We've all had a few genius ideas strike at random times, like when you're in the shower or making lunch. A new study from the University of California explains why this happens, and how you can make it happen more often.
Photo by Ben Chau.
The study consisted of 145 university students who were asked to perform two creative tasks and then take a break. Some took a break involving another demanding activity, some took a break in which they merely rested, and the last group took a break in which they performed an undemanding activity known to promote mind wandering. After their break, they performed a creative task again -- and the latter group outperformed the others by 41 per cent. However, they only outperformed the other groups when performing the same creative tasks they worked on before their break:
"The implication is that mind-wandering was only helpful for problems that were already being mentally chewed on. It didn't seem to lead to a general increase in creative problem-solving ability," says [researcher Benjamin ]Baird.
So, while we know that breaks can be good for your productivity, this shows that there's a perfect time to schedule those breaks: after you've already done a little bit of work on a project. If you take a break that promotes a bit of mind wandering, you're more likely to get struck by that great idea you've been waiting for. Hit the link for more details about the study.
Why Great Ideas Come When You Aren't Trying [Nature.com]