How did it get to be the Tuesday after Labor Day already? I hope all of you in the US were able to take a break and enjoy the long weekend. If you found yourself reading your work email, putting together a project that is due this week or generally spending more time thinking about work than enjoying your weekend, read on. You might be surprised to learn how taking time away from what you have to do will actually help you accomplish it more quickly.
Your brain is amazing. It processes untold amounts of incoming information, handles keeping your body running and creates, solves and outputs the things you need to accomplish your day’s activities. Pretty much anything you ask it provides without ever breaking a sweat. All the while, in the background, it is working on whatever problems you have given it. But sometimes, we become so focused on a single solution that we don’t allow our powerful brains to do their best work.
When I was a pre-teen my aunt was trying to teach my mother how to create a french braid using me has the practice head. I sat as patiently as a pre-teen girl can listening to the instructions and feeling my aunt’s fingers run through my hair. They took the braid out and my mom tried. Again I listened as my aunt gave my mom feedback. That night I thought about what I had heard and felt. I tried to think about what it looked like and how the motion would have to be different if I were braiding my own hair. In the morning I decided to try it. Guess what? I could french braid having never done it before! Simply giving my mind time to work on it in my sleep had made it happen.
The same is true of work projects or the logistics of a play. Give your mind all of the facts and then step away. Spend some time doing something mindless and relaxing. That doesn’t mean a different project, answering your phone or plowing through countless emails. Go for a bike ride, wash your car, take a nap, have lunch. Give your mind some quiet time to put the pieces together. You will be surprised what you can figure out when you are not actually thinking about it.
If you have never used this technique, you may have to be patient with yourself. Many of us don’t give our minds a break even when we are on vacation. If you are person who never gives your mind any down time, you may have a backlog of things it is working on.
Scheduling regular downtime into your week will allow your mind to function at its peak. If you have team of people, giving them time away from each other and a problem will help them create unique solutions. When you go back to focusing on the issue the new ideas will move you forward faster than you could if you had been thinking intently on the problem the whole time.
What is your experience with finding a solution to something when you aren’t thinking about it? Let us know!
Did you miss last week? You can learn why panic is not a fallback plan here.