Has an idea ever come to you while having a shower? It has to me. Let me tell you why this happens and how you can benefit from it.
“Water is a natural state, we are mostly water as humans,” said Dom Sagolla when talking about creative thinking1. “I noticed that, when I’m either surfing, in the water swimming, or in the shower, I get some of my best ideas. I can’t be using my device or communicating with anyone, my hands are generally not busy doing other things, [and] my mind starts to really work as a creative person.” Notice that the activities mentioned by Dom Sagolla require minimal thinking. They are physical or repetitive activities that can often be performed on auto-pilot—which happens to be an ideal setting for allowing our mind to drift away.
As humans, we work best when focusing on a single task (when we “mono-task”). Seemingly bored, the brain realizes that while we do a simple activity it can do other things “on the side.” Essentially, it starts thinking on its own. And if we let it, the mind will jump from thought to thought as happens when we meditate: As we focus on our breathing, empty our mind, and are mindful of what surrounds us, we become aware of the thoughts that pop in and out of our head. We let our mind talk to us. And all the while, we are doing nothing.
Activities that require minimal thinking also let us do the exact opposite: engage in multiple activities at once, i.e. multi-task. Our increasingly frenetic lives cause us to judge mindful moments as boring. We constantly think of the numerous things we could be doing instead of whatever we are doing. (Checking your Instagram feed while waiting for the bus; listening to a podcast while running; watching a movie as you work on your computer.) We never focus our mind. We are always doing something else.
I believe we are more creative when we mono-task and let our mind work in the background. For instance, when we surf, swim, or shower and can’t engage in anything else, or when we deliberately choose to focus on one thing. Otherwise, when we multi-task our mind gets blocked. Deadlines, commitments, or simple distractions don’t let us be mindful of what we are doing, and we stop paying attention to what our mind has to say.
You have the choice to be mindful of simple things, to engage in quotidian activities as if it were the last time you were doing them, and to let the mind wander. Do this and you might be surprised by just how easily thoughts and ideas flow to you.