Sleep Your Way to a More Creative Life

The phrase “let’s sleep on it” might actually have significance – other than helping you end a long meeting.

Neuroscientists believe that while you’re sleeping, you continue to work through ideas that were planted in your mind when you were awake. So essentially, you can keep creating cool stuff while your body gets its beauty rest. Ahh. I love the sound of that.

There’s a particular type of sleep that’s most beneficial for our creativity, too. According to this study, REM sleep helps the brain connect unrelated ideas, which in turn helps our creative problem-solving.

Fun facts about REM sleep:

  • What does it do? This type of sleep increases brain activity, promotes learning, and creates dreams.
  • When does it happen? It takes place after you’ve been sleeping for around 90 minutes.
  • How long does it last? The first cycle lasts about 10 minutes, and the length of each cycle increases with time. It can last up to a full hour in the phase right before you wake up. Basically, the longer you can sleep, the more REM you’ll get!
  • How does it affect us? According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a study depriving rats of REM sleep significantly shortened their life span, from two or three years to five weeks. (Yikes! So a deep sleep might even help you live longer?)

During the REM phase, when you’re in a dream state, your brain is busy making sense of your thoughts, memories and experiences. And these connections often prove inspirational. Steve Jobs was noted for saying, “creativity is just connecting things.” And we can definitely do this in our sleep.

In order to capitalize on your dreams, keep a notebook by your bed. As soon as you wake up, write down any thoughts that come to mind – even if they seem nonsensical at the time. They will be ideas worth mining!

In addition to dreaming, it’s important to get a regular amount of sleep each night. By establishing how much sleep you need (for me it’s 8 hrs) and sticking to a routine, you’ll create a rhythm for your body. A rhythm that will help you think more clearly, aid your memory and make creativity flow more freely the next day.

Author Stephen King King believes a regular sleep pattern encourages our wakeful minds to unlock the similarly creative imaginations we access in our sleep. He said, “as your mind and body grow accustomed to a certain amount of sleep each night, you can train your waking mind to sleep creatively, and work out vividly imagined waking dreams, which are successful works of fiction.”

Whoa. Coming from a master of mysterious, bone-chilling novels, I’d say he’s on to something. That dude has quite an imagination.

So as you begin to work on your next creative project, seriously consider “sleeping on it!” And then take notes the next day.

Before you lull into a creative slumber, though, I’ll leave you with some of my favorite quotes about sleeping. >>

XoXo,

-Kate

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Creative Tip: Are You Asking The Right Questions?

If you want to awaken and nurture your spirit of innovation and creativity, one way to crack that egg is by asking questions. When you get super curious about an idea or problem, you can break new ground and walk away with a brilliant solution.

Questions stir up new connections between two or more concepts, or they lead you on a path to new questions and different angles. So how do you enwreathe an idea with just the right question?

Here are three approaches to try!

{ONE} PLAY “TEN QUESTIONS”

Remember the game 20 Questions, where one player thinks of a person/place/thing and another player asks up to 20, yes-or-no questions before guessing what they’re thinking about? Well, you can take a similar approach to a creative problem.

Think about what you’re trying to accomplish. Then write it in the form of a question – in at least 10 different ways.

For example, if you want to invent a new way to walk a dog, you could start with “How do I design a better leash?” Or you could ask, “What’s the problem with leashes on the market today?” Or better yet, “What would make a dog want to stay next to his owner on a walk?”

As you explore, your questions might get deeper into the issue and closer to a creative fix.

{TWO} THINK LIKE SOMEONE ELSE

Instead of sitting there feeling stuck inside of your own head, try to slide into someone else’s perspective.

For example, if you’re designing a better sippy cup, ask what changes your kids would make. What would make it easier for them to hold it? What would make it more fun for them to drink from it?

Think through the problem from their angle and ask questions from their side of the equation.

{THREE} REMEMBER TO GET FACTUAL 

Phil McKinney wrote a book that’s dedicated to this entire topic of digging deeper and asking the right questions. It’s called Beyond the Obvious. I haven’t read the book yet, but I recently stumbled upon one of his concepts.

He came up with two basic categories of good questions: factual and investigative.

As the name implies, the objective of the first category is to get information…real, useful info that provides detail and context. It’s the “who, what, where, why, and how” kind of questions.

They serve an important purpose, though. Sometimes people glaze over details or make assumptions, when a simple, factual question could be the missing link to uncovering a solution.

For instance, there were two sisters who always cut the ends off their ham before cooking it for the holidays. One sister finally stopped and asked why. When her sister didn’t really know, they decided to ask their mom. After all, she taught them how to cook a ham. The mom said she cut the ends because she didn’t have a pan big enough…not because it had some sort of culinary benefit.

So discovering a new way of doing things can certainly come from asking factual questions.

And remember to keep following the question train. Keep asking why, and follow up with another question until you’re satisfied.

McKinney believes you’re more likely to get creative answers from open-ended, investigative questions – like what we explored above in options 1 & 2 – so it’s good to give all of these approaches a try.

Let me know what works best for you.

Have a creative day!

Kate

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Through The Eyes of a Child

I picked up my phone the other day to take pictures for the blog, and I found a slew of shots that I know I hadn’t taken. There were pics of our pets, stuffed animals, and silly faces of my kids. Someone had hijacked my phone, and I’m pretty sure it was one or both of my 11-year-old twin girls. {Maybe because of the selfies?}

Upon inquiry, the girls laughed and fessed up pretty quickly. Of course I didn’t get upset. The pictures were hilarious, and I loved seeing the world through their eyes.

I also loved the idea of turning this playful discovery into a creative exercise.

It’s a fairly simple one, too. >

Have your kids take your phone or camera for a few hours and let them snap away. Once they’re finished, take a moment to observe their choices, angles, and point of view. Then spot your lesson. What can you learn from their curiosity and exploration?

Here are a few lessons my girls taught me as I scrolled through my camera roll:

Don’t take life too seriously. Being silly is just plain fun. Especially when you’re making stink-eye emoji faces.

Trampoline hair don’t care. Jumping for joy is good for your spirit.

It’s good to stop and enjoy the small things in life, like the snuggle of a teddy bear…

Even if you’re a dog.

Some of the sweetest views of life are down low with the bunnies.

And at the end of the day, there’s nothing better than hangin’ with your twinsie.

This exercise kinda reminded me of a scene from Dead Poets Society when Robin Williams, who plays a quirky and lovable English teacher, stands up on his desk. He asks all of the boys in the class to do the same. Then he challenges them to see the world from a different point of view and form their own opinions. It was an iconic scene from the movie, and one that has always stuck with me.

So for today, let’s take the opportunity to see things from a different perspective…through the eyes of a child.

How can we impart this wisdom upon our next creative expression? Paint with the eyes of a child? Design with the simplicity of a grade schooler? Write from a place of innocence and vulnerability? Solve a problem through the basic understanding of fairness and love?

“Seeing the world through the eyes of a child is truly like seeing the magic of everything.”

Blessings,

-Kate

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Keep It Simple, Sister

When I’m writing, designing or basically making anything, I’m a firm believer in the KISS method. I first learned about it from one of my favorite creative directors of all time, Nick Nicholson. The phrase stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid. I prefer Sister, because “stupid” is a bad word in our house.

Nick would encourage us (and even challenge us) to cut the number of words in our copy or even go without any words. Could the story be told in photographs? Or what about a single photo?

Every time I went through this exercise, I was floored by how much stronger the message became. Sometimes showing less, saying less, and not trying so hard was the secret to a more powerful way to communicate. Less can truly = more.

On a grander scale, maybe it’s a more powerful way to be?

What if we were to KISS everything?

If we get overwhelmed by a busy schedule, we could peel away the layers of commitments that aren’t necessary or don’t contribute to our happiness.

If we’re drowning in clutter at home or just in our purses, we could dump all of the things that literally weigh us down.

If we unraveled the sweater of busyness that we knit around ourselves, what would we uncover? What kind of bare and beautiful life could we find?

Kisses,

-Kate

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