Are you finding it challenging to come up with new ideas? Do you feel that creativity has left the building? Are you finding it impossible to have time for idea generation during the day? Well, contrary to popular belief, your solution rests in finding the time to do nothing at all. We live in a society that values overworking and packed schedules, and a recent Harvard study brings this idea home. The data revealed that CEOs worked an average of 62.5 hours a week. From endless emails to heading multiple meetings, it makes sense that you, as a business owner, would feel unable to have the time to “do nothing.” However, science shows that this could be just what you need to bolster creativity.
- One study in INSEAD found that “doing nothing” is not only excellent for maintaining good mental health but that it also improves our imagination and allows us to participate in unconscious thought processes where we can generate novel ideas.
- A New York Times article revealed that five scientists who took a nature trip to Glen Canyon in Utah reported improved cognitive ability.
- When we engage in relaxation or relaxed distractions that take us away from continuous activity, dopamine is shown to be released in our brains which also improves our creativity.
The research doesn’t lie. Relaxation and inactivity can help us to better reflect on the world around us and develop ideas we would never have thought of while distracted in the office. So, how can you power down and take advantage of this “power of reflection?” Here are a few ways to ensure you are incorporating the skill of “doing nothing.”
Monitor Your Current Schedule
To truly begin to plan where you can insert time for rest and reflection, you first have to know where your time is going. This act may seem tedious, but it will help you to understand how you can more efficiently allocate your time. Programs like Harvest and Todoist allow you to track your time throughout the day and divide it by actions or projects. So, begin to see how long you spend on emails, meetings, or accomplishing various tasks. You can then start to get a picture of where your time is going and if there are things you can delegate or cut out altogether.
Put Down the Phone and Laptop
Technology has become an integral part of our personal and professional lives. Throughout the day we are always tied to a device. This situation makes it easy for us to regularly check email, text, search the web, or monitor social media. Well, technology is a huge distraction that keeps us from engaging in rest and creativity. Scientists in Denmark found that students who took a break from Facebook for one week noted better levels of well-being and life satisfaction. This definitely would have an impact on dopamine levels, the neurotransmitters that promote positive feelings that can lead to creativity and reflection.
Enjoy the Nature Around You
This solution seems too simple to be true, but research shows that it is. The findings of the five scientists mentioned above reveal the significant impact time in nature can have on creativity. However, another study in 2012 showed that time in nature could improve performance and problem-solving skills. The reason for this could be that nature provides an environment of low-level stimuli that allows us to relax and reflect. So, be sure that you plan out some time to be among the natural environment during some part of your day. This could look like having lunch outdoors, taking a quick walk around the building or finding a nearby park to sit in.
Pay Attention to Your Thoughts During Downtimes
You may not realize the fact that you already have some downtimes you can work with. For example, a prolonged shower or 30-minute commute in your car can allow your brain to reflect and yield some of your best ideas. These parts of your life are known as “incubation periods” for creative ideas. They are times where you are not always actively involved in intense thought or action. So, make a point to pay attention to the thoughts that come through your brain, and allow your mind to wander. You’d be surprised of how many ideas you have likely come up during these times where your brain is somewhat relaxed.
Do Absolutely Nothing
This step is likely going to be the hardest thing to do, but it is necessary to begin to create a routine of culture. The goal of taking it easy on technology, exploring the nature around you, and noticing times during your day where you can enjoy downtime is to find the time where you can engage in “doing nothing.” This is going to be a bit of a mindset shift, as we define our success on how busy we are. “Doing nothing,” is seen as lazy and unproductive, but engaging in inactivity will allow your mind to wander freely to participate in reflection.
If you ever wondered why your best ideas came while walking on the beach, taking a shower, or on a visit to the gym, research shows that inactivity or relaxed distractions can improve your approach to reflection and creativity. Our minds were not meant to run 24/7, and the cost of doing so is fatigue and a severe lack of imagination. So, if you are wondering how to harness your best ideas, embrace the activity of “doing nothing.”
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