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Where to Find Your Next Idea

“I’m bored,” I sighed, almost every day of my adolescence. “There is nothing to do.”

Sound familiar?

Nowadays, I’d give anything to be bored. To have a large spans of time and space filled with nothing. It’s what bliss must feel like, I’m sure.

Why are we so clueless as young adults?

“I wish somebody would’ve told me, babe, that someday these’ll be the good old days.”

Turns out, boredom is crucial to creativity. Turns out an overbooked, overworked schedule crowds out innovation. Feeling stuck? Feeling burnt out? Feel like you’re out of ideas?

Where Ideas Come From

If you’ve ever caught yourself drifting off, “spacing out,” or daydreaming in the midst of an important task, your brain is taking a needed break. During mind-wandering, the brain doesn’t slow down. In fact, it’s quite active. The default mode network (DMN) in the brain is in full swing when you’re daydreaming.

“The DMN dives into our pasts, works through different future scenarios, and takes up problems that have eluded our conscious effort,” says Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of Why You Get More Done When You Work Less. “Whenever we have a brainstorm about how to solve a problem at work, or the answer to a question that’s been just out of reach pops into our heads, that’s the DMN at work.”

Pang discovered that highly creative adults structure their days to allow for both periods of intense focus and periods of deep mind-wandering.

You Need Down Time

Could being less busy mean you might be more productive? Does a full schedule mean you waste more time creating less impact? Do we have it all wrong in this go-go-go modern world? How will you find your next idea?

I’m not suggesting you cut your day in half (although I’m not ruling it out, either). But what’s clear is that we need more down time. Stop, look out the window, and let your mind go where it will. Do that a few times every day. Go for walks in the middle of a big project. Stare off into space when the moment allows (and even when the moment doesn’t allow).

Your next big idea is hiding where you aren’t looking for it. Every time.

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