Those of us who sit at computers all day long, stretching our brains at creative work such as design, art, and writing, know too well the aches and pains that come from not moving.
Even worse, we understand how our brains start to shut down after awhile, simply unable to come up with anything else that’s awesome. We stare at the screen, crushed under mental blocks, discouraged and unable to function.
According to the book Time Management for Tired Women,
Why is an hour so special? Our bodies follow a 3-hour “ultradian” rhythm throughout the day and night. In the 1960s, sleep researcher Dr. Nathaniel Kleitman discovered that we go through cycles of rapid eye movement (REM) when we sleep. These periods of REM happen about every 90 minutes. He found that even during the daylight hours, these 90-minute cycles continue, two every 3 hours.
Other sleep researchers have postulated that we have can work efficiently for 45-51 minutes, then we need approximately 8.5-10 minutes of rest, which adds up to about an hour. In other words, we can work for 6/7ths of an hour, then we need 1/7th of an hour for rest.
One reason we struggle with creativity is that we forget to take frequent breaks. After 45-50 minutes of creative work, if we don’t rest for a few minutes, we’ll struggle in the following ways:
- We have trouble getting started on a new task, even if we’re inwardly motivated.
- We have trouble stopping a task, even if we’re exhausted.
- We have trouble thinking clearly when trying to plan.
- We have trouble expressing our thoughts to others, even when we can hear them clearly in our own minds.
Try not to overwork any one part of your body or mind by repeating the same actions until you’re exhausted. Be especially careful not to slip into a senseless repetition of mental tasks when you are already exhausted. These kinds of “ruts” make it hard to stop what we’re doing. (This happens a lot to those who work on computers! Ever find yourself repeatedly checking email, for no reason at all?) Learn to recognize your body’s own unique cries for rest — and stop before you get too tired!
- Get up and move around.
- Play some music and sing along.
- Have a snack.
- Drink some coffee.
- Talk to a co-worker or friend.
- Do a few stretches and simple exercises.
- Change tasks often. Come back to the first task later, when you’re more refreshed.
Just as creativity blossoms in a world filled with variety, your personal creativity will bloom when your days have variety.