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Unplug to Enhance Your Creativity

Unplug to Enhance Your Creativity

Anuradha Mayer | Excelle

October 06, 2008

A group of professionals was recently asked what they are typically doing when they get their best ideas or when they feel the most creative. Across the board, all of them said they were engaged in non-work related activities. Many of the activities were physical, such as running, yoga, gardening or playing sports. And other activities included hobbies, vacations, spending time with family and friends. Not one person amongst the group said they were at work when they felt most creative.

Research shows that there is a strong link between creativity and ‘unplugging,’ or getting time away from work. Think about the last time you felt in-the-zone at work. Most likely, you were in a refreshed state. Many professionals go for months, or even years, without a vacation or even a day off, which often leads to decreased effectiveness at work, and worst case, burnout.

To enhance our creativity, we need to find ways to truly ‘unplug.’ In her book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Betty Edwards writes that “the creative [process] occurs largely on the unconscious level and often when we are doing something called thinking aside, which means we are not actively seeking answers or results.” In another book, Power of Full Engagement, the authors discuss how “the highest form of creativity depends on a rhythmic movement between engagement and disengagement, thinking and letting go, activity and rest.”

The world continues to become more complex and fast-paced. Understandably, getting downtime has become more challenging. It seems that at any given moment, in any given place, there are people working on laptops, or emailing and texting from their mobile phones. Though it’s easy to forget, being able to get time away is, indeed, within our control. Consider a few simple strategies in your quest to unplug and tap into your creativity:

Reflect on what works.

What do you do now to unplug, and how much time do you set aside each week? What changes could you make to devote more time, if needed? What activities do you find particularly nurturing? One of my clients uses his commute home to unplug from work, deciding to sing along to music instead of talking on the phone. By the time he arrives, he has left work behind and can be fully present with his family.

Try something new.

As humans, we tend to be creatures of habit. When was the last time you tried something new to get some R&R? Perhaps it is time for a new hobby or vacation spot. Recently, I spent a week at a wonderful spa in Mexico. The combination of hiking, yoga, soaking in the hot springs, spa treatments, organic food and friendly people was extremely nurturing. There were no phones, TVs or wireless access in any of the rooms, which made for the perfect environment to really unplug.

Let it go, and truly unplug.

A vacation away or even just a day off can do wonders when we can fully unplug. Schedule routine chores at other times so that the time off can be totally focused on R&R. Avoid the temptation to check email and voicemail during your time off — it is too easy to get caught up in what is happening at work. Remember that the time off will allow you to come up with creative solutions and more effectively manage challenges when you return.

Enhanced creativity and higher performance is just one of the benefits of getting some downtime. Other benefits include improved immune system, stronger relationships and a more fulfilling life. Whether it is taking a vacation, going for a walk or playing with your kids, how will you unplug?

Share: How do YOU unplug?


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