Even though we adults don’t get the same summer holidays that our kids do, summer can often still feel like an off-season. Projects move more slowly, our colleagues go away on vacation, “summer hours” mean the office empties out earlier on Friday afternoons – for many, this more leisurely pace is the way things are from June through August.
And while summertime is certainly meant to be enjoyed, that small break can make it harder to come back to work once school is in session and autumn arrives.
For product developers, engineers, and other creative people, this can be especially hard. Brilliant ideas can’t just be willed into existence – but they can definitely be given a nudge. Here are a few ways to help you get back into work after a long, hot summer.
1. Start with a clean workspace. If your desk accumulated some clutter over the past couple of months, now’s the time to clear it away. Organize your materials, recycle old papers, throw out any trash. To paraphrase William Morris, have nothing on your desk that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. Tidy surroundings will help you to think more clearly and focus better.
2. Take care of unfinished business. Now that your physical space is taken care of, it’s time to do the same with computer and phone. If you have phone calls that need to be returned or emails that need to be answered, do so. Try to make it through any outstanding business. That way, you won’t be distracted by small tasks (and you won’t be tempted to procrastinate with them, either).
3. Prioritize your tasks, starting with ones that are important, rather than urgent. As business coach Robyn McLeod says in a Fast Company article, many of us spend our workdays in a reactive mode, responding to other people’s “urgent” needs – even though those needs aren’t necessarily important. Instead, try to prioritize your tasks for the day so that important ones get as much time as urgent ones. For example, brainstorming five new product ideas would be important. Finding contact information for five potential investors would be urgent.
4. Look for ideas in different places. Do you have websites, industries, books, or other sources that you typically go to to spark your creativity? Try looking somewhere totally different, and see what comes of it. If you usually browse The Sharper Image to get ideas, try a woodworking forum, or a medical news website. The goal is to look into something that you don’t know much about – it could give you an entirely different perspective on something that will later translate into a great idea.
5. Try a group brainstorming session. Hearing different people’s perspectives and ideas can give your creativity a serious jumpstart. To make the session even more effective, add an element of anonymity to it with this idea from an Entrepreneur article: have participants write down one idea on a piece of paper, throw them all into the middle of the table, and then pick one randomly from the pile. Then, as a group, take that idea as far as you can.
6. Start an idea notebook where you write down any and every product idea you have. Take a page from the great writers and artists and start carrying a notebook everywhere you go. If an idea or thought comes to you, write it down. Don’t self-censor – any idea is fair game. The idea is to let your mind wander freely and record the results.
Staying creative can be a challenge, but it’s part of the fun of product development. For more ways to jumpstart your creativity, check out our post “5 Tips to Increase Your Creativity and Silence Your Inner Critic.”