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4 Places to Find Big Ideas

Need to stop fighting fires and find time to think deeply? Here are four activities that can help even the busiest people make space in their schedule for big ideas.

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Business owners face a conundrum: The day-to-day functioning of your company keeps you super busy, so busy in fact that you generally have little time for the type of deep, strategic thinking on which the long-term success of your business depends.

You have to fight fires now, but saving your business from the current flames can leave it vulnerable to a slow death by stagnation over the long term. 

So what can you do to find time in your hectic day to clear you brain and think deep deeply about the future of your business? Author and entrepreneur Ben Casnocha has a few suggestions based on the psychological truth that we often get our best ideas when our brains are engaged in minimally taxing activities. A reality many of us experience in real life as the shower inspiration effect.

A steaming bathroom is just relaxing enough, and remembering to put the conditioner on after the shampoo just mentally engaging enough, that the rest of your brain is free of tension and self-policing chatter and can range widely to come up with your most creative ideas. (If you want the details of the neuroscience, this post is for you.) It worked for Archimedes and no doubt it's worked for you. Plus, even the busiest entrepreneur definitely finds time to squeeze a shower into their schedule now and then.

So what are some other ways to get into that chilled out but slightly engaged mindset? Casnocha seconds the usual suggestion of the extra long shower ("You’re free from distraction, you’re engaged in a monotonous activity that doesn’t require active focus, and you’re in a different environment. Sounds like the perfect place for a creative thought," he writes) and then offers four more activities that actually fit into your schedule and which you can re-imagine not as chores or lost time but as opportunities for inspiration:

Drive to and from the office. Driving a familiar route = good thinking time. “When Joan Didion moved from California to New York, she realized that she had done much of her thinking and mental writing during the long drives endogenous to the Californian lifestyle,” Steve Dodson once noted. I’m the same. I can’t tell you how many decent thoughts I’ve concocted in my head while driving on the 101 or 280 freeways in the Bay Area.

Take your dog for a walk. Same as driving, but safer.

Stare out of airplane windows. Travel journeys of any sort are the midwives of thought. “Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than moving planes, ships, or trains…Introspective reflections that might otherwise be liable to stall are helped along by the flow of the landscape,” says Alain de Botton.

Organize your office/room/house. Tidy up documents, pick up around the floor, rearrange books. It’s an excellent foil to serious thinking.

What activities double as deep thinking time for you, and should you make better uses of these pauses in your day?

 

IMAGE: dgmiami/Flickr
Last updated: Mar 15, 2013

JESSICA STILLMAN is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.
@EntryLevelRebel




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