An image of a small business owner seated at a desk writing on a pad of paper.
Taking notes is a strategy that can help you identify patterns. When the same issues come up again and again, your notes can be an indicator of what you need to tackle next. — Getty Images/Maskot

Successful entrepreneurs are naturally creative since building a company requires introducing new ideas into the world and solving problems in novel ways. What most people don’t realize is that creativity and innovation are skills you can develop over time. Here are five habits you can use to refine these skills.

[Read more: 4 Ways to Make Your Small Business More Innovative]

Write your goals down

Successful entrepreneurs understand that there’s power in writing down your goals every day. Studies have shown that people who write their goals down on a daily basis are more likely to achieve them.

Marie Forleo writes that without goals, it’s easy to become distracted and overcommitted. Writing your goals down eliminates ambiguity and forces you to be specific about what you want.

[Read more: 10 Goal-Setting Methodologies to Use at Your Business]

Take lots of notes

Creative people constantly write things down since they never know when a breakthrough idea will come. They write their ideas down and come back and evaluate them later.

Notes can also help you identify patterns. When the same issues come up again and again, your notes can indicate what you need to tackle next. For example, Richard Branson is vocal about the fact that he’s an avid note-taker.

Whenever he’s meeting with someone, he makes note of anything they say that interests him so he can refer back to it later. He uses these notes to write blog posts, tackle challenges, or come up with new business opportunities.

Constantly look for ways to grow your knowledge

Most successful entrepreneurs constantly read, study, and learn new things. They’re naturally curious and question everything, which leads them to constantly seek out new perspectives and ideas. By questioning everything, they’re able to come up with new possibilities and solutions that no one else has thought of.

Bill Gates is a prime example of this trait — he reads 50 books per year and regularly releases lists of his favorite books. He says that reading is essential for discovering new interests and opportunities. “Every book teaches me something new or helps me see things differently.”

Innovative people understand the creative process and know that they need time to process and develop their ideas.

Focus on building strong networks

Networking is discussed so often in the entrepreneurial world that it can start to feel like a buzzword. But smart entrepreneurs know that they cannot be successful on their own, so they carefully create strong networks around them.

Having a strong network broadens your perspective and makes you more valuable in your business. You need many different kinds of people in your network — friends who can encourage you, mentors who can advise you, and individuals who can give you honest feedback.

Think about Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. These are only a few examples of high-value partnerships that have led to some of the most successful companies in the world.

[Read more: How to Network to Grow Your Small Business]

Give yourself lots of time to think

Many entrepreneurs value action over ideas — it’s often said that ideas don’t matter if you can’t follow through on them. And while this is true to an extent, you may not be ready to act on new ideas the minute they come to you.

Innovative people understand the creative process and know that they need time to process and develop their ideas. That’s why the most creative entrepreneurs set aside time each week to think and brainstorm. This allows them to refine their ideas and figure out the next steps.

Warren Buffett is a good example of someone who spends a lot of time doing high-value thinking. When Buffett makes a new investment, he’s in it for the long haul, so he spends a lot of time researching those companies first.

He’s been quoted as saying he spends a lot of time every day reading and thinking. Buffett credits this activity to helping him make fewer impulsive decisions.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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