everyday success


Sleep on It!

We say it all the time, “I’ll sleep on it and get back to you with an answer.”  Often, it works.  Some of our greatest ideas, our most creative work can happen while we are sleeping.  It's even a time for problem-solving.

Does that happen for you?  Are your inspirations the result of a good night’s rest?  For me, the answer is often a resounding yes.  I ‘m sometimes amazed at the great ideas awaiting me when I waken.   I’ve even “slept” on some of my biggest decisions and the outcome was terrific.

The challenge in a sleep-deprived nation, how do we actually make “sleep on it” work?  If we go to bed worried or anxious, the odds of wakening with a brilliant solution or a terrific idea are reduced.  For the sleep-deprived, “sleeping on it” may even grow their sleeplessness. 

Naturally, good ‘sleep hygiene’ rules apply: no caffeine before bed, only use your bed for sleeping, go to bed at the same time every night and follow bedtime rituals consistently.  

Going to bed rituals are especially important.  If you like to read yourself to sleep, be sure it’s a book that enables sleep.  If it’s a book that energizes your brain, you’re less likely to fall asleep.  Worse, if your brain is “hooked” on your book, it’s not likely you’ll come up with an inventive solution. 

Instead of an exciting book, choose one that is calming.  Or, when you want to waken with a great idea, skip reading altogether.  Instead, as you lay down to bed, begin thinking about the subject you are “sleeping on”.  What ideas do you have so far?  What are your expectations for the solution?  Can you think beyond the expected?  Fall asleep with your mind on your subject.

Or, fall asleep remembering the good things that happened during the day.  That primes your mind, readies for it for good rest which is the ideal time for great ideas.

For your best “sleep on it” results, plan your nighttime rituals and give it some practice.  You may well surprise yourself with your innovative outcomes.

Setting the Stage for Great Ideas

Where are you when you get your best ideas?  You know the ones.  They’re the ideas that make you wonder, “Whoa, why didn’t I think of that before?”  Where are you and what are you doing when your really great ideas come to mind?

Researchers1 have found that some of our best ideas, our most original and creative ideas, actually happen when we are literally standing outside the box.  That’s right, they actually did research using room-sized boxes and even shapes of boxes taped on floors.  What did they learn?  They learned that people are most creative when they are standing outside a box.

This does not mean you need to stand on your front porch in the pouring rain to get a good idea.  Where are you when you do most of your idea generating? 

For some, it’s while they drive.  If that’s the case, why not spend a few minutes walking when you reach your destination?  See if a breakthrough idea doesn’t pop right into your mind.

For others, it may be at their desk at home or in the office.  Again, try a different space apart from your regular space.  See what happens when you set yourself apart from your regular thinking or working space.

Use your hands.  Researchers also tested the adage on the one hand or the other and found that extending one’s hands forward as if weighing ideas helped generate fresh thinking.

One researcher2 even learned that better ideas were generated when one’s hands were free.  Put your iPad down, move away from your computer, leave your vehicle, free your mind and see what great ideas come your way. 

1 When Truisms are True by Suntae Kim, Evan Polman and Jeffrey Sanchez-Burkes, New York Times, February 25, 2012. 

2 To “Think Outside the Box”, Think Outside the Box by Angela Leung et al, Psychological Science, January 2012.