For those of us who work in an agency, each day we have the ability to do something great. Whether we help a client gain or retain more business or strategize a clever new campaign, we have the chance to entertain and impact the world on a daily basis. With this ability comes responsibility. As creative strategists it is important to actually understand how our minds process and work.
Most start out thinking there are certain ways to concept and produce. Many newcomers follow the paths that are laid before them by the leaders of the business. How do our brains work? What tactics should be used to complete our never-ending task list? With the pressures that present themselves in agency life, there is no time to choose the wrong approach if you want to accomplish daily greatness. Some simple understanding might help lead us down the right path.
I came across a recent article in Fast Company that changed the way I approach and allow my brain to guide me through a task or project. Interestingly enough, I don’t think most know how their own brains really work. For starters, did you know that the brain does creative work better when you’re tired? At first I thought this was nuts, but it makes since if you really think about it. According to the article, “If you’re tired, your brain is not as good at filtering out distractions and focusing on a particular task. It’s also a lot less efficient at remembering connections between ideas or concepts. These are both good things when it comes to creative work, since this kind of work requires us to make new connections, be open to new ideas, and think in new ways. So a tired, fuzzy brain is of much more use to us when working on creative projects.” So, if you are experiencing brain block from time to time, try thinking before bed or at the end of a busy day.
Secondly, stress to our bodies and minds kill creativity over time. We all know that stress is a terrible thing. Balancing family and work, being responsible for client growth and position in the marketplace, competing against every other marketer in this industry – how can we avoid it? Brain size actually decreases with stress. Stress is actually the most common cause of changes in brain function.
Inadequate sleep, poor nutrition and emotional distress triggers glucocorticoids decreasing their regulation of cortisol. This has a direct effect on attention, perception, short-term memory, learning and word finding. Allow your brain to rest and recover. Take care of your brain so it can take care of you. I recommend meditation and simple reflection to help combat stress.
Half of our days are spent strategizing and concepting. This can be challenging day in and day out. If you actually look for solutions, you will see them. Studies say that three days after hearing information, we will retain about 10% of it. If you visually see something, you will retain 65% of it. Visual stimulation is key. We have started to apply this approach to brainstorming meetings internally and with our clients. Visuals allow us to connect with colors, imagery, feelings, inspiring us to think and see things differently.
Finally, get moving! Occasionally, I would feel guilt for leaving the office to run a mile or two during lunch hour. How can I ignore clients and workload for an entire hour? Exercise is not only important for health reasons, but it can reorganize the brain and boost your willpower. Fast Company explains that when you start exercising, your brain recognizes this as a moment of stress. As your heart pressure increases, the brain thinks you are either fighting the enemy or fleeing from it. To protect yourself and your brain from stress, you release a protein called BDNF(Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). BDNF adds a protective and reparative element to your memory neurons and acts as a reset switch. That’s why, after exercising, we often feel so at ease, like things are clear, and eventually we’re happy. Happiness correlates with creativity.
So, for all of those lucky individuals that get to go to work everyday and have the ability to engage, inspire and motivate the world with our creativity, try to start understanding why our minds work the way they do. Get to know your brain as well as it knows you. Greatness can lie ahead by following and understanding these simple tips.