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How Being ‘Busy’ Is Killing Our Creativity


I talked to one friend the other day and she mentioned that she waits for the day when there will be autonomous cars and there would be no accidents caused by distracted drivers.

This comment caught my attention and I asked myself: if that was true, does having a yet another place that we can be distracted would worsen our social and mental health?

It is true that little to no good comes from distraction, and yet we seem unable to focus our full attention on a certain task. Recent research shows that our creativity suffers the most when it comes to being constantly busy. The ability to switch between daydreaming and focus is one of the most important skills that is greatly reduced by busyness.

“The idea is to balance linear thinking—which requires intense focus—with creative thinking, which is borne out of idleness. Switching between the two modes seems to be the optimal way to do good, inventive work,” says Emma Seppala from Stanford.

The neuroscientist Daniel Levitin has also stated the similar in his book “The Organized Mind.” The overload of information kills not only our willpower but our creativity as well.

He says that creativity requires often hitting the reset button – finding time to just lay around and do nothing. This cannot be done when our mind is constantly busy and we are always busy doing something.

When every free second – in line, at a break, waiting at a red light – we are reaching for the phone, our brain gets accustomed to being constantly stimulated so we get annoyed when we don’t get that input. It’s like we have become addicted to being constantly busy. And that is dangerous for our quality of life.

And we all know that the world’s greatest minds made their discoveries while not doing anything at all. For instance, Tesla had his insight on rotating magnetic fields while he enjoyed a leisure time walking in Budapest. Einstein listened to Mozart on the breaks from his intense working sessions.

So, what can we do about this? And, most importantly, how can we manage to disconnect in a time when our family, friends, and colleagues are demanding our presence? Here are 4 suggestions by Seppala:

  1. Take long walks (without your phone!) every day.
  2. Make time for games and having fun.
  3. Leave your comfort zone.
  4. Shift between things that need your focus and things that are less demanding intellectually.

Finally, research finds that the fear of missing out increases our anxiety levels and severely damages our health in the long run. And the thing that suffers the most during this process is our creative thinking.

So, regardless of your job or your personality, make sure to always find time to chill and relax. Try to resist your urge to reach for your phone to check your Instagram or Twitter. Use that time to regain your creativity levels.

Good luck. 🙂