Take a Break to Make Creative Connections

Ever since I’ve been back from maternity life has been full. Full of new routines taking the baby to daycare; full of taking Nina to the park so she can play with other kiddos and practice her standing; full of working on some cool clients on great projects with potent missions; and trying to squeeze in alone time—which has been spent watching the new Queer Eye (which is totally awesome and worth a binge).

With this fullness I wasn’t giving myself the time to creatively explore. Drawing and reading are on hold for right now; that’s a reality being a full-time creative entrepreneur and new mom. I was getting into a creative rut, found myself craving new forms of creative inspiration but unable to search for it. I felt myself defaulting to the same design style, but wanting to push myself and explore new things creatively.

I wondered, where else can I find inspiration? Where have I found inspiration in the past that has sparked creative breakthroughs? And how can this fuel my work and non-work life?

Then I remembered that I had a timer right on my computer, aptly called Break Reminder, that reminded me to stop. Every 30 minutes my timer went off and told me to take a break. Get up from the computer. Walk away. Rest my eyes. Stretch.

After a few days of this, I realized something: I felt more energized. Creatively speaking, I was making better connections.I thought the correct way to work was to push through for hours at a time trying to make creative connections. But those projects ended up stagnant. Now, with more frequent breaks, I was actually staying more focused on my tasks and working much better.

And I was happier. I stretched more. I took time to drink more water. During some of these breaks I’d have aha moments. As I focused on nothing, projects I was struggling with would magically come to me in a burst of inspiration.

How could something so small make such a big difference?

Detach to engage
Curious about the benefits of breaks, I found this article that summarizes recent research on taking time to pause. “Breaks increase productivity and creativity. Working for long stretches without breaks leads to stress and exhaustion. Taking breaks refreshes the mind, replenishes your mental resources, and helps you become more creative. ‘Aha moments’ came more often to those who took breaks, according to (…) research.”

Research also shows that brief mental breaks during a long task, such as working on a creative project, help you to stay focused. Prolonged attached focus to a single task can hinder performance. The breaks help to reduce fatigue and recover during busy times.

I even found a research study that says snoozing is a good way to create more aha moments. Taking a daily nap helps to deal with frustration. It helps to feel your best, and  your hard-working brain might thank you by sprouting a perfect solution after you wake up.

Taking breaks has proved to be my magical inspiration finder. I like to say it’s my completely free, aha-moment maker. Taking these breaks reminded me: maybe a longer break every once in a while would be good. What about a lunch time yoga class, or even a little nap in the afternoon? Might sound unproductive, but taking breaks helps to stoke my creative fire.

What do you do to spark your creative fire? Have you found taking time to pause helps your productivity? If you try taking breaks, I want to hear all about it.