A psychologist explains why people get their best ideas in the shower
Last year, psychologist Ron Friedman, founder of Ignite80 and author of "The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace," organized an online summit on peak work performance, featuring his discussions with 26 of the world's top productivity experts, including Daniel Pink, Gretchen Rubin, Adam Grant, Susan Cain, and Scott Barry Kaufman.
The study "highlights the importance of relaxation for creative thinking," Kaufman told Friedman.
"The relaxing, solitary, and non-judgmental shower environment may afford creative thinking by allowing the mind to wander freely, and causing people to be more open to their inner stream of consciousness and daydreams," he said
Friedman asked: "How can I use this idea that daydreaming can beneficial in my everyday work? Should I set aside time for daydreaming, or should I embrace it when it happens? What do you recommend?"
"You want to make sure that you make time and room for solitude. That can take a lot of forms, like taking a daily stroll to reconfigure your brain and get off the path that you have been working on the past hour or two. It could involve a daydreaming room that locks out the external noise.
"I've done some research on showering. We did a multinational study and found that people reported more creative inspiration in their showers than they did at work. That's really telling about how we think and find creativity."
He said it's very important to insulate yourself as much as possible from external distractions.
Courtesy of Ron Friedman
Friedman also chatted with Brigid Schulte, author of "Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time," who agreed with Kaufman.
"It's a very American thing; we want to be the best and we want to be hardworking, and I'm all for that," she said. "I'm not for us all becoming slackers, although strategic slacking is very important because it allows mind wandering, which is where you're going to get your best insights. Your best insights come in the shower for a reason - your brain is wired for that to happen."
Todd Henry, author of "The Accidental Creative" shared his own thoughts on the topic.
He told Friedman:
"On a vineyard, one of the primary roles of the vine keeper is to regularly prune areas of perfectly good fruit. They have to be disciplined about pruning that growth. If they don't, eventually the vine will shoot for the median. There are not enough resources to support that much fruit on the vine. So they have to be careful about pruning the vine so that the best fruit, the more productive parts of the vine, are getting the resources that they need.
"In the same way, as creative professionals, we all struggle with new fruit on our vine. We struggle with new ideas, new projects, and new things we want to pursue. We're terrible at saying no. If we're squeezing all of the white space out of our lives by filling it with activity, if we're not pruning and saying no to things on occasion, then we're not going to have the space that we need to innovate or think. We're not going to have those moments of serendipity or those insights that are just hanging there. We have to manage our energy and create space in our lives. This allows us to bring the best of who we are to what we do."
Friedman said he has heard this described among psychologists as having "cognitive surplus."
"You need to create that space in your life, and that's often what happens when we go into the shower," he said. "It's one of those few moments when we're not tied to our devices, so we have that extra space to find connections between ideas. If we're not allowing that to happen in our lives, it's just never going to work."
To watch The Peak Work Performance Summit, click here.
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