How To Design A More Serendipitous, Creative Life

Boredom and routine are bad for your brain power. We need change and a certain amount of randomness to inspire creative breakthroughs. Here’s a quick guide for making space for chance.

How To Design A More Serendipitous, Creative Life

Serendipity is a hot concept these days. Chance encounters and random inputs supposedly lead to new ideas–which is one reason Marissa Mayer canceled Yahoo’s telecommuting arrangements last winter.


But just because you’re in the office doesn’t mean you’ll be exposed to anything new, exciting, or inspiring. Indeed, for many of us, there is no place less serendipitous than the office desk. If you spend a good chunk of your waking hours there, here are some ways to up the odds that something interesting will trigger a new thought or two:

1. Spice up your commute

If you commute by bus or train, stop by the magazine rack at the station and–once a week–pick up a magazine you wouldn’t otherwise. If you’re stuck in the car, listen to a new station or grab a CD from your spouse or your kids that isn’t normally your taste. You can also try downloading a new audiobook each week on a topic that doesn’t seem immediately related to your job. A change in your commute–as with other types of rerouting–can provide a boost to your brain.

2. Visit different bathrooms

There’s no rule that you have to use the one that’s closest to you. If you try other ones, you may meet new people, or get reacquainted with old ones, on the way. Also: see above.

3. Start a lunch club


Once a week, get a group to visit a new restaurant. The more exotic the cuisine, the better, and if you vary the participants, better yet.

4. Take better breaks

Instead of surfing your favorite sites, cruise over to the Poetry Foundation’s website to read their poem of the day, or visit the Louvre’s website to check out a painting in the collection. A Khan Academy video on something random (multivariable equations?) will probably get your brain going in a different direction than your inbox can. And nothing inspires, of course, like beauty.

5. Say hello in the elevator

Best case scenario, you strike up a conversation. Worst case scenario, things are a little less awkward when the elevator jams and you’re stuck in there together for an hour.

[Image: Flickr user Dgrosso23]

About the author

Laura Vanderkam is the author of several time management and productivity books, including I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time (Portfolio, June 9, 2015), What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast (Portfolio, 2013), and 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think (Portfolio, 2010). She blogs at