CPA INSIDER

How to boost your creativity

Here are 4 tips for using your right brain.
By Cheryl Meyer

People — including CPAs themselves — may not always view accountants as creative, because on the surface, tax returns, audits, and other routine tasks don't fall under the same artistic guise as painting, sculpting, designing, or writing.

But in truth, creativity isn't just about art. Creativity can be defined rather broadly, and many CPAs possess an ingenious spark that could be used on a daily basis. Those who are creative solve problems, come up with novel ideas, and figure out better and more innovative ways of doing things.

"Creativity is the ability to use your right brain," explained Dr. Michael Monroe Kiefer, an author, speaker, and founder of Powermind Training Inc., a Farmington, Minn.-based provider of health and wellness workshops and seminars to organizations, including the Minnesota Society of CPAs. Neurology research led by Nobel laureate Roger W. Sperry in the 1960s and '70s introduced the idea of the right hemisphere of the brain being the source for emotion, passion, imagination, and artistic ability, with the left hemisphere of the brain as the center for math, logic, systemizing, and reasoning. "People get into a job where they mainly exercise the left hemisphere of their brain eight hours a day—and the right hemisphere, which is the center for creativity, does not get utilized enough," Kiefer said.

People who tap their power of originality enjoy many benefits. They minimize boredom and monotony, become more efficient and content, build confidence, and can shine at work for helping colleagues and the organization. "It changes the pace of the work day so you're not feeling like you're trudging," said Katrina Pfannkuch, a creativity coach based in Fort Collins, Colo.

Those who have not yet discovered their inner creativity "become stuck in their ways," and "do the same thing at age 65 that they did at age 25," added Gale Crosley, CPA, CGMA, author and founder of consulting firm Crosley+Company, which aims to help accounting firms grow.

So how do you unleash your inner creativity, which you may not realize you even possess? Here are some helpful tips:

  • Assess your personal habits. Take a hard look at yourself and your daily habits. What do you do in the morning, and how could you structure that time differently? "Having a consistent, supportive morning routine, like getting up to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee alone, exercise, journal, or do a quick meditation, sets a positive tone for the day and gives you a chance to practice self-care," Pfannkuch said. "Without a routine to ground you, it's easy to let the chaos of getting out the door become the focus instead of healthy habits." Also, what do you do when commuting? Are you listening to podcasts, books on tape, or music, or lamenting the traffic? What can you do differently during your lunch break? "Creativity is about your energy levels, and feeling out of balance and not exercising or taking time for yourself blocks your creativity and your ability to work," she added.
  • Stimulate your brain. You may have deadlines and a pile of work on your desk, but it's important to take breaks to rouse your brain and rejuvenate. Do something unrelated to work to exercise your creative muscles: doodle, paint, listen to music, walk, eat, play an internet game, talk to people in other professions. "The concept is that you want to use the right hemisphere of your brain," Kiefer said. 
  • Try sleep programming. Right before you fall asleep at night, think about a particular problem you are facing at work. "The subconscious mind operates 24 hours a day, and many times people will come up with a creative idea on how to solve the problem" by morning, Kiefer said.
  • Read. In your downtime, tap the wealth of books and articles related to your professional career. Read books that make you think and that offer you new perspectives and ideas. Reading pushes you "beyond your comfort zone," Crosley noted. Once you read, you will automatically hold new thoughts, and then communicate those views to others. The more you communicate your thoughts, ideas will be formulated. "And that is the road to innovation," she said.

Cheryl Meyer is a freelance writer based in California. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Chris Baysden, associate director–content development, at Chris.Baysden@aicpa-cima.com.

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