Workplace

Build Your Creative Pipeline, Day 5: Give the Gift of Time

If people don’t have the time for their minds to roam, their creativity might be stifled—so allow room in your team’s schedule for … nothing.

This is the final day of our creative pipeline series. Day 1 was about building a space for creative thinking; Day 2 was about observing and sharing ideas; Day 3 was about cultivating gratitude; and Day 4 was about creative cross-pollination.

Having the space, perspective, and comfort level to be creative is key when building a creative pipeline. But just as important—and not to be forgotten—is the fact that you need time to be creative.

So, with that, the final part of our creative pipeline series: Give your team the time to be creative.

How to Give Time for Creativity

The concept of white space in graphic design is often seen as a way to help draw emphasis to an object you want viewers to pay attention to.

Having white space on your calendar in the form of unscheduled periods can do the same for creativity. By going blank for a while, the mind might be drawn to something it couldn’t see earlier, through all the clutter. And as a leader, you’re in a position to sanction that “do-nothing” time—or niksen, as the Dutch call it.

It might help, for example, to block off periods of the day in which there are no meetings across the entire organization. You might even consider making a certain day of the week—say, Friday—a meetings-free day, with reasonable exceptions. You can also build project timelines with white space in mind—adding a few days toward the beginning of the project, after the team has been briefed but before it determines an approach, for minds to wander.

But even if you can’t do those things, encourage employees to block out time for themselves during the workday to do nothing, granting them the space to step aside from the grind as needed.

Why You Should Allow Time for Creativity

The secret about making room for “do-nothing” time is that it’s not truly “do-nothing” time. Instead, it gives people the white space to think and let their subconscious wander, which can give them the room to tackle complex problems and possibly generate new ideas.

This may sound similar to offering the space to be creative, but the mind-wandering aspect is important here, as it can help to step away from a problem and conjure up a solution. Ever play a video game and get stuck on a level, only to pick up the game a day later and beat the level easily? Same concept.

An alternative approach to “do-nothing” time, which may also be useful for the fidgety among us, is to embrace the idea of mindless work—low-level tasks that don’t require a lot of thinking but do open up room in the brain to think.

Finally, it’s worth keeping in mind the challenges of workload. If you’re doing too much, you may not have the room to generate new creative ideas, and that could lead to challenges beyond a lack of creativity. It could lead to burnout.

Fortunately, we have another series for that.

(Matveev_Aleksandr/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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