How can time be used to enhance creativity?

Have you ever tried to be creative in a hurry? It is probably not going to happen. Some of the greatest ideas in history have come at either spontaneous or random times. Indeed, many great ideas have come in dreams or during periods of sleep or relaxation. You cannot always be creative on a schedule. Conversely, creativity is a process like any other activity and can be acheived throught the systematic use and application of time tested principles.

The creative process proceeds through steps. One of the earliest models of the creative process is attributed to Graham Wallas (The Art of Thought, New York: Harcourt Brace, 1926) who proposed that creative thinking proceeds through the following four phases:

Preparation (definition of issue, observation, and study)
Incubation (laying the issue aside for a time)
Illumination (the moment when a new idea finally emerges)
Verification (checking it out)

Of course, not all experts agree with the idea of steps or stages for creativity
For example, Vinacke (1953) is adamant that creative thinking in the arts does not follow a model. In a similar vein, Gestalt philosophers like Wertheimer (1945) assert that the process of creative thinking is an integrated line of thought that does not lend itself to the segmentation implied by the steps of a model. But while such views are strongly held, they are in the minority. (Working Paper: Models for the Creative Process by Paul E. Plsek, 1996)

Which ever way you look at it, time plays a key role in the creative process. If creativity does require preparation, incubation, illumination and verification each of these tasks takes time. I would also add some time for stimulation to the process. Something must be sufficient to stimulate and motivate me to want to solve a problem or be creative. If not, I will not put the time and energy into looking for a solution. Each of the phases noted above takes time.

Many people believe that it takes a great deal of imagination to be creative. Some of us might feel wanting in this area. It is true some people are more imaginative then others. However, I would argue that if we apply time to our problems in a systematic fashion than we can all be creative. If you think you can solve your problems overnight, you are going to be disappointed. If you realize that it will take time and you are willing to apply a systematic process to your problems then almost any problem is solvable.

What problems have you been ignoring that a systematic use of time and effort might help you to solve? How could you start working on those problems? What changes in your life might occur if you could solve these problems? Have you labeled yourself as unimaginative and uncreative? Who could help you with these problems? A little help with any issue can provide new insights and illumination.

Are you wasting your time waiting?

Time and tide wait for no man or woman; an old saying that has been around forever. Despite this good advice, there are people who are forever waiting. In fact, some might argue that the world is composed of two types of people; the wait-ers and the do-ers. Wait-ers are people who hope that good things will come to them and do-ers are people that make the good things come to them. Wait-ers hope to win the lottery so they can buy the things they want. Do-ers go out and make the money to buy what they want. We all have friends who fall into these categories or habits. Friends who are waiting to take a holiday to another country, friends who are waiting for Mr. or Ms. right, friends who are waiting for their ship to arrive. We eventually come to realize that they will be dead and buried before any of these things happen. One of the reasons why Nike’s motto “Just do it” is so powerful is the way it resonates with most of us at a primal level. We all want to be doers but many of us fall into the category of wait-ers.

Why do we wait is a good question? Why do we wait and wait and wait and wait? What fears stop us (because the answer to the first question is FEAR) from becoming doers? What can we do to overcome these fears? Psychologists would say that the first step is to overcome the excuses and denial and to admit our fears. Once we admit our fears, we can take the second step. The second step is to decide to do something about our fears. I was afraid of heights. For years, I admitted it but could not decide what to do about it. Finally, I decided to do a solo parachute jump. It took me nearly ten years but I finally did it on my 55th birthday. Since then, I am much less intimated by being up high. The third step is to decide what you need to do to overcome your fear. There are often many remedies, but which is the right solution for you. For me, it was to find a sky diving club, join them and take a class in sky-diving. The fourth and final step is to take action. Once I decided to take the sky-diving training and jump, I had to actually attend the training and then go to the school. I had to make several trips to the airport before I could jump because on two consecutive occasions the airport was closed for jumping due to bad weather. I almost gave up the idea but the third time was a charm. I was able to jump by myself out of the plane at about 5000 feet. Believe me when I say, I was scared to death. However as I floated down, I realized the beauty and unreality of the entire event. I actually relaxed enough to start enjoying it once my chute opened. Had I not taken action, the entire first three steps would be worthless.

Which are you, a wait-er or a do-er? We all are wait-ers in some areas of our lives. We all have fears that cause us to avoid or put off doing certain things. What are the events and activities that you put off? What are the fears you have to overcome? Can you practice these four steps or just take one of them this next year? What do you think would happen if you did? How do you think your life would be different? Life is waiting for you to start.

What if we used our time for more kindness?

Went to a wedding a short time ago and found some good advice at the church. I picked up a card in the pew and found an interesting comment on it. The comment on the card was from the web site:, and read: “The rest of the world is going at super speed, and few individuals take the time to be nice.” It went on to point out that we need to take the time to be kind to others. It helps them and it helps us. A few years ago, someone made the idea of “random acts of kindness” very popular. That had always appealed to me until I read the following: “Why random acts of kindness, why not systematic and intentional daily acts of kindness.” This makes a great deal of sense. Why should kindness be random in our society? Who was it that said “What knowledge is there that is greater than kindness.”

We read daily of “random acts of violence” but violence is not random in our world. Violence is daily and systematic. Violence destroys the fabric of society and of our lives. The only antidote to violence is kindness. Can we be more kind? Can we be less violent? What if today you took some time to be kind to someone whom you did not know? How do you think you might feel after?

Come back to these thoughts of kindness at the end of the day and answer these questions: Where you able to be kind to someone today? Did you make a difference today? Did you feel better? What if you tried to be kind every day? What if you programmed yourself for daily acts of intentional and planned kindness? Would the world be a better place if we all did that? Who will be the first to try?

Is winter-TIME wonderful for you?

“Now is the winter of our discontent” is a famous opening line from Shakespeare’s Richard The Third Act 1, scene 1, 1–4. Whether or not as many have noted, the future King Richard was expressing joy rather than discontent is irrelevant. The major point here being that for many winter is a source of discontent. In Minnesota, winter is dreaded due to the cold, snow and ice storms. We have an inordinate amount of accidents during the winter months that plague drivers and slow the commutes down. We have about five months of winter compared to three months of summer. We even have a phenomenon called “Snow Birds.’ These are people who fly south every winter to live in Florida, Arizona, Texas or some other warm place.

However, for some winter is a wonderland of snow and ice and white vistas. It is a time of renewal. A time when life retreats, days are short and you want nothing more than to sit in front of a warm fireplace with a good book until summer comes. Winter forces life to slow down. I have always loved winter; perhaps because I enjoy the outdoors so much. It is hard to describe the beauty of a snowstorm when you are out skiing in the woods and the entire landscape is like something out of a fairy tale. The snowflakes are gently falling and the pine trees are flocked with snow. You turn to see a great grey owl sitting on a branch perhaps watching you ski. Soon you notice a small group of deer simply walking by and ignoring you. A nearby trout stream with its deep blue water is winding its way through the snow covered pines and birch trees. The brilliant blue of the water sparkling against the snow and ice covered banks. The world is white on white with blue and brown contrasts. You notice the water gurgling and the sun beams dancing off the snowflakes. You are in the middle of a diamond like wonderland.

Winter is a time of change. It offers a respite from the hectic pace of summer. During winter, I slow my routines down and I feel like there is more time to do things for myself rather than taking care of the yard, going on vacations, spending time with the relatives, etc. Winter is a time for reconciliation. It is a time for quiet solitude and reflection. Winter is when we can be reborn.

What do you think of winter? Is it just a time you hope is over very quickly? Is it a time you look forward to? What could you do to make your winters more worthwhile and interesting? What activities would help make winter more exciting for you? Where could you go to renew yourself this winter? What hurts and fences might you find the time to mend? Can you make this winter a time of “Content.”

What is time without a soul?

The fifth and final plan we all need concerns our spiritual development. “What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffers the loss of his own soul” (Matthew). Many of us worry about time and money. We worry about how we look and what people think of us. We worry about holidays, vacations, buying things, having the right image and having the right toys. What gets lost in our mad material rush for things and image is our immortal soul. We remember to put out the garbage but we forget our souls. Our souls will go on long after our body has aged and withered away. What is more important, how you look or how your soul looks?

The highest level of development is considered by many wise people to be spiritual. Without spiritual development, we wither and rot on the vine. We are hollow and shallow people without a soul. We can plan a budget and plan time for going to school, friends, family and exercise, but what will it all be for if we cannot put aside time to develop our soul? Thus, a plan to develop your soul might just be the longest reaching and most important plan you can have. Without such a plan how can you grow wiser and kinder and more just?

My spiritual plan is very simple. For others, it may be going regularly to church, mosque or synagogue. The core of my spiritual exercises is my daily spiritual prayer. Each day before I begin my activities, I recite a spiritual prayer and take five minutes to do a spiritual reading. This practice constitutes a sort of daily spiritual exercise for me. Every year, I attend a silent retreat at a Jesuit Retreat house called Demontreville. It is three days of spiritual reflection and prayer. The silence for three days helps me to get in touch with my inner being and to really reflect on where my life and my goals are. I have now attended over 25 of these yearly retreats. They have helped me to develop spiritually, morally and ethically. Every year, I look forward to my annual retreat as an important time for spiritual renewal and reflection. There are many spiritual exercises in the different religious traditions that can help you to develop spiritually. They can all offer you more joy and happiness if you take the time to practice them.

Are you satisfied with your spiritual and moral development? Are you doing something to help develop in these areas? Have you set aside time for your spiritual development? Do you have a concrete set of exercises and activities to help you grow spiritually? If not, when will you begin? Can you start by taking five minutes today for a spiritual reading from the Bible, Koran, Hindu Scriptures, Buddhist readings or the Torah? If not, can you simply read a good selection from a book on moral and ethical development? Five minutes each day that might change your immortal soul!

Do you make time for social and relationship goals?

The fourth plan that I recommend concerns setting goals for relationships and setting time aside to help you to achieve your emotional and social goals. None of us can have too many friends or too much family. However, there are times when we are dissatisfied with both. In a balanced life, we must manage our friendships and relationships with people who can sustain and nurture us. This takes time. Your time is precious and will quickly slip away if not budgeted and planned.

Even if you are already in a close relationship, you must spend time on the relationship or it will wither and die. My spouse Karen and I have set aside Tuesday night as talk night and family time. With no children home, we still find that problems and issues arise that need to be discussed. When we skip our planned talk days, eventually something breaks down and we realize that skipping these days is not a good idea. In addition, we set aside time to be by ourselves and to do things alone. We also set aside time to spend with our friends, our children and our grandchildren.

The emphasis on our planning is to try to keep a happy balance. When we are feeling dissatisfied, it is a good indication that we are not spending enough time on some aspects of our relationships. You do not need a very formal system to create such a plan. Karen and I simply discuss it from time to time and have our own rough guidelines for spending time with family and friends. I do regard appointments and times with friends as important enough to mark on my calendar and I seldom cancel dates that I have set unless something really important comes up. I have all of my friends in my address book and many on email. For awhile, I was using a group email list to regularly visit with friends and relatives each month, but I drifted away from this method. It certainly has pro’s and con’s.

How much time do you spend trying to maintain or improve your relationships? Do you think this is enough time? Do you wish you had more friends or closer relationships with your spouse or family? When can you set aside the time to help achieve these goals? Begin your plan by setting aside time to talk to some of these people either weekly or monthly about the important things in your relationships. Mark down some general overall goals for who you want to spend time with and how often you think you need to. You can simply write these on your calendar in the margins or sides.

What time and plans do you have for growth in knowledge and learning?

The third plan that I have found essential is for mental and cognitive development. Yes, I mean a plan to expand your brainpower or at least your knowledge base. It has been said that the only real job security we have is between our ears. In this day of rapid obsolescence, the knowledge that one has becomes outdated very quickly. We need to think of learning as a lifelong endeavor and not just as a series of degrees or diplomas. To do that, each of us needs some type of learning or self-development plan. This is too important to trust to employers or others with the hope that they will provide us training and education. We need to develop our own lifelong training program. This plan will be different for each of us. It will depend on your knowledge, skills and abilities and your personal interests and goals.

I try to develop a plan each year to insure that I am keeping up with technology and the key insights in my chosen career field. I am now able to use the Internet to help me do this. The use of RSS feeds (Really Simple Syndication) and other automatic downloads helps me to keep abreast of what is happening in the workplace. I also try to subscribe to current magazines that will help me to keep abreast of events in my field. If you cannot afford new magazines and books, you can make a weekly trip to the library and simply scan the newest magazines for insights. Belonging to professional associations can be somewhat expensive but may be well worthwhile if you can use the time effectively for growth and development. Professional associations give you the opportunity to meet and network with leaders and experts in your field. These contacts can be invaluable. The website LinkedIn allows you to participate in a wide range of professional associations on-line. The networking and knowledge that you can learn from these “virtual” organizations on LinkedIn can be almost as valuable as attending a “real” organization and at little or no cost.

Finally, do you look for opportunities to attend workshops and conferences that will give you new learning and insights? There are many free podcasts, webinars, videoconferences, teleconferences, papers and articles on the web that are wonderful resources and they do not cost a cent.

If you do not have a plan or as you start to develop your plan, here are some key questions to think about:

• How will you ensure that you remain knowledgeable and informed?
• What could you do now to be better informed about your world and what’s
happening in it?
• Can you read a book, take a class or attend a lecture each month?
• Are you taking advantage of the free opportunities for education and
training aon the Internet?
• Make a schedule of activities that will keep your mind healthy and flexible
and see if you can stick to it for the next year.

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