Work

The cheat sheet for creativity

Sandip Ghose | Updated on August 23, 2021

Teaming up: As many of us probably did not realise or pay attention then — the sight of colleagues at work itself is a de-stressing factor   -  Getty Images/iStockphoto

Taking a break on Mondays may not only drive away the blues but cultivate creativity

* We often mistake ‘creativity’ to be a faculty that only artists, writers and composers need to possess

* Years ago Herbert Benson wrote a book called the Relaxation Response — which essentially talked about how to rise above our anxieties to realise our potential

* The trick would lie in being able to switch-off not just from work but also at home for patches of ‘me time’. In these recesses, it is important not to get caught in activities (even pleasurable ones) that call for physical or mental exertion

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As a young working couple starting off our careers in Mumbai back in the ’80s — the weekends used to be hectic. Apart from the compulsive social outings, there were loads of chores to catch up on. Exhausted by Sunday evening, one felt like saying — thank God tomorrow is Monday, we can go to work and relax. Wonder how life has changed for youngsters now with “Work From Home” when weekends and weekdays have all become one. Are people still able to make that mental separation between holidays and workdays in a 24/7 world? Or, is it just days you work and days you work even more?

Come to think of it — facetious, though it may sound, there could be a grain of truth in the “take it easy on Mondays” theory. First, as many of us probably did not realise or pay attention then — the sight of colleagues at work itself was a de-stressing factor. Next came the water-cooler or coffee machine chats. Then there was the lunch break to catch up on the highlights of the weekend or even to crib about the spouse or kids with sympathetic co-workers. Though we may not have been conscious of it — these little interactions helped decompress and re-energise for the week ahead. So, what happens now? Surely — the small talk before a Zoom call can’t be as satisfying nor a virtual coffee break the same as a real one in the office.

The obvious outcome can be boredom. Loss of productivity. It can lead, in extreme cases, to burn out. But, the silent killer is something else that we are not always aware of but is a vital element of our work and personal well-being. That magic ingredient is “Creativity”.

We often mistake ‘creativity’ to be a faculty that only artists, writers and composers need to possess. But, it is a trait that is as important for those who are in a more mundane pursuit of life. Creativity provides those little sparks in the mind that convert a run of the mill idea into a winning one. It is the source of innovation and breakthroughs. Most importantly, creativity is the key to problem solving. Though all of us are not Archimedes, it is that feeling of an ‘Eureka’ moment when a light bulb suddenly comes alive in our mind. Creativity doesn’t come with a bang or even the thud of an apple falling on Newton’s head. For ordinary mortals like us, it is usually a tiny click or a little flash — which we notice only when we are at ease.

De-stress at work

So how does one cultivate creativity in a stressful post pandemic world? The solution may lie in creativity itself. We have to find creative ways to make time and space for delving into our subconscious mind — which is actually the reservoir of creativity.

Years ago Herbert Benson wrote a book called the Relaxation Response — which essentially talked about how to rise above our anxieties to realise our potential. He followed it up later with another book titled The Break-Out Principle with William Proctor in which they discuss how some biological triggers can convert conflicts and confusion into clarity and extraordinary performance. Thus, how a walk in the woods can help one to finish a novel or humming can make one finish a task faster.

The concepts are not new and have been rehashed and recycled time and again by different writers and psychologists. Some call it getting into the ‘zone’, others propound the virtues of ‘doing nothing’ or the art of “flaneuring”. But, essentially these are all techniques of releasing tension and learning to rest our conscious mind, while the subconscious continues to do its work subliminally. In a way these are all methods of generating mind space by cutting out the noise and clutter.

New normal

So, how does one fit it into the “new normal”, to pick on a much abused new cliche, of today? The trick would lie in being able to switch-off not just from work but also at home for patches of ‘me time’. In these recesses, it is important not to get caught in activities (even pleasurable ones) that call for physical or mental exertion. So heavy work-outs, strenuous jogging or mountain biking are not recommended. But, long walks,spending time in a library playing sudoku or listening to soft music with doors and lights shut would work better. Watching a movie, browsing the net or diving into social media is a clear no because it not only engages the mind but also activates too many senses.

But, why not consider a little benign cheating. Leave for work on Mondays even if the office is shut. Grab lunch at a quiet restaurant or simply sit by the water somewhere or write a journal sitting under a tree. Maybe you will discover a new meaning of Monday Blues.

Sandip Ghose is a current affairs commentator and corporate strategy advisor

Published on August 23, 2021

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