Are you right brained or left brained? If you think the answer to that question impacts your ability to be creative, we need to talk. While creative pursuits may come more naturally to some of us, everyone has the ability to create. Sure, you may never write a heart-wrenching sonnet or paint a museum-worthy masterpiece, but there’s more to creativity than artistic pursuits. Problem solving, innovation, and conflict resolution can all benefit from the same mindset that spurs masterpiece works of art.

Whether your creative muscles get a regular workout or they’ve been a bit underutilized, the following five habits and exercises can help you tone up and stretch.

Online Inspiration in Moderation

Sign Up for Westfield Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

If your creative process begins by seeking inspiration from others online, make sure you don’t overdo it. Getting lost in the maze of social media posts and other internet fodder can drain your own creative juices instead of revving them up. As with anything else, online excursions are great in moderation. If you find yourself wandering from one thing to the next — further and further away from your own pursuits — it’s time to disengage and refocus on your efforts.

Use Your Time Wisely

Does this sound familiar: You’re waiting on line to order your meal. The line is long and its moving slowly. You realize you’re going to be here a while, so you reach for your phone and start to scroll through Twitter. If your phone (and all its apps!) has become your go-to method of passing time, it’s time for a change. Skip the apps and give your brain a workout instead. Next time you reach for your phone to pass the time, make the conscious choice to set it aside and let your mind wander instead. Mull over your current projects. String together the opening paragraph of your next pitch letter. Think through the components of your latest marketing campaign. Even better, keep a small notepad with you so you can jot down your ideas or doodle as they happen.

Speaking of Doodles

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking about creative pursuits as big, notable statements. It’s time to readjust your thinking. Not every statement piece is displayed on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or broadcast across the airwaves. Sometimes creativity is a soft whisper or a simple doodle. Don’t overlook the little ideas that pop into your mind.

Think about the Post-it Note. It’s just a simple square of paper. There’s probably a few of them hanging on the wall in your workspace or pressed on to the latest printed copy of your department’s pending report. It was just the small addition of a low-tack adhesive that elevated a bit of paper to a productivity gem! Don’t put size requirement on your ideas. Think big…and think small! Similarly, working out your creative muscle can be as simple as jotting down phrases and sketching out little flowers and geometric shapes while your mind wanders. Give it a try!

No Rules at the Starting Gate

Look, the odds are whatever you dream up while you’re riding home on the train tonight is going to need to go through a bit of an editing process. The final innovative product or solution you’re germinating at the moment may morph into a completely different thing from the initial seed of an idea to its final form. Refining and redirecting those ideas, however, comes later. In the initial dream and develop phase, there are no rules. No restrictions. The quickest way to shut down your creative process is to give it boundaries or to judge and edit the ideas as they pop into your head. There’s nothing too big, too small, too weird to toss out there in these early moments of brainstorming. What begins as an outlandish idea may later evolve into a realistic, fantastic idea. Go along for the ride and let it happen!

Check off Your Bucket List (and then some)

When you’re consistently marching to the beat of the same drummer, it can get hard to hear a new melody. If you want to think outside the box, you need to spend some time living outside of it. Try new things. Visit new places. Take classes. Attend workshops. Talk to strangers. If you want to get better about thinking of things in a new way, you need to practice looking at them from new angles.