How many of us can honestly say that we regularly take the time to just sit and dream? If you’re anything like me, you’re engaged in one activity or another from morning to night. And when a moment presents itself when we could simply stare into space e.g. waiting for a friend in a coffee shop or standing in line at the grocery store, we check our email or social media accounts.
With so many ways to stay connected and engaged, who has time to simply dream?
By creating space in our day to do nothing, we allow ideas to blossom and give our minds time to mull over and solve problems. It’s what Edward De Bono called the creative pause, the definition of which is “the shift from being fully engaged in a creative activity to being passively engaged, or the shift to being disengaged altogether” (Cameron Moll).
Just look at the daily routines of some of the most creative people of our time and you’ll see that everyone from Beethoven and Darwin to Thomas Mann and CS Lewis included some kind of creative pause, whether it was in the form of a walk or nap, into their daily routine.
So how can you build more creative pauses into your day? Here are some strategies I use:
1) Prioritize and protect downtime
It took me a long time to understand that when I’m happy, everyone else in my life is happy. It might feel noble to put oneself at the bottom of the list, but it’s actually a losing proposition for everyone. When you’re in good mental and physical shape, you’re in a much better position to do good for others.
2) Find a way to “passively engage”
Have you ever been out for a walk when, suddenly, the solution to a problem presents itself? Getting away from a challenge gives our mind a chance to wander and figure it out. Yoga or mediation might be your thing. My monkey mind responds better to a run or swim. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sketched out a talk, come up with ideas for my newsletter, or had a new business idea while out for a run. Try a few things out and see what works for you.
3) Sleep on it
When we sleep our subconscious mind resolves the problems or challenges we may have faced that day. It also gives us a great perspective. Instead of burning the midnight oil trying to hammer out a problem, sleep on it and come back with fresh eyes in the morning. More often than not, the solution comes more easily than you’d think.
Take an inventory of everything you do in your business and life and ask what’s crucial to your happiness and success and what you could let go of. For example, I used to work all day, race home to put my little boy to bed, and then cook dinner. Every night! For some reason, I felt that this was necessary for my family’s happiness (probably working mum guilt, but that’s a whole other post). Now I cook two big dishes on Sunday and I buy myself 5 extra hours of downtime a week. I’m happy to report that no one has starved to death yet.
5) Learn how to say “no”
Just because someone asks you to do something, doesn’t mean you’re obligated to do it. Learning how to politely decline requests can be tough at first, but I’ve always found honesty is the best policy. My usual response is “Thank you so much for thinking of me, but I’m stretched about as thin as I want to be right now. I wish you all the best in finding someone” (for more strategies on how to say “No” nicely click here)
6) Schedule it
I’ve learned that the only way things get done is if they are on my calendar (see, a doer!) Schedule your downtime, and make it a part of your daily/weekly routine.
7) Try a “technology Shabbat”
I first came across Tiffany Shlain’s concept in the fabulous 99U book, Manage Your Day to Day. She turns off all screens on Friday night and doesn’t start them back up until Saturday night. I must admit, I’ve not been consistent with this one, but when I pulled it off, I loved it.
Are you a dreamer or a doer? How does dreaming impact your life and career? I’d love to hear your stories or thoughts on today’s post. Please leave a comment below.