How to think like a scientist to help your creativity

The Future Belongs to Creators

The scientific method is straightforward. Identify a problem, draw a hypothesis, run an experiment, collect the data, and find a conclusion.

What if we approached our creative side hustles with the same data-driven mindset?

Creators of all types procrastinate, get stuck, burn out, or simply lose momentum. When work is personal or we live like perfectionists, it’s especially hard to break out of a rut and keep creating. Sometimes the best method for creative success is to hit refresh with a brand new perspective. It’s time to think like a scientist.

There is something to be said for launching something that might be half-baked or three-quarter baked, and then be very prepared to iterate on it as things happen. So if you’re holding yourself back because it’s not quite perfect, at least entertain the idea that maybe it doesn’t have to be. ~ Miguel Pou

adam grant
Adam Grant is on a mission to make work not suck. Source: Adam Grant.

Adam Grant from the Work Life Pod took a data-driven approach on how to make work not suck. His first piece of advice is all about reframing your thoughts regarding failure.

If something fails, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just the result of an experiment. It’s all about viewing it as more of a game.

It’s basically being more playful about the whole process.

Look at what you’ve done as a whole. Some of your videos might have thousands of views, others, hundreds. So what’s the difference? Sometimes it’s obvious: you had a special guest on with a huge following. But other times the only difference is the topic or title. That’s when you have to experiment.

Charli Prangley, designer and YouTuber decided to run with Adam’s advice. These days she’s been creating lots of shorts on YouTube. She’s not exactly the TikTok type, but she’s giving it a shot.

The results aren’t in yet, but the key takeaway is this: have the mindset of a scientist. If the experiment doesn’t work, that’s fine. Maybe that way of doing things isn’t for you. Either way, you’ve learned something.

What does success look like?

Data can be interpreted in many different ways. You’ve got to decide what success means for you before you end up bending the data in whichever way you want it.

Is your goal to get more subscribers? A million views on a video?

Whatever it is, define it clearly beforehand.

But you’ve got to set yourself up for success too. A lot of creative types tend to overanalyze, and that can block their creative flows and make work harder than it should be. Here are some filters overthinkers might want to try on for size before starting a new project:

  • Does the project fill you with passion and creativity? If not, you’ll burn out fast.
  • Is this useful? If there’s zero demand then it’s not going to do well.
  • Is it unique? If a topic has been done to death a thousand times, does it really need another hot take?

How to set yourself up for success

Whatever project you’re working on needs to have all of these, or you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Create constraints

You could say creativity is just putting old things in new combinations and new things in old combinations. If someone hands you a blank piece of paper and tells you to draw something for them your mind is likely going to freeze up.

But if someone hands you said paper and asks you to draw something flying through the air? You’re already thinking; planes, birds…maybe even Superman?

That’s the power of constraint. It’s often better to put parameters on what you’re doing. Constraints help you get past that blank canvas.

Look, there’s nothing new under the sun. Pretty much everything has been said before. But there are always new ways to put things together. Your job as a creator isn’t to summon fresh content from thin air. It’s to put your own unique spin on it.

Charli Marie
Charli has been harnessing the mindset of scientists and experimenting on Youtube. Source: Youtube.

When Charli was experimenting with shorts for her Youtube channel, she didn’t sit there thinking of ideas for 1-min videos and filming them. She took her old videos and cut them down, customizing them in new ways. She mixed the old with the new and breathed new life into it.

Manage your attention

Here’s another experiment to run—try tracking your attention instead of your time. A lot of people chunk up their Google calendar and plot out every 15-minutes of their day.

But just blocking out your calendar doesn’t mean that something will get done. Half the time we end up planning everything out then falling off track and feeling bad about it.

It matters less how much time you’re spending on something and more how much attention you’re giving it. Focused work is better than finishing with lackluster effort.

It’s far better to use your calendar to prevent things from falling between the cracks instead of micromanaging your day. So try auditing your attention instead.

  • How often are you giving yourself the space and time to really focus on a project?
  • Is your phone on in the background?
  • Are you signed into Slack?

If you’re creating something that is interesting and meaningful to you, dive right in and focus—don’t count every second of the day, just concentrate on the task at hand.

Procrastinate more

It turns out procrastination can actually be a good thing. It’s all tied up with the creative process. Your mind needs time to incubate ideas. And you're more likely to access remote knowledge, reframe problems in a fresh way, and come up with that creative spark if you do so.

But don’t get carried away. You still have to do the work.

If you’re a master procrastinator then you're in good company. A lot of the most productive and creative people in the world were procrastinators. Think Leonardo da Vinci, Martin Luther King, and even Abraham Lincoln.

Scientists get more done

One study from Italy tested out this theory of scientific thinking on business leaders. They had a control group and a second group that was taught everything we went over in this article i.e. how to think like a scientist.

And one year later? The group trained to think like scientists made 40% more revenue than the control group. Plus they were more than twice as likely to pivot rather than doubling down on ideas that weren’t working.

We get it. As creators, it’s hard to separate yourself from your work.

We tend to tie our value up in our work. We get too emotionally attached and less objective. If you can take anything away from today’s article, let it be this: if you think like a scientist and experiment in your creative endeavors, you’ll not only get more done, but be much happier about the process.

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