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Thinking Time: Your Key to Creativity and Business Success

Creativity is something we usually associate with artists as they are the ones in whom our human need of expressing ourselves is powerful. However, the truth is that we’re all naturally creative, regardless of the profession.

Even the Oxford dictionary doesn’t limit the creativity to certain types of work. It says that creativity is “the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness.”

To put it differently and use Mary Lou Cook’s words:

“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.”

I love this definition as it captures the essence of creativity and shows that it’s all around us propelling innovation.

Unless you are an artist, do you consider your day to day life as creative? No? Then look at this list:

–    maybe you put together an outfit in a combination you haven’t tried before;

–    or cooked up a delicious meal without using a recipe but inspired by the leftovers in the fridge;

–    or came up with a faster and better way to do things at work;

–    or better yet thought of a brand-new service/ product for your clients.

As I think about it, without creating that ultimately leads to innovation, no business can live, grow, and prosper long term. Wouldn’t you agree?

Therefore, for us, leaders of our businesses, nurturing creativity should be one of the top priorities.

And in case you think that you don’t have the talent to do it, the research shows that creativity, as we defined it here, has nothing to do with genes.  As Dr. Robert Epstein, an American psychologist, professor, author, says: “There’s not really any evidence that one person is inherently more creative than another.”

What’s known though is that stress and fast pace of our daily lives kill our creative thinking abilities. In other words, days filled with stuff to do from dusk to dawn leave no room for our mind to wander, be free and have time to come up with new ideas.

Nevertheless, there’s good news here.
The simplest solution to this problem is to allow ourselves some free time to do nothing in particular and daydream.

4 T’s: Take Time To Think

I’m sure that if you’re a parent or have been around kids you know already that it’s great for the kids to be bored from time to time. When my kids have such time, they can up with the most fascinating ideas. Some of which are great to watch, and some not so great (for me 😊) to clean after.

The thing is, as adults, we need to allow ourselves to do the same!

Did you know that Bill Gates, the founder and former CEO of Microsoft, would go off-grid twice a year for what he called a “Think Week”? He would spend that time entirely alone, disconnected, reading, writing, and thinking. Such week was his planned time to think creatively.

So, I am challenging you to do start this practice too! It doesn’t have to be a full week at a time. Maybe just a couple of hours on Friday afternoons, or the weekend, or any other day that works for you.

And better yet! If you can spend some of that time in nature, you’ll benefit even more.

Time in Nature Boosts Creative Thinking

David Strayer, a neuroscientist from Utah,  has found through his research on the psychological and cognitive effects of the outdoors, that time spent in nature enhances higher-order thinking, restores attention, and boosts creativity. In his 2012 study, for example, Strayer found that backpackers performed two times better at creative problem solving after they had spent four days out on the trail.

I can personally, attest to the findings of Strayer’s research.  I love spending time in nature and have seen all those positive effects in me every time I do that.

“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” Friedrich Nietzsche

And in case you are still not convinced to my Take Time to Think mantra, there is more! Here are additional positive effects to spending time alone and daydreaming:

–    It deepens the spiritual part of us, our soul, that we often overlook during the “busy-ness” of our everyday lives ;

–    It frees us from needless worry and allows us to focus on more constructive pursuits; and

–    It’s fun! There’s nothing else like the “a-ha!” moment of creative illumination. Albert Einstein knew that and that’s how he defined it: “Creativity is intelligence having fun.”

All in all, we’re all creative human beings.

What differs is how we express it. Some of us are great artists, some brilliant entrepreneurs, and some inspiring athletes or organizational leaders. What we all have in common is that we need time to think. We need it as kids to grow and develop, and we need it as adults.

So tell me, do you already practice this? Do you take time to do nothing and daydream? If you do, that’s amazing! Please share your thoughts and experience with your practice in the comments!

If you don’t then my call to action for you this week is to try it. Starting this week, block couple of hours in your calendar to just do it.  It’s easy to remember 4 T’s mantra: “Take Time To Think.”

Schedule it, do it; take a journal and pen with you to write down any great ideas you come up with during this time. And finally, after you do it, I’d love to connect with you and learn how it went!

P.S. All the pictures in this post are from my private collection from times spent in nature.

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