Boost Your Creativity in Our Overloaded Information Environment
Einstein used to say that when he’d hit an impasse on a problem, he’d go sailing – and the answer would often come to him on the water.
- Is it harder to be creative when information is constantly coming at you from all directions?
- Is our digital environment interfering with our employees’ ability to see the big picture?
- Are we so overloaded with information that we don’t even have time to think?
[wcm_restrict]According to recent brain research, the answer to all these questions may be ‘yes.’ Being creative means making new connections between ideas. When we try to focus on too many things at once, our ability to make these connections is restricted. Taking the right kind of breaks can really be helpful. Neuroscientists have observed that just before that ‘aha!’ moment, the brain relaxes its focus and allows distant connections to be made.
How can we capitalize on this knowledge and harness our brain’s inventive powers? We need to take breaks when we’ve focused so long on a problem that we can no longer be creative. Take breaks when you’re stuck – not when someone else wants your attention. The good news is that when we take the right kind of breaks, our brains are still unconsciously working on the problem at hand.
- Brain-enhancing breaks are of the low-information variety. They don’t add to the overload you’re already experiencing.
- Get physical exercise. It brings oxygen to your brain and promotes the formation of connections between neurons. So get up and walk around during a break rather than staying put.
- Expose yourself to nature. Looking at water, trees, or flowers works better than machines, mortar and bricks. Nature attracts your attention modestly. It’s enough to relieve your information overload while your brain still works unconsciously on your problem. Stop and smell the roses—literally.
- Learn to sleep strategically. While you’re sleeping, your brain is trying to make sense of what you were thinking about during the day. Sleeping on a problem really works. Schedule projects so you can sleep between the beginning and your deadline, and be prepared to take advantage of the great ideas that come to you as you’re waking up. Keep a pad and pencil by your bed.
- Don’t be a workaholic. The most creative workers alternate between intense focus and relaxation. Good ideas come to you when you least expect them. An unstressed mind can work for you 24/7 even when you don’t know you’re working. If you keep your nose to the grindstone, you’ll never see the big picture.
Business policies should promote both focus and brain-enhancing breaks. To get the most out of their creative employees, businesses should not encourage their employees to multitask or to be constantly interruptible; nor should they promote workaholism. In addition to encouraging higher-quality work, there will be less employee burnout.[/wcm_restrict][wcm_nonmember]
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About the Author
Joanne Cantor, PhD, is an internationally recognized expert on the psychology of media and communications. She is Outreach Director of the Center for Communication Research at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she was an award-winning professor for 26 years. Through her consulting firm, Your Mind on Media, she speaks before business, professional, and educational organizations on productivity, creativity, and stress reduction. In recognition of her expertise, Dr. Cantor has testified on numerous occasions before U.S. Congressional committees as well as the Federal Communications Commission. To read Joanne’s complete biography, click here.