Creativity is a kind of magic. We believe everyone can be creative, but tapping into that creativity can be a bit of a mystery. There is one surefire way scientists, psychologists and creatives all agree on: Give yourself loads of information, let your subconscious work on it and a creative idea will eventually make an appearance — usually when you’re doing something completely mundane like showering or sweeping the floor. You can’t force creativity, but studies have shown that if you’re stuck in a creative rut, mixing up your day by alternating work with mindless tasks can stimulate creative thinking.
Never underestimate the power of menial tasks. Recent studies have shown that the most boring chores can actually be the secret to helping you tackle a creative block. Researchers Kimberly Elsbach and Andrew Hargadon from the University of California did a study where they introduced the concept of “mindless” work as an integral part of the creative process. They suggested that to increase your creativity, you should try to alternate between cognitively challenging tasks like brainstorming or finding inspiration and “mindless” activities like simple cleaning chores, meditating or organizing your desk — and no, scrolling through Instagram doesn’t count as a productive, “mindless” activity, sorry. Another added benefit to cleaning is that often visual clutter can distract you from your work or even just get you feeling uneasy.
So why does sweeping or organizing your laundry room work better than staring at a blank piece of paper and waiting for that “eureka” moment? It all comes down to brain structure and a lot of neurological processes. Essentially, when you’re vacuuming or wiping down counters, the part of your brain responsible for muscle memory is ignoring the part of your brain responsible for creative thinking, allowing it to do its own thing (like pondering that next big creative breakthrough!). When our hands are distracting our brain, this “autopilot” function actually boosts levels of thinking and creative reasoning. But don’t worry — you don’t have to spend your whole day in the shower or scrubbing floors. Menial tasks like walking the dog, coloring or watering your garden all let your brain focus on other matters while you enjoy “mindless” physical tasks.
Have you ever had a creative breakthrough while cleaning? Tell us your tricks to beat creative block in the comments below!
(h/t Organization Science)