Taking a Break – The Most Valuable Part of your Day
Carrying on from my “autopilot” post, I wanted to focus on the values of taking a break as opposed to focusing on the detriments of autopilot. Because autopilot tends to start with repetitive or simple tasks, perhaps simple tasks are the best place to start repairing the fracture.
There are several articles out there that promote the value of taking a break – from the ALIA Institute to the Harvard Business Review – and they suggest changes big and small, but the change is the important point. People tend to get stuck in autopilot because of monotony, so give them a wake-up call.
When your brain receives the same input every day, it routinizes your behavioural responses – examples like making coffee and the “how are you?” exchange are things we do pretty much the same way every day. But there is a huge opportunity here! If there are things that we do every day, and we can introduce a little creativity into them, we can routinize those little wake up moments, which prepares us for a day of creative thinking. If you make your coffee the same way every day, try using a different mug next time, and the next time someone asks how you are, tell them you’re flipping fantastic!
These little breaks from the norm can prepare you for dealing with bigger changes, and more directly, they just make sure you’re paying attention. A huge part of innovating is seeing a connection that hasn’t been made before – something that challenges assumptions. If that is all it takes, then surely we could be innovating at every moment of every day. But we don’t. Why? Because most of the time we’re not paying en0ugh attention. Things go more or less according to plan every day, so when you get stuck in a routine, creativity gets stifled. We make assumptions about how things are, and if they are the same all the time, nothing surprises us.
Even tiny disruptions can get our brain to start wrestling with novelty, which switches it into creative thinking mode. When I say “taking a break”, I don’t necessarily mean stop working, I just mean throw someone a curve-ball. When you have routine thinking, you get the same outputs to the same inputs – changing the outputs at this point is impossible. Changing the inputs, even slightly, forces people to re-evaluate how they process information – this is when you get truly creative thinking. If you want to see more innovation, give people an opportunity to break free of the monotony. Better still, by constantly introducing tiny interruptions or challenges, you can make innovative thinking part of your routine.