We Aren’t Marc Benioff — Here’s How to Unleash Your Creativity in the Digital Age

Megan Wilson
Feb 12, 2019 · 4 min read

We’ve all been lured into hours of distractions by the sweet vibrations on our phone and the flickering of the notification light. For some, it’s been the burglar of dreams and the gateway for hours of procrastination.

It’s a sad modern-day reality that must be faced. Studies have shown that the average human gets interrupted every 3 minutes. In most cases, it is due to our digital devices — whether it be spam email, a new Tweet or an Instagram like. Our bodies react in the same way as someone with an addiction.

The inability to stay focused deeply inhibits our ability to be creative. We’re currently overwhelmed with over 2.7 zettabytes of data. With that amount of data, it’s inevitable that we’ll become distracted. This can cause us to be overwhelmed, or as CEO of SalesForce Marc Benioff did, take a two-week hiatus from anything digital. In this period, he made his best decisions (including appointing a co-CEO) which saw SalesForce shares rise by 34 percent in 2018, completely outperforming competitors. Of course, not all of us have the financial position of Benioff and can afford to do that. But there are small things we can do in our day-to-day to change our ability to inherently be more creative:

You just checked your phone and PC five times in under three minutes. Was that necessary?

Deloitte surveyed 4,150 British adults and found that 50% of adults felt they were using their phones too much, 79% checked social media apps before sleeping and then did so again immediately when waking up. This led to extreme sleep deprivation — which is the main source for a lack of creativity. I’ve yet to meet a creative sleepwalker.

It’s recommended that to overcome this addiction, you need to undergo a digital detox:

  • Get rid of all the junk in your notifications and inbox by using an app called unroll.me
  • Take a momentary retreat — Creativity lies in the white spaces. You would need to purposefully create this by detaching from the world through yoga and meditation. Ironically, Andy Puddicombe’s free meditation app is the best in the market to do so.
  • Make use of personal affirmations — Get biggest affirmation poster on your bedroom wall which says, “I am a creative genius and will not be distracted by my digital devices”.

Your creative genius is unlocked when you break out of routinely checking your phone …

Or emails, or social media messages or whatever it is that you are constantly checking. On average, we check our phone about 170 times during the day. That’s about 3 hours of potentially wasted time. Charles Duhigg breaks down the science of habits and explains that the brain reacts to rewards. Applied to the digital era, there’s a reward of instant gratification when someone likes our photo on Instagram or sends us a message. Duhigg recommends that to break the habit, you should keep the cue and reward the same, but change the routine. Practically applied, here is how it would work:

  • Battle the addiction — Download an app called Break Free. It tracks how many times you unlock your phone. During the first week, look back at the stats and be prepared to be shocked. Use this as your measurement. Going forward, try to reward yourself by looking at your phone every 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, then 15 minutes and so on. Up until 45 minutes, which is a reasonable time to unleash creativity.
  • Create life borders — create a rule of thumb that you will only check emails and messages at certain times of the day. Communicate this behavior change to friends.

You need to be willing to change your behavior

Creativity in a digital era is different from the 60s or 70s, where you could spend hours on a masterpiece and be marveled at for your genius work. There is a clear expectancy for work to get done faster and smarter. Whether you like it or not, this is something you must embrace.

This requires you to not be a perfectionist and adopt a fail-fast mindset. Don’t try to perfect your creative idea. Chances are, someone would have already built that idea or moved way pass you. Be willing to present something that is 60% ready and have it criticized. That’s okay because you’ll quickly take that feedback and improve your end-product.

Look at your problem in different ways through data

Additionally, understand that you don’t have to fight the digital era. It’s a catalyst to unleash your full creative potential. Think of creativity as a business partner to digital — which provide a plethora of resources including data and analytics. Useful data insights can provide you with the feedback loop you need to improve your final product. It’s a field known as creative analytics and now is the time to jump on that bandwagon!

See what you can automate

It’s 2019! Put the pen and paper away. If you’re doing something the same way for at least three times you should automate it. If you’re unable to do it, find someone that can. Despite changing your habits, you may never be able to do creative work if you’re constantly kept busy with mundane and repetitive work which is error-prone.

You can’t do it alone!

To unleash your creativity, you need to work collaboratively with people across the world. Cloud platforms such as Office 365, Slack, Google Hangout is the hub of creativity, and if you don’t find yourself using that, you’re probably feeling quite burnt out. Getting and providing feedback is the way the world works (think Uber). You can’t do it on your own, and that’s okay.

There’s lots of negativity of how the digital era stifles creativity and productivity. I am of the school of thought that if conquered, it can act as a catalyst for our most creative era yet.

Megan Wilson

Written by

UX enthusiast who loves to share and discover innovative design content. Lead UXer at @WalkMeInc!

Digital Adoption 101

Exploring topics of interest for organizations undergoing digital adoption, such as: digital transformation, training and onboarding, user experience, and the customer experience.

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