How to 2017 Like a Creative Boss

This piece originally appeared on Little Black Book.

Aaron Powers, strategist at Sylvain Labs, shares his 'SMART' resolutions for the coming year.

I have a groundbreaking confession to make: I don’t stick to my New Year’s resolutions.

Aghast? Disgusted? Overwhelmed? I know, I know. Breathe. 

To make things more achievable, I’m focusing on only one area in 2017: unbridled creativity. Raw creativity bleeds into so many other aspects of life that strengthening creative instinct can have its own self-replicating impact on other less sexy attributes. Like some sort of creative bacteria in a Cronenberg flick. Ew.

So to line the path toward becoming an incrementally more creative human, I’ve put together a few SMART Creative Resolutions (can I trademark that?). 

You might have heard of the SMART Goal acronym: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Temporal. To super-charge my 2017, I’m pulling you into my mildly obsessive-compulsive, resolute world.

So yes, this article is a bit less for you, and a bit more for me. Sorry not sorry.

Resolution 1: ruthlessly seek inspiration

Goal: 100 hours of weekday mind wandering by 1 June.

An expert in clinical behaviour change once told me “the world is conspiring against you”. Though the context was different (diet and exercise, if you’re curious), the words ring true for creativity today. Shortening deadlines and never-ending strings of stimulation distract our minds from wandering. 

In a study on happiness, Harvard psychologist Matthew T. Killingsworth found that mind-wandering can be an excellent predictor of an individual’s happiness. Further, the frequency with which our minds leave the present is a better predictor of our happiness than what we’re actually doing.

In 2017, let’s push back as hard as the world pushes on us. Let’s leave room for wandering further off the beaten path. The safety and comfort of the routine are nice, especially when the juggling becomes overwhelming. But keeping our eye on the ball might be what’s draining us.

Resolution 2: turn the intellectual blender to turbo… and sleep mode

Goal: 25 nonsensical business ideas by Valentine’s Day.

Smart phone, meet VR: Daydream headset! Wry humor, meet party games: Exploding Kittens! Amazing things happen when we use the musings of the world like our own personal Lego kit. 

Playing mental Smash & Bash can keep us inspired with surprising new ideas. But being on “high” all the time is unsustainable and kinda dangerous.

So let’s be dedicated to turning off completely, so that our time in turbo mode pays some dividends. We can’t stay fresh if we can barely keep our heads up, after all. And let’s be real; working out more and sleeping more is just good sense.

Resolution 3: be less precious & more collaborative

Goal: Four really uncomfortable check-ins by Memorial Day.

It’s easy to forget that we’re all in the same boat, especially in creative fields. Impostor syndrome much?

Particularly if we’re lucky enough to have creative partners, we may need to ‘kumbaya’ this shit a little more often, and get cosy with our universal shortcomings.

Or, more positively put, let’s actually work together to make our work better. Let’s show work when it’s 50% done. Invite someone else to tear our work to pieces. That vulnerability unlocks our shortcomings and our instincts - getting us to more inspiring, insightful, defensible ideas more often.

Resolution 4: learn a different consumer’s language

Goal: 10 real conversations with way-out-of-my-comfort-zone people by 31 December.

Never before have so many distinct voices needed to be heard and responded to. And we don’t need to look further than the latest global election cycles to be reminded that communication is a shockingly nuanced, evolving art form. 

Let’s listen more closely to consumer bases we think we’ve always known. Because there’s infinitely more going on underneath the surface than we’ve been hearing.

Soooo... What now?

We did it! We solved 2017! 

Sarcasm aside, the world needs creativity right now. Not to get all Burt Bacharach about it, but a nice dose of inspiration and introspection wouldn’t hurt.

Real creativity is as much a burden as it is pure joy. It takes guts, stamina, and a heaping spoonful of humility. But if we use our heads, maybe we’ll get a little SMARTer in 2017.

Okay… one more resolution: only five puns per month.