When I was a teenager, I had to clean the kitchen after dinner each night. I dreaded the chore until I found a way of making it work for me. I’d kick everyone out of the room, shut the door and blare my music. While I cleaned, I noticed a shift in my mindset. Without the distractions of other people or TV, I was able to enter a deep thought process as I washed the dishes and swept the floor. I didn’t have to think about how my hands move in order to scrub the plates clean, or how to hold the sweeping brush properly – that all happened automatically. As I cleaned I was able to come up with ideas and solutions for whatever problems I was dealing with at the time. The banal act of cleaning ended up being an important source of creativity and reflection for me.
When we’re engaged in tasks that don’t require much thought, such as folding laundry or filling out spreadsheets, our automatic level of consciousness is engaged. It’s as if we go on autopilot. In this mindframe, our brains are able to connect unrelated ideas. Our conscious mind is liberated and as a result our creativity and problem-solving abilities expand.
In fact, boring tasks have been neurologically proven to boost creativity. In 2013, Dr Sandi Mann asked 40 people to spend 15 minutes copying out numbers from a phone book. After, she presented them with two cups and asked the group to come up with as many different uses as possible for them. Another group skipped the boring task and just worked on the cups. In the end, the group that had to do 15 minutes of banal work was able to come up with much more uses for the cups, and their solutions were also more creative.
Boring tasks breed creativity but activities like checking your phone or scrolling through social media have the opposite effect. As you jump from device to device or hop between Facebook and Instagram, your stream of consciousness gets constantly interrupted. It becomes impossible to focus, let alone think creatively. So, if you’re looking for solutions for your business, or ideas for your next innovation, put your phone away and do some housework. Your mind will expand and you’ll soon find what you’ve been looking for.
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