If you’re engaged in creative problem solving, you’re more likely to be successful when you have some downtime in which your brain is focused on something else. So allow for breaks, but understand that not all breaks are created equal. Here are three tips for taking effective breaks when you’re engaged in solving problems that require creativity.
1: Get the Timing Right – Creative problem solving requires insight, to relate things in a non-typical way or see novel ways of using them, and your mind has to be ready to receive the insight. The insight often occurs during a break away from the problem, but it requires that you’ve gathered comprehensive information about the problem and you’ve given it some thought, prior to the break. The most effective time to take a break is often when you’ve explored all possibilities and reached an impasse. If you head out for a break at the same time every day, you’re probably not making the most effective use of break time.
2: Engage in an Arousing Activity – Creative insights are more likely to occur when you’re engaged in an activity that distracts you from the work problem and keeps you emotionally stimulated. Rather than sitting around sipping coffee or taking a nap, engage in an exciting task that occupies your attention. Playful tasks, such as a game of ping pong or playing a musical instrument, are great choices because they take your mind away from the problem while keeping you emotionally energized. Make sure the break is filled with an activity that evokes positive emotions, not negative, because positivity contributes to creativity . If losing a game of ping pong makes you frustrated, choose something else (or make sure you win).
3: Diffuse Your Attention – Your ability to solve a creative problem is enhanced when you can think of expanded possibilities and connections. Breaks can free up your conscious mind to allow other possibilities to enter, but only when your attention is diffused. When you perform a cognitively demanding task, such as solving a complex brain teaser, your entire attention shifts to that task, leading to a narrow rather than diffused focus. When you’re engaged in such a task, it’s difficult for new possibilities to enter your mind. Again, playful tasks are a great choice because when you’re playing, your mind is open and wandering more freely.
As we learn more from neuroscience about the incredible power of emotions in teams, we see reasons to adopt techniques beyond the ordinary. For more on shaping team emotions to increase creativity and achievement, get notified of the upcoming book Primal Teams: Harnessing the Incredible Power of Group Energy or sign up for a monthly summary of articles.Share