Switch off to switch on your creativity
Why taking a break could be the best way to come up with that big idea.
For the past four hours you have been staring at your laptop desperately trying to come up with the solution to a problem. Your mind has gone numb and you are starting to think that there is no solution.
We have all been there. Many of us are at a desk in an office for about eight hours a day, five days a week. We are surrounded by our work and people who are involved in it. An ideal place to be you would think. Maybe.
In actuality, when it comes to solving problems or thinking creatively, we often need to get away from it all, give our conscious minds a break and let our subconscious take over.
How many times have you struggled to think of a name or a word and then, several hours later, it pops into your head? This is because your subconscious continues to work, continues to search through your brain while your conscious carries on with the rest of your day. When your subconscious finds the word, it pushes it to your conscious mind and it pops up. Clever hey!
So can this work with ideas and problems too?
Scott Berkun, a best-selling author and speaker on creativity, recently wrote about people who do their thinking in the shower. He says: “We rarely admit how much of who we are is driven by our subconscious. We know our dreams, which are owned and operated by our subconscious, can be incredibly creative. But on a busy day in modern times we are bombarded with information, and our conscious mind dominates. It’s only when we have quiet time, going for a walk, getting some exercise, or taking a shower, that our conscious minds quiet down enough for our subconscious to be heard. And that’s why you get ideas in the shower.”
So giving your conscious brain a break is a great way to access your creativity. But sometimes doing something practical and physical is also a good way to get those ideas flowing.
I often let my brain drift during exercise, whether hard physical exercise or more gentle stretching. Sometimes having only half a mind on something means that your subconscious can give it its full attention.
I met a woman recently who said that she saved her work problems for when she was riding up long, steep hills on her bike. Not only was her body and part of her brain engaged with the physical effort of getting up the hill, it also gave her room to think through ideas.
You can also get practical with a problem. After all, the exclamation “Eureka!” is attributed to the Ancient Greek scholar Archimedes, who worked out how to measure the volume of irregular objects as he saw his bath water being displaced by his body.
And then there is the story of Sir Isaac Newton coming up with the theory of gravity after being hit on the head by an apple when sitting under a tree.
So next time you are sitting at your desk with your brain numb and your creativity exhausted, get up, get out and get your subconscious to give you a helping hand.