Our circadian rhythm dictates the time of day we’re most likely to be most creative.
Unfortunately, many creatives find that their best ideas come to them in the evenings or late at night, and that trying to force creativity during the work day is more likely to produce stress than a valuable design or article idea.
We all know that stress and frustration are creativity-killers, and that’s why it’s important to stop forcing creativity when it’s not happening. For many people, peak cognitive time and peak creative time don’t coincide — but that doesn’t have to be a problem. Here’s how to work out your most creative time of day, and how to put it to good use:
Get enough sleep
If your sleep schedule is out of whack, it’s easy to assume you’re a night owl, and that you work best after midnight. For some people, this may be the case, but others will find that getting to bed earlier on a regular basis will actually bring that creative peak forward a few hours, so you’re at your best late evening instead of late at night. You can then go to bed earlier, and will find that the first half of the work day doesn’t seem to drag quite so much.
Listen to your body
If coming up with new ideas is near impossible in the afternoon, then don’t worry about it. Focus on what you can do — you’ll save time, because you won’t be searching hopelessly for an idea that isn’t there. As long as you’re aware of when you think best creatively, and set this time aside, you’ll be fine.
Don’t think during creative time
Say you’re most creative in the early evening. Rather than sitting down at your desk and repeating ‘I need an idea’ over and over in your head until you panic, stop, and engage in another activity that allows your brain to relax. Household chores, like folding washing or rearranging a bookshelf, are great for this. If you’ve ever had a good idea in the shower, you’ll understand the importance of working on autopilot — you’re not really thinking of anything, but your brain is working to solve creative problems without you even realising it.
Break up your day
Your brain needs time to switch gears, so don’t expect to finish one project and go straight onto the next. Likewise, emailing clients all morning and then sitting down to think up an idea is not going to do you much good. Have a nap, or go for a walk — and if you can’t do either, just put on some relaxing music and sit in the dark with your eyes closed for five minutes. Don’t think about what you have to do next, just let your mind relax and refresh itself before you go onto your next task.
Make use of useless days
Didn’t sleep well last night? Under the weather? Had one drink at lunchtime, and now feeling ready to crash? Instead of writing the day off, give yourself permission to skip all cognitive tasks and just let yourself be creative. Being sleepy, groggy, or even a little drunk can actually help you make connections that you wouldn’t normally make, and although you might not be up to writing a brochure or designing a website, you’re probably still capable of coming up with ideas you can use later. And if not? Just rest. Relaxing is good for creativity, too.
- License: Creative Commons image source
By Sam Wright
Sam Wright works for Brand Republic. As a freelance writer, he understands the importance of making good use of your creative time.