Dr. Karl Albrecht wrote an article for Psychology Today about the “Eureka Moment”, explaining that when we allow our brain to focus on something other than the problem at hand (or on nothing at all) we allow for “incubation”.
Large, complex problems are often too big for our conscious mind to process.
As we daydream or change to another task, our brain continues churning and working on the original problem, but behind the scenes.
And thus, the "Eureka!" or "Aha!" moment that we get after dozing off to sleep, in the shower, or out during a walk.
Since we're all about efficiency and productivity, we want to increase these Aha! moments. An article in the Harvard Business Review suggests a few ways. I've elaborated on them below.
If you have a schedule packed with meetings and events, make sure you take time for yourself. Undisturbed time away from noise can help spark creativity. Going for a walk (without your phone or music) can also help.
No music or phone, allow your brain to “idle”, Apparently alpha waves in our brain’s visual cortex signals reduced visual information, and that has been seen right before “aha” moments.
If you feel stuck on a certain “problem-solving pathway” and can’t see another way around, or are stuck in deliberations, take a step back and do something else.
Evaluating the information and then letting your brain consciously take on something else let’s the subconscious and nonconscious decision making to keep churning.
Exercise is a great way to "focus on something else".
You can also switch to a different type of task – if you’re frustrated with coding, try writing.
Anxiety creates “noise” in our brain, which is the “enemy of creativity”. Take a break from a big decision that is stressing you out – do something social, or even take a nap, to help improve your mood.
capturing eureka moments
Now for some practical advice. If you have a Eureka moment, how can you capture it?
Alice Munro, Nobel for Literature winner in 2013, advises keeping a voice recorder (or using voice notes on a smartphone) to record ideas as they occur. You can refer to them later on when you sit down to write, but won’t lose that inspiration of the moment.
Similar to the "Manage anxiety" tip, doing a "brain dump" before you go to sleep at night is a great idea. It allows you to empty all of the tasks and to-do's on your mind.
Quote of the Day
“Creativity is when intelligence has fun."
- Albert Einstein
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