I’m sure you’ve heard it before, maybe even said it yourself: “Just put your blinders on and focus on what you’re doing.”

Sure, blinders are important. We get distracted by every little thing. But what happens when the blinders stop us from discovering what we need to actually get the job done. In creative work, more often than not, we need to remove the blinders (read iPhone, camera, notebook, laptop, etc.) and observe life beyond our periphery. In fact, we need to experience life

Ferris Bueller said it best, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Inspiration is fleeting. It comes and goes in a moments notice. If we’re not aware of our surroundings, we may miss the spark for our next big idea or a the solution to some nagging problem.

Work is work as life is life. We can’t always have our eyes open to everything. Without some focus, we’d never get anything accomplished. But, we can all set aside time to pause whatever we’re working on and experience our surroundings.

Here are a couple ideas to get you started:

1. Play. When you’re at the play ground with your kids, leave your phone in the car. I know that you want to tweet those cute pictures of your kids on the jungle gym, but how about you take the time to experience the jungle gym yourself. If you don’t have kids, just hop in the car now with three of your closest friends and drive to the nearest park. Play is a fantastic way to reorient yourself to your surroundings.

2. Read a genre that rarely gets your attention. Read a novel if all you read is non-fiction. Open yourself to figure out how the author is writing the story. Oh, and keep a pen nearby or use the note features on your e-reader to keep track of moments that strike you.

3. Choose a new route for your morning or afternoon commute. If you’re feeling brave and you don’t live too far from work, walk or bike to work. Just the slightest change will allow your brain to pay attention differently and discover something hidden from you at 50 mph on a road you drive every day.

4. Watch the commercials. I know, so many of them are annoying and DVRs have become our best friends. But who knows, the next commercial you see could inspire a whole new angle on a project you’ve been working on.

5. Don’t type your meeting notes. Brainstorming and note-taking are incompatible with each other. To allow for the most effective brainstorming, you need to allow your right-brain to experience the meeting as best as possible. When you’re taking notes (a left-brain function), you will actually be hindering your creative capacity. If you need to write during a meeting, draw or doodle. Do something that will keep your right-brain thinking limber.

Those are just a few ideas. I know there are dozens more. What would you add? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Whatever you do, just remember: keep your eyes open and your mind attentive to your surroundings, you’ll be surprised what you notice.

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