Monday, June 2, 2014

Off-Peak Thinking

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Our individual biological clocks set times of day when we perform best. For some, it’s at the break of dawn. For others, it’s when everyone else is asleep. It might stand then to say that we’re most creative during these times, but a recent study suggests otherwise.

A study published in the Journal of Thinking and Reasoning looked at creative and innovative problem solving of people during their personal optimal (‘peak’) and non-optimal (‘off-peak’) times. Optimal time is when we work at our best; when we are able to maintain focus despite distractions around us. During non-optimal times, we may be more vulnerable to distractions, but it’s this susceptibility that we can use to our advantage.

As part of the study, researchers asked participants to solve ‘Insight Problems’. Rather than problems that require calculated answers, insight problems require ‘Aha!’ moment solutions. When we attempt to solve insight problems during our ‘off-peak’ hours, when we’re less focused, we’re more open to possibilities and a broader field of information. In fact, participants were able to answer more problems in their off-peak times than those in their peak times.

Conclusion: if a task requires methodical action, do it at your peak work time; if it requires off-beat thinking, do it when you’re open to distractions.

1 comment:

Media Messiah said...

I know a lot of creative people work best in the evening, but that's mainly because everyone else has gone home and they can get some peace and quiet: that's why Hans Zimmer stays late scoring (he knows all the studio bosses will have gone home and won't bother him) and why David Ogilvy wrote all his ads at home (so he could mull things over in peace and drink lots of rum if he needed to really get the creative juices flowing).