I consider myself a pretty organized person, but there are times I feel overwhelmed. At times like these I like to remind myself how much cognitive surplus we actually have. “Wait, what is cognitive surplus?”

Distinguished author Clay Shirky wrote Cognitive Surplus: How Technology Makes Consumers into Collaborators in 2010, and I picked up one of the first copies because I’m a nerd for these kinds of topics. It describes how much free time individuals have to engage with collaborative activities, specifically social media. The general call-to-action is that rather than simply using social platforms to consume, why not also use them to add value to the communities we participate in?

Here we are now in 2017, and this concept is even more relevant given the number of social media platforms out there. What if we spent 15 minutes a day putting something good out there, something to add value? It could be a funny cat meme to brighten someone’s day, a new recipe you cooked up, or a how-to on fixing a clogged sink. We are filled with knowledge and creativity, let’s put it to use. Start small, just 15 minutes a day!
According to a 2013 article, “The Real Neuroscience of Creativity” published in Scientific American, the brain is best used when engaging in creative and problem-solving activities. They keep us sharp. When we engage in these types of activities we also feel more productive. Feeling productive helps motivate other activities, and the benefits snowball.

Here’s some inspiration for you: My good friend Kris started out small several years ago, experimenting solutions for people with food allergies. Today she’s a leading author on the topic. She shared one of her favorite stories with me: an email from a mom whose daughter had a severe egg allergy. Because of Kris’ cookbook the girl was finally able to have her first birthday cake. And Kris felt a part of another family’s traditions and milestones.

There’s lots of success stories out there; just look at GoFundMe for more examples. I’m wishing you the best in your contributions in the New Year!