Creativity Requires Passive Thinking Time
If we want to create something no one else has created before, we need to think of things that no one has thought of before. Thinking of things that no one has thought of before requires thinking time. It would be nice if we can just schedule an hour to invent our new idea, then sit down during that hour and accomplish it. However, our best ideas do not come on a schedule.
Our best ideas usually come during, what I call, passive thinking time. Passive thinking occurs almost subconsciously. We can't plan passive thinking time. It occurs as we let our mind wander, while we are driving, walking, and doing "mundane" tasks like the dishes, showering, etc. It is during this time that our mind can explore new ideas that we haven't thought about before. Then, later, when we get time to work on our project, we can implement the ideas we have created.
In order to be creative, we need this passive thinking time. Most people make a few additions or revisions to a project they are working on, then take a break, and come back to add some more. What most successful problem solvers do while taking a break is passively think about the next problem they need to solve.
However, if our break time only consists of looking at a screen, we won't spend a lot of time thinking about the next task we need to accomplish. Instead, our efforts will be distracted. If we find something that interests us on social media, news sites, or TV shows, our "subconscious" will focus on solving problems we can do little about. Instead of inventing our next step, we will focus on the distraction and put our passive problem solving effort towards the distraction.
For example, if we read a political news story that upsets us, we will try to come up with a counter argument. If we find a sad story on social media, we will try to come up with a way to fix it. If we see a cool picture of someone's vacation, we will try to figure out how we can go on that vacation.
Now, I am not suggesting that successful problem solvers always think about their projects. But I am saying that a large portion of our efforts need to be focused on our problems and not on distractions. What we need is undistracted time set aside when we can let our creative, subconscious mind work for what we want most.
We also need passive thinking time to hear the whisperings of the spirit, that can help guide us to better solutions. Elder Ballard said (in April 2018), "If we do not find time to unplug, we may miss opportunities to hear the voice of Him who said, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Palms 46:10) Now, there is nothing wrong with taking advantage of the advances in the technologies inspired by the Lord, but we must be wise in their use." Our challenge is retain our creativity with these devices.
Intent Driven Device Usage
We need is to be in charge of how we use our devices, and not let our devices control us. In order to achieve maximum effectiveness we need two things:
- When it is time to work, we need to make sure that our devices will not distract us from the task at hand.
- We need passive thinking time. We need to be bored so our minds can passively solve the problems we are focusing on.
What that means is that we need to be wise in how we use our devices, as stated by Elder Ballard (above). So here is my "Be Bored Challenge".
- Set a time limit on how much time you want to spend on social media, news sites, and other distractions. Decide when the best time is to visit these sites, and make rules about not visiting these sites outside of those times. Use apps and settings to enforce these rules if you cannot keep them by yourself.
- Turn off all notifications that are not urgent so that you will not be pulled in to a distraction.
- Make sure you have plenty of passive thinking time.
- Don't use your device during meals, bathroom trips, while walking to places, etc.
- Don't use your device while in a conversation with other people.
- Have defined unplugged time every day.
- Don't check your device for the first 30 minutes to 1 hour after you have woken up. That way you can passively solve the problems you feel are most important to you.
- Make sure you find healthy ways to replace the "excitement" (or dopamine) you used to get from your device. Exercise, talk with others, and most importantly - create something.
Tools to Help
- iOS 12 will come with a new feature that will allow you to set time limits on apps and plan for distraction free time. For Android devices, search for an app that can do the same thing.
- WasteNoTime is a browser extension that works in Chrome and Safari, and allows you to set time limits on websites you visit. If also has a lockdown mode that will block sites for an adjustable amount of time.
Leave other tools you find in the comments.