That’s right, I mean it, get out to free your mind! I was working out today and in between sets my mind started going crazy with ideas on things going on in my work and personal life. I did not expect the thoughts I had today but to be honest it is not uncommon for this to happen to me when I work out. I am a huge believer that in order to expand you mind and get clear thoughts on topics running through your head you have to physically take yourself out of the environment related to that topic and do something that allows your mind to relax or get distracted. Before you know it fresh ideas will “pop” into your head!
If you are wrestling with work problems get out of your office/cube. If you work from home, take a break from the kitchen and go to a place for lunch or coffee by yourself. Don’t just walk in and walk out. Hang out for a bit, read the paper, read emails, do something and soak in the moment.
For me the best time for fresh ideas to pop into my mind is when I am physically pushing my body like on a bike ride or working out. I sometimes have to start repeating thoughts verbally as I ride so that I do not forget all of them by the time I get home. Many times I immediately head for a note pad or computer when I walk in the door so I do not lose any of my new brilliance.
I also like to go to coffee shops, sit in common areas like a park or walking mall, attend concerts, conferences, seminars, meetings, etc just to people watch. Observation is another great idea generator and way to tie things together that you may not have been able to do from your desk.
Try different things and once you know whatever works for you be sure to make doing it a regular part of your schedule - day and night. Don’t make excuses or feel guilty, just go out and do it. I know in corporate America this kind of activity is often times frowned upon. This is so unfortunate. You are not like everyone else though so buck the trend and get out.
I deliberately make it a part of my schedule be in different places, take rides, work out, etc. I know it is easy talk yourself into not getting out when things are busy and it seems like you should be glued to your desk. People who don’t get it will give you dirty looks and snide remarks. Trust me though when I say this is acutally the best time when you should be doing this as you will be much more efficient in your problem solving rather than wasting time at your desk waiting for the fresh thoughts to come. Obviously you still need to get your work done so you still need to plan and act accordingly for that to happen.
Don’t be afraid to do these things by yourself. Remember it is that forced distraction of the mind to get the ideas going where they may not have before. When you go with peers or friends the distraction is not as great.
Last but certainly not least, don’t stress yourself out if fresh ideas do not happen every time you get out. Keep at it and they will. Practice is just as important to improve mental activities as it is for physical activities.