blocks

prodictivity, pm. project management, workplace

Pushing Through Creativity and Innovation at Work

This is the fourth and final article in a series on PUSHing through obstacles at work. We’ve covered obstacles your co-workers present, obstacles in yourself, and obstacles in projects. Today we’re going to cover creative obstacles.

What do I mean by creative obstacles? These are often just obstacles that seem too big to overcome, or tasks that you can’t figure out how to complete with the tools you have.  Let’s say, for example, that your boss asks you for a report that shows a certain sales metric, or he wants you to write a wellness article for the company newsletter, or she needs you to organize a fun and engaging safety briefing. All of these tasks require a lot of creativity, but you don’t even know where to start! So how do you break through these creative obstacles?

1.)    Stop telling yourself “I’m not creative.”
I find that engineers, programmers, accountants, and other highly analytical professions often pigeonhole themselves as “not creative.” That’s simply not true. Every person is creative, and every really successful professional is creative. You might not recognize your creativity, but it is absolutely essential to your success. Telling yourself “I’m not creative” is negative self-talk – the single biggest limiting factor on your creativity!

2.)    Think visually
Get out some copy paper and a pencil and start sketching out ideas. You can’t draw? No problem. Neither can I. But you can link together ideas, sketch out data visualizations like charts and graphs, and build slides on paper quickly, with no risk. Think of the blank slate of the paper as a quick, no-risk way to generate ideas. If you’re really particular about straight lines, get some graph paper and sketch on it.

3.)    Bounce ideas off your co-workers
Don’t schedule a meeting. Just bring up your problem at the coffee pot or at lunch. Of co-workers are just waiting to be asked their opinion.

And if you’re really brave, you’ll ask the office curmudgeon for advice. Is there someone in your office who is contrary, obstinate, difficult, and hard to please? What a resource! Often these folks are just waiting to be asked their opinion. They often think that something has been done wrong for years and have ideas for how to improve a process. Nobody is using this resource.

4.)    Just start working
For me, most of my creative blocks are about getting started. Getting started is a huge, almost insurmountable first step. If you have no idea where to start, turn away from your computer and start sketching, or start writing out freehand the questions you need to answer, or the first steps. Don’t know what the first steps are? Write out the problem, then write out the result that will make you and your boss happy. Now you’ve got the beginning and the end. You just need the middle!

5.)    Take a break
If you’re spinning your wheels because “Just start working” didn’t work, it may be time to take a break. Get up and go for a walk. Go to the gym and push yourself on the treadmill or the elliptical – or go for a swim. Go out to eat with co-workers. Stop trying to push through your creative blocks and give your brain some rest time to work around them. Then come back to your desk and go back to step 3, “Just start working.”

Improving Work Productivity

Often our problems at work are a result of a creative block. With the four tips above, I hope you can PUSH through these blocks and get back to creative and focused on productivity at work. Do you have a hint for PUSHing through creative blocks? Leave your hint below. I can’t wait to hear from you.

Read the Workplace Productivity Push series starting with Part 1

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Dan Lovejoy

Dan Lovejoy is a User Interface & Experience Architect at OG&E and a self-admitted adorable curmudgeon. The opinions here are his own and not his employer — in case you were wondering.

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