It’s no secret that “sleeping on it” is a great way to give your brain the time to mull over a topic. Whether it’s a decision or a creative problem, a little distance is often all you need to make a breakthrough. But as 99U points out, just taking a break and changing tasks is often enough to spur creative thinking.
Picture: Matt MacGillivray/Flickr
In a study led my psychologist Ken Gilhooly, volunteers were put into groups where some did verbal tasks, while the others did spatial tasks. They found that when people switched from verbal to mental (or vice versa), they saw a boost in their creative problem-solving:
The take-home finding was that incubation breaks boosted creative performance, but only when the time was spent engaged in a different kind of mental activity. Participants who in the break switched from verbal to spatial, or from spatial to verbal, excelled when they returned to their main task — in terms of the number and quality of their solutions. The change in focus freed up their unconscious to spend the incubation period tackling the main challenge.
The implication here is that the next time you’re feeling burnt out at work, stop working on your project and do something completely different. Don’t just shuffle over to another similar creative task. For example, if you were writing, switch over to design or do a puzzle. If you’re designing, try writing something out.