Did you know that our brains are almost as active when we’re asleep, as during waking hours?
Same thing between “focused” work, and when you’re “just” relaxing. Your brain is just as active, except when you’re not working, it is in “diffuse” mode. It’s still thinking for you, solving the problem you were focused on before, except in the background of consciousness.
If you’re only in “focused” mode, you’re not effective in tapping the enormous power of your subconscious mind in being creative.
This is why I “rest” frequently throughout the day. Although my “work” hours on the calendar are between 7:30am and 7:30pm, I’m resting and relaxing often during those hours.
Each time I get away from my computer and do something else, I know I am going into the brain’s “diffuse” mode, and my consciousness is “working” on my project or problem in a different, more creative way… without my having to focus on it.
You might even call this a form of “productive” self-care.
Here are the different ways I do this “frequent creative rest”.
Instead of being at the computer for a whole hour or two at a time, staring at the screen, I try to get step away every 10–15 minutes, even just to pace/walk around for 30 seconds.
When we move our body, we move our brain. This is especially true if we feel “stuck” on a problem. If I just pace around, I come back and usually have a slightly better perspective.
How do I remind myself to step away every 10–15 minutes? I have developed the habit of looking at the clock often, as much as every couple of minutes. You can use technology to remind you. Google “break reminder app”
Sometimes when I’m working on a tough problem, or just anytime I think of it, I simply close my eyes and take 2 gentle, easy, deep breaths.
It’s brief, but can really shift one’s state of being.
Every 30 minutes or so, I try to step away from the computer and get some tea, and use the restroom if I need to. It’s a 3–5 minute break, which allows more time for the brain’s “diffuse” mode.
In the mid-morning, and in the late-afternoon, I take a walk with buddy my dog. I find that getting out into nature is wonderful for the body, brain, and creative thinking.
I take walks in the middle of my long work periods, e.g. my 30-minute mid-morning walk is at 10:30am, which is about half way between the start of my workday at 7:30, and my 1pm lunch-and-nap.
My late-afternoon walk is after having worked for 2 hours (again, with lots of little breaks.) My late-afternoon break is 90 minutes, with various small chores (e.g. cat litter) as well as a dog walk to the park.
You’ve got to eat, even during your work day. Sometimes when you’re intensely at work, maybe you forget to eat, right? Keep your eating to a schedule, no matter what, and you’ll be healthier, and give yourselve more natural breaks for the brain’s “diffuse” mode to work its genius for you.
I take 4 naps a day, approximately 15–25 minutes each:
- after breakfast
- before my mid-morning walk
- after lunch
- before my late-afternoon walk
During these naps, I don’t worry about falling asleep, and I don’t most of the time. I’m simply relaxing on the couch, gently and restfully breathing in Love, breathing out Healing or Thanks.. and just enjoying my minutes of rest and renewal. During this time I put any planning or thought away, and if they come up, I just go back to my intentional, gentle, restful breathing. I do allow my mind to wander, but not plan nor solve problems.
Whenever I come back to the computer from a long break (meal, nap, or walk), I try to do an Energy Reboot which only takes about 1 minute.
Start Before Break
This is an interesting tip — before I start any of my longer breaks (nap, walk, meal, evening hygiene, and sleeping for the night), I’ll try to have at least started to think about a challenging task or project in my business/life, or begun to think about an upcoming meeting with someone.
This way, during my break, my brain is working on the problem in the background. I try not to think hard about the problem during my break. I just let my mind wander. There’s a lot of talk these days about the creative benefits of “mindwandering” (google it if you’re curious!)
Important note: when I’m trying to nap or sleep, I definitely make sure I don’t work on the problem, nor plan for the day. I just focus for a few minutes on the problem before I lay down, and then purposefully set it aside from my conscious mind, and let my subconscious do its work during my nap or sleep.
You can be in “diffuse” mode — letting your brain work creatively on a problem — while you’re doing just about anything else except for focusing. As mentioned above, it’s good to START with focused mode for at least a few minutes of working on a project, and then go into diffuse mode with any of these activities:
Easy food prep
Taking a walk (without listening or talking)
Slowly making tea or coffee
Doing puzzles, especially hand-done puzzles or building something.
This is also why “the pomodoro technique” works for so many people. Working for 25 minutes, then taking a break for 5 minutes, is called one “pomodoro”. And after several pomodoros, take a longer break.
For more info on the focused vs. diffse mode of the brain for learning, creativity, problem solving, check out this 8 minute talk — https://youtu.be/1FvYJhpNvHY
I encourage you to get clear today about how you do your own “frequent creative rest”. Borrow whatever ideas resonate with you from this post, and ensure that you are practicing the frequent self-care or “creative rest” that will help you to be more joyfully productive!