Running Out of Ideas? Take a Shower and Experience the Power of “Incubation”
Elon Musk’s daily productivity habit is actually backed by psychology
As a writer, I sometimes run out of ideas.
And it feels dreadful. It’s like jumping into a pool of glistening cool water on a hot summer day only to hit the hard bottom.
Oops, no more water for you! Come back another time.
Luckily for us humans, the brain can be tricked into doing what we want it to do — let it be building habits, skyrocketing productivity or learning a new language, your brain can do it all if you know how to trick it right.
Elon Musk, arguably one of the most productive people on the whole planet — and no, we’re not talking about Mars just yet — has shared funny yet extremely helpful advice in one of his interviews.
When asked, “What daily habit do you believe has the largest positive impact on your life?”
Elon Musk simply replied, “Showering.”
Now, showering’s great. We all love it. If you don’t, I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe you’re doing it wrong.
Try singing your favourite song while splash splash splashing under the stream of hot water and smelling lavender soap in the air.
Apart from feeling fresh and clean, showering actually has another amazing benefit — it’s the perfect place for experiencing the so-called incubation.
In psychology, the creative process can be split into 4 different stages:
Proposed by Graham Wallas in his 1926 book The Art of Thought, this process has got some great truth to it. We’ve all experienced it at some point or another:
- You go out into the world and collect information. You read, you think, you actively seek, you research.
- You take a step back and let your mind wander. Once you stop consciously focusing on the task at hand, your unconsciousness takes the wheel and has the time to “incubate.”
- A-ha! This is the amazing lightbulb moment. You’ve solved the issue without even actively thinking about it!
- You go ahead and apply it to the actual task.
Finding new ideas for articles or projects works on the same basis.
The reason showering works so well when it comes to finding new ideas and increasing productivity lies in the distracting and relaxing nature showering provides.
Studies have shown that taking some time to occupy your brain with other activities before you complete a task actually helps achieve better results.
This is because while you’re busy distracting yourself, unconscious thought takes over and keeps working on the issue for you. Afterward, you’re much more likely to have interesting ideas.
An article from Psychology Today basically encourages your need for showering breaks:
“Allowing time for rest and idleness does more than recharge the brain and body; it also allows for creative, unstructured thought that can foster breakthroughs.”
“It may even increase productivity in the long run.”
So go ahead and take a shower!
While you’re busy incubating in the steam, your brain will subconsciously do the work for you.
Before you know it, your eyes will light up, your mouth will widen, and you’ll exclaim, “A-ha!”
Man, is there a better feeling than illumination?
Illumination and a hot shower combined.
Now excuse me, I’m on my way to incubate.
If you'd like to read more of my work:
- Why Telling Yourself You’re a Writer Will Ultimately Transform You Into One
- “The Pixel Theory” Really Puts Our Idea of Success Into Perspective
- The 5-Step Exercise My Partner and I Used to Solve Our Relationship Problems
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About the Creator
Student of Literature & Languages. I write about relationships, self-improvement, lifestyle, writing and mental health. Contact me: [email protected]
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