1 Simple Trick that Will Make You Insanely Creative
Creativity only comes when you privilege the subconscious
This simple trick is really very simple!
Just procrastinate. That is, it!
But You need to be a DISCIPLINED procrastinator to unleash your CREATIVITY.
Let me explain.
In 1927, a class of university students and their professor visited a restaurant in Berlin, Germany. The waiter took their orders, including special requests, but refrained from writing them down. This isn’t going to end well, they thought.
But after a short wait, all the diners received exactly what they’d ordered without error. After dinner, outside on the street, Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik realized she’d left her scarf behind in the restaurant.
She returned, located the waiter with the photographic memory, and asked him if he’d seen it.
But her question was met with a blank stare.He had no idea who she was or where she sat.
“How can you have forgotten?” she asked him, incredulously. “Especially with your super memory!”
The waiter paused, before replying matter-of-factly, “I keep every order in my head — until it is served. Once complete it fades away.”
Zeigarnik then did what any good psychologist would: she went back to the lab and designed a study. A group of adults and children was given anywhere between 18 and 22 tasks to perform (both physical ones, like making clay figures, and mental ones, like solving puzzles) and half of those tasks were interrupted so that they couldn’t be completed.
At the end, the subjects remembered the interrupted tasks far better than the completed ones — over two times better, in fact.
The Zeigarnik Effect
She went on to conduct much more detailed research in this field of memory, uncompleted tasks, procrastinating, productivity and incubation. What Zeigarnik found was that as long as a task remained unfulfilled, the mind would continue to remember it and work at it. Perhaps at an even higher breadth and depth.
Psychologist Arie Kruglanski calls this a Need for Closure, a desire of our minds to end states of uncertainty and resolve unfinished business. This need motivates us to work harder, to work better, and to work to completion.
In a nutshell, the Zeigarnik effect just asks us to harness the positive powers of delaying or postponing something; in other words, Procrastination.
Jihae Shin, Professor at the University of Wisconsin, designed an experiment to prove the most creative ideas come after procrastination. She asked people to come up with business ideas: one group shared ideas immediately, while another group was asked to play a simple computer game for 5 minutes before sharing their idea.
The procrastinators’ ideas were 28% more creative.
Procrastination as a Creativity Tool
What the Zeigarnik effect teaches is that the secret of constructive procrastination is to START-STOP-RESTART. When we think of starting a new habit, we tend to think of the entire sequence of behaviors that are needed to necessitate its completion.
For example, it’s common to feel resistance when undertaking a new exercise habit. This is understandable because there are several steps required. You have to pack your gym bag, travel to the gym, change into your workout clothes, warm up, exercise, warm down, shower, and change back into your normal clothes before traveling back home.
The trick then is not to think about the routine but to commit to the pre-requisite action in the sequence, such as picking up your gym bag.
In other words, you need to commit to the first behavior in the sequence and then continue along with it.
Once you have committed to the 1st step, it will niggle away in the back of your mind like the sword of Damocles and your rationale becomes: “I’ve picked up my gym bag, I may as well travel to the gym and exercise now”.
Here are some useful ways in which you can practice the positive power of procrastination in your daily life: -
· Don’t end the day with a completed task. If you do, you’ll have to re-motivate yourself the next day from scratch. Leave a task unfinished, though, and you’ll be keen to pick it up where you left off and see it through to a conclusion. This also allows you to start each working day with a sense of having achieved something.
· If you are working on a lengthy project or task, stop at a point when you’d really like to go on and take a break doing something completely different. All through your break, your subconscious brain will be quietly sorting out how to complete the unfinished task. Things will then fall into place allowing you to complete the task more efficiently than if you’d carried on without stopping.
· In any communication exercise with others, such as giving a presentation or writing sales copy, get people hooked to your message by giving them teasers. For example, in a presentation, tell them, “I’m going to show you 3 ways to motivate yourself without any effort, but first…”. In written copy, you could do the same by saying, “In a minute, I’m going to show you how to double your personal income without any effort on your part…”. People will be hooked and won’t rest until they know how things end.
Bringing it all together
Procrastination teaches us to find a balance between work and rest, career, and personal life but it is important to distinguish productive procrastination from the negative postponement of problems and tasks.
Procrastination is a powerful motivating force. And a motivated mind is a mind that is much more capable of thought and accomplishment.
As aptly told by Ze Frank.
A good procrastination should feel like you’re inserting lots and lots of commas into the sentence of your life.
· Dobelli, R. (2013) The Art of Thinking Clearly
· Baumeister, R.F., Bushman, B.J., (2008) Social Psychology and Human Nature
· McGraw, K. O., Fiala, J. (1982) ‘Undermining the Zeigarnik Effect: Another Hidden Cost of Reward’, Journal of Personality
· Babauta, L. (2013) The Four Habits that Form Habits
· A YouTube video from James Lavers on the Zeigarnik Effect and its applications here.