These days, plenty of people are facing “involuntary entrepreneurship.”
They’ve lost their gig and need to reinvent themselves as self-sufficient solos or small business owners.
Others understand that “job security” has always been a myth and are simply sick of the crap that comes with working for others.
Regardless, all it takes is one good idea, right?
The temptation, especially when under pressure, is to work more, rest less… cranking away until you get that great idea.
Grind it out.
Sleep when you’re dead.
Sleeping Your Way to a Great Idea
Apple CEO Steve Jobs defines creativity as “just connecting things.” The notion that creativity results from seeing connections between seemingly unrelated things is spot on, and is an easier task for those with lower associative barriers.
In other words, the connections are always there, but it’s easier for some to see them than others. Why is that?
You’ve likely heard that an “incubation” period is critical to creativity and problem solving. Research now shows that sleep is a major facilitator to lowering associative barriers while you allow potential solutions to marinate:
Dr. Ellenbogen’s research at Harvard indicates that if an incubation period includes sleep, people are 33 percent more likely to infer connections among distantly related ideas, and yet, as he puts it, these performance enhancements exist “completely beneath the radar screen.”
In other words, people are more creative after sleep, but they don’t know it.
So sleep is crucial to creativity. But we don’t consciously realize it, and therefore discount the need for sleep when seeking a creative solution or innovative idea.
Getting enough sleep is the epitome of the cliché “work smarter, not harder.” You’re not doing yourself any favors when you burn the candle down to the wick, no matter how motivated you are. A single extraordinary idea is worth much more than thousands of hours of foolish productivity.
Hey, you’ve had worse news, right?
Become a Daydream Believer to Innovate
Consider the story of Arthur Fry – engineer, choral singer, Presbyterian.
Mr. Fry marked songs in his choir book with little scraps of paper. As you might imagine, Arthur consistently lost his place as the tiny pieces of paper invariably fell out.
Luckily, during one Sunday sermon, Arthur Fry started to daydream. What he needed, he imagined, was a sticky piece of paper that wouldn’t fall out of the choir book.
Did I mention Mr. Fry was an engineer at 3M?
The Post-it Note (an eventual billion dollar a year product line) was born.
Daydreaming has long been the glorified province of creative genius. The stories about Albert Einstein alone should convince us that daydreaming is crucial to creative thinking.
And yet, how do we treat the average daydreamer? Not as a creative genius, I’m quite sure.
So what does science say? Research shows that people who engage in more daydreaming score higher on experimental measures of creativity:
Daydreams involve a more relaxed style of thinking, with people more willing to contemplate ideas that seem silly or far-fetched,” says Teresa Belton, a research associate at East Anglia University in England.
Does this mean that all daydreamers are creative? Clearly not… so what’s the difference between slacking off and fostering creativity?
It all boils down to awareness. People who are aware of and recognize their daydreaming are more creative than those who simply slip off into blissful oblivion.
Dr. Marcus Raichle, a neurologist and radiologist at Washington University, says:
When your brain is supposedly doing nothing and daydreaming, it’s really doing a tremendous amount. We call it the ‘resting state,’ but the brain isn’t resting at all.
So pay attention the next time you’re not paying attention. A well-timed daydream may be the most productive thing you do today.
The Fallacy of the Hard-Charging Entrepreneur
Don’t get me wrong… when it comes time to execute on your big idea, you’re in for a lot of work. Often that means long hours and less rest.
But keep in mind that the execution and implementation of a great idea is really a series of problems and challenges that require your full creative awareness. Innovative thinking doesn’t end with the big idea, it’s only just begun.
Pushing yourself to exhaustion may result in a less effective business… or even failure when you simply burn out. So don’t forget to sleep and daydream all along your entrepreneurial journey.
About the Author: Brian Clark is a new media entrepreneur and co-founder of Lateral Action. Subscribe today to get free updates by email or RSS.