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Being busy is killing our ability to think creatively

One of the biggest sufferers in this busy world of ours today is creativity. The ability to switch from being focused to being distracted has taken a big hit due to the insufferably busy lives that we lead. Stanford’s Emma Seppala writes that being able to alternate between “linear thinking, (which requires intense focus) and creative thinking, (which has its roots in idleness), seems to be the optimal way to do good, inventive work.”
In his book, The Organized Mind, neuroscientist Daniel Levitin came to a similar conclusion. He states that too much information saps the brain of its willpower and creativity. As compared to 25 years ago, Americans in 2011, absorbed five times as much information which was detrimental to creativity. Levitin, writes: “Creativity engages the brain’s daydreaming mode directly and stimulates the free flow and association of ideas, forging links between concepts and neural modes that might not otherwise be made.”
To be able to engage creatively one needs to be able to slow down, to meditate, to stare into space and generally do nothing. This is becoming an impossibility with our constant need to reach for the phone. All the spare time we have is spent talking or playing around with this device. As such, the brain gets used to constant stimulation and when you’re at a loose end, rather than engaging in something creative, we tend to get irritable for want of something to do.

Seppala draws our attention to the fact that many of the world’s brightest minds made huge discoveries when they were sitting around idle. Newton discovered gravity while lying under an apple tree and Nikola Tesla came up with the discovery of rotating magnetic fields when he was out on a leisurely stroll in Budapest. Einstein too indulged in listening to Mozart when he needed a break.
Journalist Michael Harris writes at The End of Absence that we give more importance to unimportant transient sensations instead of valuing what matters. He states that we probably need to “engineer scarcity in our communications.”
Seppala has four suggestions for disconnecting and rejuvenating creativity. She suggests
  • A long walk minus your phone should be a part of your everyday regime
  • Breaking out of your comfort zone to do something different
  • Taking time out to have fun and play
  • Striking a balance between intellectually demanding activities and those that require less focus
Cal Newport, author of Deep Work is in agreement with the last point. He says that
“Spend enough time in a state of frenetic shallowness and you permanently reduce your capacity to perform deep work.”
This ugly truth is bad for the creative minded. One needs a flexible outlook which is open to new ideas rather than clogging it down with the constant need to stay up-to-date on social media.

Being busy is killing our ability to think creatively Being busy is killing our ability to think creatively Reviewed by Tim on January 27, 2019 Rating: 5

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