Have you ever felt hopelessly stuck on a business issue? It's so frustrating when you know there's a solution, but you just can't reach it. Lately, I've been in that situation, and my normal methods of problem-solving weren't getting me where I needed to go. So today I gave up. Instead of fretting, I put everything on pause, closed my computer, and took a long, hot bath. As it turns out, that may be the best kind of thing you can do when you're mystified by what to do next or how to overcome your latest obstacle. Taking time to yourself increases productive, creativity, and helps reduce stress. Although talking through your issues can be effective, it may not be the best way to approach all of your business problems. As other authors have pointed out, there are lots of studies (spanning a 50-year period) that indicate that brainstorming alone is much more effective than brainstorming as a group. This research suggests that ideas and solutions may come to us faster when we are completely alone and uninterrupted. In one study, they found that the most productive people had quite a few things in common: their workspace was quiet, private, and they could avoid interruptions--including phone calls. My alone time is also a time for meditation. Meditation has been shown in numerous studies to reduce stress and relax the mind and body. As long as you are brainstorming and not fretting, then your alone time can be relaxing and productive. Of course, allowing yourself the time and space to think about your problems gives you the opportunity to become proactive instead of simply reactive--by avoiding only reacting to a problem when you absolutely must. If you're working from an office instead of at home, a bath may not be the best solution, so how else can you incorporate undisturbed time for brainstorming into your workweek?
- Take your lunch break.
People who actually take their lunch break tend to be more productive during the rest of the day. It also helps avoid long-term burn out and fatigue. It will replenish energy and boost your mood so you can be productive for the rest of the day. If you don't want to just sit at your desk and think, try taking a walk, sneaking in a quick nap, or doing some stretches. For some, just chewing and thinking is a great way to relax and brainstorm.
- Schedule your brainstorming time.
Sometimes you just need to block out time to think about the issues bothering you. Pick a time when you don't have any meetings or clients, block out your shared calendar, and close your door. Let your coworkers know that you are not accepting phone calls and turn off your cell phone. Just take an hour to be completely alone and think. Get comfortable by moving to your office couch or simply putting your feet on your desk. You'll be amazed at the solutions you develop.
- Sneak in early.
It might be a good idea to plan a once a week meeting with yourself before everyone gets to the office. The empty office lessens the guilt that you may feel if you choose to shut the door during the day, and it can really get you focused. Coming in early also avoids the fatigued feeling that you would have if you were trying to do the same thing at the end of the day. The quiet before the storm can be very energizing. Planning your day and the week ahead can make you feel like you are on top of your game, which is a fantastic way to start your week. Personally, I know that if I don't meditate or take my quiet time in the morning, I'll rarely fit it into the rest of my day. Taking a midday bath isn't for everyone, but one way or another, taking some time to yourself will help you be more creative and calm. Your mind is a critical asset to your business and private brainstorming time cleans out the cobwebs. You owe it to yourself, your business, and your clients to keep clear and focused.