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5 Steps To Tapping Your Creativity

The pace of life isn’t slowing down. Partly, we’re dealing with the inevitable physics of getting older—with age every new moment is a smaller percent of our entire life so it truly feels like less time. Days pass like minutes, months slip by like days… That said, with age we also accumulate experience, and with the right attention we can transform our experience into wisdom.

But wisdom can’t take shape when we’re drowning in busy-ness. We need to tune out the constant drone of status updates, email, and never-ending to-do lists. We need to empty the cup of information-overload so we can fill it with the life we want.

One of the benefits of working at Samovar is that I get to meet—and learn from—like-minded people passionate about crafting a life worth living. A few years back I met Jim Donovan and watched as he transitioned out of a mainstream career in corporate high-tech (Microsoft, Oracle, …) and launched his own executive coaching practice. Since then we’ve shared tea and inspiration many times. I thought you’d enjoy his perspective so I invited him to share his thoughts on creativity, here. If you’d like to continue the conversation in person, join us for tea this Thursday night (Aug. 21) at our Entrepreneurs’ Tea event.


Tips for Tapping Creativity from an Executive Coach

by Jim Donovan

Let’s face it, we’re all ridiculously busy, and getting busier all the time. The simple truth is we can’t add more hours to the day, so the only way to achieve our goals is to get further with the time we have. After years doing leadership development in corporate high-tech, and then coaching many talented professionals in my executive coaching practice, I’ve honed a set of productivity rituals to ensure that I not only deliver on my commitments, but that I make time to be open to inspiration, creativity, and “big ideas”.

Here are my top five ways to tap into creativity:


If you’re like me, you’re probably wearing many hats—strategic decision making, sales, marketing. Telephones are buzzing, and emails are flying. It takes effort to really carve out the space; to give yourself the “time out of time.” This means limiting—or better yet, eliminating—distractions. Phone off, internet off, game on.


For me, it’s important that I’m out of my house—which means I’m out of my day-to-day. No books or bills to distract me. The space is clear, so I can open my mind. Personally, I go to Samovar, drink a pot of Green Ecstasy and see what arises. The environment settles me, and the relaxed, easy vibe of the servers makes everything feel “taken care of.” My needs are attended to—time to let the creativity fly.


To clear my mind I create a “later” list. I jot down everything I need to take care of but don’t want to think about now. Without prioritizing I just get anything and everything down on a single list. During my creativity session whenever a nagging task comes to mind I simply write it on this list. Mind clear. Channel open.


I use a computer. To kill the temptations of Facebook, email, and the like, I simply shutdown WiFi. I know other writers who use special software to shutdown their computer’s internet for discrete periods of time. The silence that follows is essential for creating space for new ideas to percolate. I keep my “later” list in a physical notepad that so when distracting to-dos pop into my head I can capture them in a flash and quickly get back to my creative work. In addition, I keep a blank artist pad at the ready because sometimes I want express something more visual like model or a flow chart. Finally, I bring a pencil and a pen. Ideally something with gentle, easy flow that’s a pleasure to write with. But in a pinch anything will do.


My creative juices flow best in the morning and early afternoon. If I start my creative time at 11 or 11:15 am, I’m golden. I maintain focus until 2:00 pm—which is easy at Samovar since I can order lunch. After that, I need to move my body. I take a walk, or go to the gym. But during that sacred time, I am immovable. I just let the creativity move through me. Before and after I deal with my routine work, task lists, and email. My sacred creative time is complete for the day.

About Jim Donovan

Jim Donovan is an executive coach in San Francisco, focused on helping entrepreneurs gain more access to their power through creativity. He helps leaders and business owners step outside the normal constraints to find solutions to their biggest business challenges, seen and unseen. When he’s not drinking tea and getting creative at Samovar, he’s adventuring around the Bay Area and enjoying the outdoors. Find more about Jim and his work at

Upcoming Entrepreneurs’ Tea

On August 21st Jim Donovan and Jesse Jacobs, the owner of Samovar, are hosting Entrepreneurs’ Tea. This event will gather Bay Area entrepreneurs to network and solve real business challenges. Space is limited. Find out more and register here ›

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