This may seem like a big departure from what I usually share in this space. What in the world does “rest” have to do with visual marketing? Stick with me. I think you’ll be glad you did.
I have a confession to make. I’ve been secretly studying creativity and how to boost creativity for years now. It started out of necessity. Working in a profession where my job performance is tied directly to building graphics and generating new ideas, it can be a struggle to be creative on a consistent basis.
So I’ve made it my mission to learn what it takes to “hack” my creativity and find ways to kick-start those creative juices when the well runs dry. One of the biggest hacks I’ve discovered is the importance of rest and relaxation.
The big reason I started studying how rest leads to greater creativity was because of a book my pal Erik Fisher sent me called (affiliate link) Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
In the book, he breaks down rest by sharing these four main insights.
Work and rest are partners.
Rest is active.
Rest is a skill.
Deliberate rest stimulates and sustains creativity.
This last point is what really caught my eye. It seems that no matter how much the #hustle culture or the #nosleep blowhards on Instagram and Twitter would have you believe, there really is no trade-off to overwork. Long work hours don’t make you more successful. Instead, no rest makes you tired, sick, and uncreative.
Scientific studies have actually shown that creativity takes place when the mind is at rest. Overwork dulls your creativity.
So, as creatives looking to get a leg up on becoming more productive, here are some steps we can take to boost our creativity using rest.
Nap time is time well spent
Did you know that Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, and Leonardo Da Vinci were all power nappers? One of my favorite bloggers, Michael Hyatt tries to take a nap every day!
Have you ever noticed when you have a problem or creative roadblock that after a nap you have a “Eureka!” moment? It seems that science is showing that napping can help with creative problem-solving.
Napping can help with memory as well. Pang writes in his book: “Regular napping can also improve memory. Just as the brain uses a good night’s sleep to fix memories, so too does it use naps to consolidate things you’ve just learned. Neuroscientist Sara Mednick found that napping for an hour or more during the day – a nap long enough to allow one to dream – improves performance on memory and perceptual tasks.”
Seems like our kindergarten teacher had it right. Naps are good for you. Now if we could only get those blue rest mats in adult sizes. Graham Crackers and milk wouldn’t hurt either.
Go for a walk
“The morning constitutional” didn’t use to mean stumbling to the bathroom half awake first thing in the morning. It actually used to mean “morning walk that was good for your health.” We got lazy and our walks were shortened to the outhouse in the morning. Walking and thinking have been companions since ancient times.
After a session of walking and discussion, Stanford scientists realized even though it was common knowledge that walking stimulates creativity, that no one had ever really measured it. They found that subjects performed better on tests that measured creative thinking while walking. Walking lets the creative part of the mind do its own thing and lets “more ideas to bubble up.”
One of the key things for creatives when walking is to capture the information as it comes. Beethoven carried paper and pencil on his walks. Lin-Manual Miranda did the same when working on the lyrics to Hamilton.
Schedule walks as part of your work day. Take a short break to walk around the block when you get stumped with a problem. Capture those ideas! Carrying a pen and paper is too bulky for me (plus I always forget them) I use apps like Evernote when I need to capture ideas or thoughts.
Deep Play is as important as work
Play isn’t just for little kids with action figures or big kids with trust funds. Deep Play is a tool that we can use to become more creative. Mr. Pang shares four characteristics of Deep Play.
Deep Play is mentally absorbing.
Deep Play offers a new context in which to use some of the same skills from their day job.
Deep Play offers some of the same rewards as their day job, but also offers different, clearer rewards.
Deep Play builds on things from the person’s past.
“Creative people don’t engage in deep play despite their high levels of activity and productivity; they’re active and productive because of deep play.”
I’ve actively worked on increasing my deep play time and can honestly say that I’ve seen some tremendous results.
I’ve taken to wood carving just to do something away from being in front of a screen all day. My sleep has been better and my creative production has been up since I’ve taken the time to “unwind” at the end of the day by slowing down and doing some carving.
Think about what you could do for some “Deep Play” time. Painting? Sculpting? Creative writing? Many people say “I just don’t have time for that.” How much time are you watching television? I’ll bet you could cut that time in half and make some time for Deep Play that is fulfilling and would boost your creativity.
Go to bed
If we are all honest with ourselves, we know that we need more rest. Sleep experts are saying that we need more rest and reports show that we are actually getting less. Sleep is essential for the well-being of our creative mind and body. Skipping sleep not only causes us to be no fun to be around but can also be harmful to our health. Here are some tips to get a better night’s sleep.
Put away the screens. Sleep experts are recommending putting away blue-light emitting devices one hour before bed.
Put your phone in another room. The anxiety of always being connected leads to lower sleep quality. If your using phone as your alarm, instead buy a cheap old-fashioned alarm clock. If that’s not an option, at least move your phone away from your bedside so the temptation to check it is diminished.
Make work/reading places separate from your sleep area. I have been reading in bed since Encyclopedia Brown and Danny Dunn and the Smallifying Machine It’s a hard habit to break. But when I read in a separate area and then go to bed, I find I fall asleep faster and seem to have a higher quality of sleep.
Try different sleep hacks that you’ve never tried before. Lower the temperature, get new sheets or a pillow. I’ve just recently discovered (affiliate link) weighted blankets! My sleep has never been better.