Posts Tagged brain

The Creative Pursuit of Laziness

It’s seems like a common understanding that companies have valuable assets if they have people who’s hard-working and staying late at the office.
However, the article and the infographic below suggest the opposite. Specially for you whose core work is to maintain fresh creativity, it’s time to be a bit creatively lazy (read: go home faster); and take a break from working too much in front of the computer/internet! Here’s why;


The Creative Pursuit Of Laziness

BY Jeffrey Paul Baumgartner

You start a new job with a new company. There are two employees in similar positions. They have both been with the company for several years. One is clearly hard working. She is constantly busy, juggles numerous tasks successfully and often stays late to get work done. The other seems much more relaxed. Indeed, she is often sharing jokes with her colleagues! She does not appear to work very hard, finishes tasks seemingly too quickly and is usually one of the first to leave the office at the end of the day. Which one should you emulate if you wish to do well in the company?

The seemingly lazy one, of course. Both have been with the company for some years, so you can assume that both are doing their job well. More importantly, you can assume that the apparently lazy one has worked out how to do her job efficiently, allowing her to work in a more relaxed way and go home at a reasonable hour daily.

CREATIVELY SEEKING THE EASY WAY

In my experience, this is something creative people are very good at, particularly if they work in organizations which do give them new creative challenges on a regular basis. They use their creative skills to find short cuts in performing regular tasks and improving the efficiency of their area of operations.

In truth, it is not just creative people who are lazy. Humans are programed to be lazy and this is a good thing. When our prehistoric ancestors were hunting and gathering, the less work expended to kill and skin a mammoth or to collect fruit, the better. Even today, it is sensible to ask why you should spend four hours performing a task that you can complete sufficiently well in an hour.

FOLLOWERS OR THINKERS

At work, when a new employee is shown how to perform a task, she will normally continue to do it in the way she was taught. This is not surprising. Most of us are taught to follow instructions, especially when a superior at work or school demonstrates tells us to do so.

But the creative individual is always questioning things and considering alternatives. She cannot help it. That’s how the creative mind is wired. She will try performing the task in different ways. Of course there are risks involved. An alternative approach to performing a four-hour task could prove more complicated than expected—and eat up eight hours of her time. She may be reprimanded by her superior for not doing the task in the prescribed manner. Worse, her method might not work at all, forcing her to start all over again.

However, this is normal for the creative person. Her curiosity and desire to explore alternatives is stronger than her sense of following instructions. Over time, she will try out various ways of performing tasks and will soon find the most efficient methods.

LESSONS TO BE LEARNED

As I wrote initially, if you are new to a company, do not look to the workaholics for advice on how to do your job well. Look to the laziest people. They will almost surely be able to show you the most efficient way to do your work well.

If you are an employer, on the other hand, those apparently lazy people are probably your most creative thinkers. When you need people with ideas for improving products, services and processes, be sure to include them in the teams responsible for developing these ideas. Moreover, be sure also to allow them to perform on these teams as they do on their tasks: let them try out ideas, see how they work, dispose of failed ideas and try out new ideas. This is how the creative process works.

The Internet Is Ruining Your Brain [INFOGRAPHIC]
by Stephanie Buck

Turns out, multi-tasking online doesn’t positively exercise our brains or mental state. Heavy Internet users are 2.5 times more likely to be depressed. And web addiction reduces the white matter in our brains, basically the transmitters responsible for our memory and sensory abilities.

Source : DesignTAXI, mashable.com

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The Creative Brain On Exercise

For artists, entrepreneurs, and any other driven creators, exercise is a powerful tool in the quest to help transform the persistent uncertainty, fear, and anxiety that accompanies the quest to create from a source of suffering into something less toxic, then potentially even into fuel.

For more than thirty years, Haruki Murakami has dazzled the world with his beautifully crafted words, most often in the form of novels and short stories. But his book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (2008) opens a rare window into his life and process, revealing an obsession with running and how it fuels his creative process.

An excerpt from a 2004 interview with Murakami in The Paris Review brings home the connection between physical strength and creating extraordinary work:

When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at 4:00 a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim for fifteen hundred meters (or do both), then I read a bit, and listen to some music. I go to bed at 9:00 p.m. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long–six months to a year–requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.

Murakami is guided by what the great scholars, writers, thinkers, and creators of ancient Greece knew yet so many modern-day creators have abandoned.

The physical state of our bodies can either serve or subvert the quest to create genius. We all know this intuitively. But with rare exceptions, because life seems to value output over the humanity of the process and the ability to sustain genius, attention to health, fitness, and exercise almost always take a back seat.That’s tragic. Choosing art over health rather than art fueled by health kills you faster; it also makes the process so much more miserable and leads to poorer, slower, less innovative, and shallower creative output.

As Dr. John Ratey noted in his seminal work Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain (2008), exercise isn’t just about physical health and appearance. It also has a profound effect on your brain chemistry, physiology, and neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to literally rewire itself). It affects not only your ability to think, create, and solve, but your mood and ability to lean into uncertainty, risk, judgment, and anxiety in a substantial, measurable way, even though until very recently it’s been consistently cast out as the therapeutic bastard child in lists of commonly accepted treatments for anxiety and depression.

In 2004 the esteemed New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published a review of treatments for generalized anxiety disorder that noted thirteen pharmaceuticals, each with a laundry list of side effects, but nothing about exercise. In response, NEJM published a letter by renowned cardiologists Richard Milani and Carl Lavie, who had written more than seventy papers on the effect of exercise on the heart, eleven of them focused on anxiety. That letter criticizes the original article for omitting exercise, which, the writers note, “has been shown to lead to reductions of more than 50 percent in the prevalence of the symptoms of anxiety. This supports exercise training as an additional method to reduce chronic anxiety.”

Ratey details many data points on the connection between exercise and mind-set; among them the following:

  • A 2004 study led by Joshua Broman-Fulks of the University of Southern Mississippi that showed students who walked at 50 percent of their maximum heart rates or ran on treadmills at 60 to 90 percent of their maximum heart rates reduced their sensitivity to anxiety, and that though rigorous exercise worked better. “Only the high intensity group felt less afraid of the physical symptoms of anxiety, and the distinction started to show up after just the second exercise session.”
  • A 2006 Dutch study of 19,288 twins and their families that demonstrated that those who exercised were “less anxious, less depressed, less neurotic, and also more socially outgoing.”
  • A 1999 Finnish study of 3,403 people that revealed that those who exercised two to three times a week “experience significantly less depression, anger, stress, and ‘cynical distrust.'”

Ratey points to a number of proven chemical pathways, along with the brain’s neuroplastic abilities, as the basis for these changes, arguing that exercise changes the expression of fear and anxiety, as well as the way the brain processes them from the inside out.

Studies now prove that aerobic exercise both increases the size of the prefrontal cortex and facilitates interaction between it and the amygdala. This is vitally important to creators because the prefrontal cortex, as we discussed earlier, is the part of the brain that helps tamp down the amygdala’s fear and anxiety signals.

For artists, entrepreneurs, and any other driven creators, exercise is a powerful tool in the quest to help transform the persistent uncertainty, fear, and anxiety that accompanies the quest to create from a source of suffering into something less toxic, then potentially even into fuel.

This is not to suggest that anyone suffering from a generalized or trait (that is, long-term) anxiety disorder avoid professional help and self-treat with exercise alone. People who suffer from anxiety should not hesitate to seek out the guidance of a qualified mental health-care professional. The point is to apply the lessons from a growing body of research on the therapeutic effect of exercise on anxiety, mood, and fear to the often sustained low-level anxiety that rides organically along with the uncertainty of creation. Anyone involved in a creative endeavor should tap exercise as a potent elixir to help transform the uncomfortable sensation of anxiety from a source of pain and paralysis into something not only manageable but harnessable.

Exercise, it turns out, especially at higher levels of intensity, is an incredibly potent tool in the quest to train in the arts of the fear alchemist.

Still, a large number of artists and entrepreneurs resist exercise as a key element in their ability to do what they most want to do–make cool stuff that speaks to a lot of people. In the case of artists, I often wonder if that resistance is born of a cultural chasm that many artists grew up with, where jocks were jocks, artists were artists, hackers were hackers, and never the twain would meet. For more sedentary solo creators, historical assumptions about who exercises and who doesn’t can impose some very real limits on a behavior that would be very beneficial on so many levels. On the entrepreneur side, the excuse I’ve heard (and used myself) over and over is “I’m launching a damn company and my hair’s on fire. I don’t have time to work out.” The sad truth is that if we make the time to exercise, it makes us so much more productive and leads to such improved creativity, cognitive function, and mood that the time we need for doing it will open up and then some–making us so much happier and better at the art of creation, to boot.

Excerpted from Uncertainty by Jonathan Fields by arrangement with Portfolio Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc., Copyright (c) 2011 by Jonathan Fields.

[Image: Flickr user Thomas Hawk]

Source: Fast Company

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