If you are like me (a.k.a. human), you have probably spent (wasted) a fair bit of time trying to remember that elusive task, find that lost something, grasp that fleeting thought or flesh out that next great creative idea. It is incredibly frustrating when we block time to do something, we sit down, we remove distractions and then ... NOTHING. We are stymied by a lack of creativity or a soggy brain. We find ourselves unable to really get to what we were thinking about and, ultimately, we often don’t accomplish the task to the level we had wanted (assuming we’ve remembered it at all).
I have noticed in recent years that the great ideas and moments of clarity come at unexpected times. It isn’t when I am really focusing the grey matter that I remember the 25th item for the to-do list. It is when I am distracted. It is also typically when I am doing something that has a slight physical aspect to it. Not something challenging or difficult, but rather something that I can do without thinking. Something involuntary or brainless.
Here are some examples of where I have my moments of mental clarity (and I am sure that I am not alone in this).
- On the edge of sleep (either edge, but often in that time where I am partially awake)
- In the shower
- Walking (alone) to somewhere
- On a long drive
- In a meeting or something like it (ideas generated here are typically unrelated to the meeting content – bit of negative side effect, really)
What is really happening? How can we be most creative (which I have often associated with my brain) when we are using it so little? The answer is perhaps that when we are really applying the brain to something, it has the same effect as stirring up the water in a mud puddle. The more we try and get the brain going and all cells active and engaged, the more dormant idea particles and conflicting things swirl up to confound us.
When we are doing something simple and basic, which requires our bodies to just act, our brains are in fact free to get crazy and creative. It is almost as if we see clearer by looking sideways at things.
Consider your peripheral vision. On the surface, it is pretty blurry, unclear and unfocused, but if you want to react or catch movement, you use the peripheral vision, not straight on vision. If we come back to ideas and the brain, by applying a sort of peripheral mental process, we can open up and tap incredible creative and mental potential. As we walk, drive for a long distance, take a shower or just settle into something, it is almost like our brains shuts off all of the noisy parts (because they aren’t needed right then), and things really flow.
So, if you really want to get creative or remember what you want/need to do, distract yourself and disconnect your brain. You’ll be surprised how different it is. Oh, but don’t forget to pack a pencil and paper, or you won’t remember later.