As a small-business owner, it can be hard to find the time to do the sorts of activities that help tone the brain's innovation muscles -- activities like committing to a six-month course of study; making it to weekly networking meetings at your local business club or engaging in nightly journaling and tinkering. These activities take up a lot of time. But you don't need a lot of time to keep your creative muscle working.
It's possible to boost your brain power constantly and on-the-go, by incorporating brain-boosting and creativity increasing activities into your daily routine. Here are three activities I recommend to busy entrepreneurs:
1. Give your ideas a home. There are simple tools that make noticing and collecting fresh ideas and inspiration easy when you are out and about, reading newspapers and magazines or surfing the web. From the low-tech pad and pen to Evernote, a capturing software available on iPhone, Mac, PC, mobile phones, and Firefox, simply jotting down ideas wherever you are gives your inspiration a place to live. Software like Evernote syncs these notes to your other devices. Similarly, Backpack is a "to-do list" application with a lot of flexibility that makes capturing data and thoughts easy. A dashboard widget lets you see Backpack items on your desktop. Give yourself 30 minutes to an hour each week to review what you've collected and you might be surprised by what ideas you've come up with.
2. Travel by foot. We all need to go places during the day. Why not make one trip on foot, if possible? Research shows that even a 20-minute stroll can clear your head and make room for fresh ideas. Many of our most productive ideas come not while we're trying to force them out in the office, but when we're away from our desks. A clinical study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign showed those engaged in walking demonstrate a net increase in the efficiency of the connections within the brain's structures. And why not make an event out of your walk? John P. Trougakos, assistant management professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the Rotman School of Management, recommends people take dedicated lunch breaks daily as a way to recharge not just with nutrition, but with a change of scene as well.
3. Interact with stimulating people and places. Happy hour drinks may seem like a trivial part of office culture, but it's a great way to interact with other people in a causal, low-stress setting. If you work for yourself, you might even consider setting up your own happy hour where you visit a local cafe or bar (don't drink too much) around 5 or 6 p.m. for 45 minutes or an hour with the sole purpose of engaging with others. A Harvard-based study suggests that sharing information about ourselves fires up the pleasure centers of our brains.More brain activity means more creativity!