Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Ankesh Kothari.
Thomas Alva Edison has been one of the most successful scientists the world has ever seen. He invented the phonograph, the motion picture, and the electric light bulb. In all, Edison has 1,093 US patents under his name.
But people observed that as brilliant as Edison was at inventing new gadgets, he was just as miserable as a fisherman. Edison used to spend an hour almost everyday sitting at the end of a dock and fish. He always fished all alone by himself, but he never caught any fish.
People always wondered: why is Edison so obsessed with fishing when he is so bad at it? Late in life, someone actually asked Edison as to the reason behind him being a lousy fisherman.
His answer was, “I really never caught any fish because I have never used any bait.”
Thinking that Edison is crazy, a follow up question is asked of him: “Why in the world would you fish without bait?”
Edison’s answer? “Because when you fish without bait, people don’t bother you and neither do the fish. It provides me my best time to think.”
Its no coincidence that the world’s best scientist was also the world’s worst fisherman. In fact, because Edison was the world’s worst fisherman, he could become the world’s most prolific scientist.
Question to ponder upon: Are you setting some time aside for yourself to reflect and think upon?
Poincare’s Research Into Creativity
It’s 1908. Henri Poincare – another scientist – decides to make it his business to research how others come up with their creative breakthrough ideas. He goes through the histories of a lot of inventions and inventors. And finds some surprising stories.
Archimedes comes up with the solution to evaluate how pure the gold is in any jewelry while he is taking a bath.
Friedrich Kekule discovers the unique ring like structure of the molecule benzene right after he wakes up from a day-dream about snakes chasing their own tails and forming rings.
As Poincare digs into how hundreds of other people got their “Eureka” moments, he finds a common element. Most people stumble upon their breakthrough right after a period of rest.
- Creative periods involve a period of conscious work, followed by a period of unconscious work.
- Conscious work is also necessary after the unconscious work to put the unconscious results on a firm footing.
Why Is Down Time Necessary For Creativity?
“When the brain relaxes, it’s like a sedimentation process in action. The millions of thoughts you have sink to the bottom and the most path-breaking thoughts float to the top like cream.” – Sean D’Souza
Our brains have a powerful built-in pattern sensor. When we’re working on a problem, our brain goes into the information assimilation mode and is quickly overwhelmed because of the flood of information.
Only when we rest to ponder does the pattern recognition mode take over and our brain starts processing this information – starts looking for connections – starts figuring out how the pieces come and fit together. It’s this pattern recognition process that leads to creative ideas.
So to make our brains better at pattern recognition, we need to take pauses and schedule regular down time where our brains can relax.
Some Ideas You Can Use To Schedule Regular Down Times:
- Slowing down and taking long showers or bubble baths is a good idea.
- So is listening to some soothing classical music. Any music without hard hitting lyrics that can interfere with your brains pattern recognition abilities is good.
- Long walks are good too. It keeps you fit physically as well as allows some down time for your brain.
- Taking 15 minute afternoon naps have been proven to improve creativity.
No matter how busy your schedule is and how much you have to do, schedule 15-20 minutes per day where you can do nothing but relax.