Smartphones can squash our creativity—especially when they get in the way of being bored and give us an all-too easy fix for avoiding discomfort. Plus, smartphones can disconnect us from our work, our relationships, ourselves.
But, of course, smartphones aren’t all bad. In fact, we can use smartphones to cultivate our curiosity, feed our imagination, challenge ourselves and provide plenty of questions and insights to ponder—all building blocks of creativity.
The key is to be mindful and deliberate with our use. That is, instead of mindlessly scrolling social media for 30 minutes or an hour or two, we can turn to our phones for specific tools. Below, you’ll find a list of ways to use your phone for good (at least when it comes to your creativity).
- Use the camera feature to snap photos of your favorite things. A different favorite every day. One day you might snap a photo of the star-filled sky. Another day you might snap a photo of your pancake breakfast.
- Use the camera feature to snap photos of mundane things. Challenge yourself to highlight their beauty and uniqueness. For instance, you might find beauty in a ruler, a nail, a toothbrush.
- Snap photos of your process—whether you’re writing, painting, designing, drawing, coding or sewing. Document the details of your work.
- List 20 uses for your phone. Make them as fanciful as possible. Let your imagination have some fun!
- Record your ideas. Sometimes, saying our ideas out loud helps to make sense of them and sparks even more ideas.
- Bookmark everything that inspires you in Evernote. Blog posts. Quotes. Images.
- Use the flashlight on your phone to examine objects. Get really close, as if you’re inspecting every nook and cranny.
- Set the timer on your phone for 10 minutes as you sit in silence, simply letting your thoughts come and go. After you’re done, jot down what surfaced.
- Set the timer for 20 minutes as you make something, such as composing a short story, sketching your immediate surroundings or creating a collage based on how you’re feeling today.
- Listen to a podcast on a subject you’d never, ever listen to. A podcast about science or the secret history of Hollywood or language and etymology or food or composers or myths and legends, or fantasy and science fiction or history or how music is made. Each of these podcasts—whatever the subject—is a window into the creative process.
- Listen to music on YouTube—like this—while you daydream. Let your mind naturally go wherever it wants to go.
- Set different reminders on your phone to inspire you. Set reminders to look at the sky, and to notice your surroundings, especially during a time you know you’ll be feeling uninspired. Set reminders that include powerful, beautiful quotes.
Our phones can absolutely become distractions. But they don’t have to. Pay attention to how you’re using your devices right now. Are they squashing or promoting your creativity? If your smartphone is doing the former, how can you use it as a tool to ignite your imagination instead?