How to find inspirations during crunch time?


Creative work in corporations is like going fishing, but with a gun pointed to your head, telling you to hurry up or you are out! So, how to find inspiration if the deadline is looming and adrenaline is rising?

From Robert Gerlach, Creativity Coach, Author & Founder of IQudo

Creative workers in search of inspiration can be compared to surfers. The pros amongst surfers know their secret spots and where to catch the big waves. They proactively search for them. Same with experienced creatives: they know their places, stores, magazines, and websites to trawl for inspiration. For instance, king of fashion Karl Lagerfeld can often be spotted at Colette in Paris, a trend-spotting clothing and accessory retailer.

On the other hand, many inspirations flock in if we listen to the silent voice within us – our instinct. Several times, it happened to me that something unknown inside urged me to go somewhere, where  I “happened” to stumble across a game-changing inspiration. For instance, one day in 1999, I was strolling around the Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter) of Barcelona. Suddenly, I felt the urge to turn left into a small alley. As I walked down the lane, a small clothing store caught my eye. I went in, bought a pair of silver glittery bell-bottoms, and befriended the shop owners – Kuo and Pei. The two Taiwanese designers had rented the store for one month only to sell their collection. Shortly after, I moved into their big loft where we started to design a men’s fashion collection together.

7 inspirations to find ideas during crunch time

Wouldn’t it be great if you’d find ideas easily even if deadlines are killing you? Here are 7 tips:

1. Be proactive.
For inspirations to hit you, hunt them! Let’s say you only have 10 minutes to get an idea. Instead of sitting there, you’ll fare better if you use the short time to actively search for inspiration in whatever is within walking distance. Flip through books, magazines, or websites. Watch, listen, talk to people or stroll down the hallway.

2. Get out of beta.
Beta brain waves occur when we are attentive, focused, and alert. For instance, while reading this, you are revving on high-frequency beta waves (12-30 Hz). Unfortunately, in beta, creative thoughts are unlikely to happen. Ideas most likely pop up when your mind is in alpha mode (8-12Hz) – a relaxed mental state. To get into the daydreaming mode, lean back and relax. Release the weight from your shoulders. Breathe deeply. Open up your senses to your surroundings and wait to see what pops up. You can also close your eyes because alpha waves are increased with your eyes closed. Or, you could beam yourself into the alpha mood, by having a cup of tea. Tea (black or green) contains the amino acid Theanine which according to a study by Anna Nobre from Unilever Food and Health Research Institute, “has a significant effect on the general state of mental alertness or arousal.” 

3. Go sideways.
Don’t focus too much on your goal. Because if you do, you very likely will come up with the usual suspects, but not with unusual ideas. Ideas can come to you from all possible sources. The more sideways you go, the more you enable the brain to make unusual connections and trigger new associations.

4. Clear the clouds in your head.
If you operate from a home office, simply go do your laundry or go for a walk. Do whatever clears the clouds in your head. Your brain is not attached to your desk chair. You can take it anyplace you want, it’ll work anyhow.

5. Anchor your challenge with your prowess.
Cover uncertainty with your strengths and skills. Transfer your knowledge from areas you know a lot about into the new challenge. Here is how: Ask yourself what you are skilled in or what you are passionate about. What strength could cover your new challenge?

For example, having gathered years of experience as an art director, I consider myself a visual person. When I am conceptualizing a new page for the iQudo workbook, I often start by looking for a matching picture first. The visual inspires me to write. I love good design. I cover the challenge of writing with my strong art sense.

6. Follow your silent voice.
Follow the silent voice inside even if the next move appears to be irrelevant, illogical, irrational, time-wasting or simply foolish. This is one of the hardest things to do because the logical mind tries to dominate your intuition – especially when time is not on your side. But nevertheless, give it a try! Put your intuition in the driver’s seat and see what kind of magic will happen.

7. Finish with a milestone.
If you finish with a great idea, after a long creative workout, you will feel Innovator’s High. (The intensity of the feeling depends on the difficulty of the task.) Very likely, you’ll look forward to the next challenge. A positive reinforcement circle starts. You have conditioned yourself for the better because you subconsciously know that you’ll feel awesome after an idea workout. Eventually, you might even become addicted to experience Innovator’s High.


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