The Power of Stopping

When my brain is rested and not required to complete a specific task or stay focused on success, amazing things happen.

During scheduled breaks, like vacations and holidays, I often develop my biggest ideas, like new business systems, strategies or concepts for future entrepreneurial endeavors. My right brain (the creative side) is free to roam, shifts into a lower gear and finds some additional horsepower.

Some of my most interesting, most innovative ideas have been discovered during these periods of cognitive overdrive. As I walk through the woods each morning, while driving long distances, taking a shower or as I drift off to sleep, my brain takes me to the most interesting creative places. (At times it takes me, very literally, to very unexpected places. I once drove two hours in the wrong direction while dreaming of my future and developing a new business strategy. My wife will never let me live it down.)

Whenever I am performing a creative task, I’ve learned to stop, take a break and reset my mind. It may take nothing more than lifting my head and focusing on something other than the task at hand. It may be a more deliberate suspension of activity or scheduled time-out. I may stand up and stretch, take a stroll around the studio, stop for a snack or converse with a co-worker.

Rebooted, I return to my task with a rested open mind. I often discover new directions or alternative concepts. The path to success becomes clear. The awkward sentence is quickly resolved. The complicated architectural detail looks simple and the solution so obvious.

It works.

The next time you find yourself stuck, don’t spin your tires. Try stopping.


5 Responses to “The Power of Stopping”

  1. 1 Scott October 8, 2012 at 7:25 AM

    I use this technique all the time Mark. It is a great piece of advise to put out there. I’ve heard many people call this the “incubation period” where your mind is holding all the facts you go off and do something else while it does the processing. I try to do this just before going on vacations by reviewing a difficult task i know will be waiting for me when i return so that the subconscious me will have something to chew on while I’m otherwise mentally “off the reservation” for a while.

  2. 2 Bob Swinburne October 8, 2012 at 12:18 PM

    My best thinking happens when I intersperse desk/computer time with biking or walking. – xc skiing requires too much attention.

  3. 3 Mark R. LePage, AIA, LEED AP October 8, 2012 at 1:41 PM

    That’s a great idea Scott. Do you find that by loading up on the task, you take away from the down time?

  4. 4 David Nahinga, RQS (@dnahinga) October 10, 2012 at 12:56 AM

    This is a good post. In the very words of Henry Thoreau, “How can we remember our ignorance, which our growth requires, when we are using our knowledge all the time?” . This man who loved the outdoors and wrote some of the most creative and rich essays knew something!

    He also built his legendary cabin near Walden Pond, setting a testament to those who love Tiny Houses and similar complexly simple Architecture

  5. 5 Mark R. LePage, AIA, LEED AP October 15, 2012 at 10:20 PM

    Thanks for the comment David. Thoreau is always an inspiration.

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