Harnessing the Power of Shower Thoughts

It is a long-form dedicated to “harnessing” your thoughts in the background.

One of my biggest takeaways from the course was the balance between actively focusing and letting your mind wander, or the focused and diffuse modes of thinking. The focused mode is for filling your mind with information, and the diffuse mode is great at processing that information, forming connections between existing concepts, and developing new ideas.

In the course, one of the examples of consciously switching between the two modes to develop new ideas is the nap strategy employed by Salvadore Dali, where after a long period of focused work on a project, he would retire for a brief nap while holding a key in one hand above a plate. As he drifted off, his mind would wander, forming new thoughts. As soon as he entered proper sleep, his grip would relax and the key would fall to the plate, making enough noise to wake him and call him back to his work, the new ideas fresh in his head. Thomas Edison would also reportedly do the same with a ball bearing in his hand instead, harnessing the amorphous diffuse mode to come up with new ideas.

The author further writes (and is instructive):

My own recipe for striking the balance

  1. Take some time to focus entirely on the problem
  2. Take some time to not focus on any problem

This sounds deceivingly simple, but like any advice you read in the “How To” books, the hard part isn’t understanding it’s a good idea. The hard part is actually applying it and seeing if it helps at all.

Applying it in practice is the “hard” part. Although, personally I have internalised it and there are more interesting workflows listed in the link below. Good luck experimenting!

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