Create While You Wait

Finding Time for CreativityThe hours we spend waiting. Waiting in traffic. Waiting in restaurants and airports. Waiting on planes and trains. Waiting in those dreaded checkout lines. Rather than cussing and casting voodoo spells, try using this dead time to collect ideas and insights for your next design project.

Checkout Lines. Dive your eyes into shopping carts. Look at a person and try guessing what’s in her cart. Notice which impulse items folks snatch up at the counter. The better you understand buying habits, the better you’ll design products and promo materials.

Restaurants. While waiting for your order, scrutinize menus and displays. Decide how colors, seating, music and lighting affect the restaurant’s mood and energy.

Car. Capture observations, insights and ideas while driving or stuck in traffic. Use a digital recorder or an iPhone app such as Voice Memos.

Airports, parks and other public places. Watch how people dress, eat, drink. Find out what they’re reading. Pay attention to how they connect with signs, displays, other people.

Trains and planes. Use part of the flight for brainstorming. Invest in good earplugs or noise-reduction headset. Mind-map or make random lists. Generate five fresh ideas for that project waiting for you back home.

Sam Harrison is a speaker, workshop leader and writer on creativity-related topics. His latest book, “IdeaSelling: Successfully pitch your creative ideas to bosses, clients and other decision makers,” was recently released by HOW Books. He is also the author of “IdeaSpotting: How to find your next great idea,” and “Zing!: Five steps and 101 tips for creativity on command.” Reach him at


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