Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, J.K. Rowling: all, arguably, creative geniuses that blow society away with their unique ideas (Jobs, past tense, of course). In 2019, it’s pretty tough to dream up anything that someone hasn’t already considered—but wouldn’t it be great if you could? While we can’t teach you how to kickstart the next Facebook, we can tell you the best time of day to tap into your creative side.
The secret to innovation may just be rearranging your schedule, and set your alarm clock.
It’s easy to assume that our best working hours occur when we’re most alert. Shouldn’t a little concentration lead to novel ways of thinking? However, if you’re hoping for your lightbulb moment, you’re probably doing it all wrong. Caffeine-fueled hours might be a great time to derive a mathematical equation, but it’s a different story for creativity.
The prefrontal cortex, even yours, is the powerhouse of creativity. A study on brain activity confirmed that this area is most active soon after waking. After a few cups of coffee, our brains shift energy towards more analytical zones. We tend to stand in our own way once fully awake—we quite literally have too much brainpower. The key to creativity is beating our logical brain at its own game. Your breakthrough idea may be on the tip of your tongue, but thinking too rationally will kill even the strongest proposal.
We’ve often heard people say that they have great ideas in the shower. It’s probably not a coincidence that we most often shower in the morning. Of course, it probably doesn’t hurt that we’re alone. Another great thing you have in the morning, in addition to creativity, is willpower. It wears off as the day goes. By the time you get to the end of the day, the only thing most of us are motivated to do is go to bed.
Another reason to work in the morning is that your dreams might be a source of creativity and inspiration. Unfortunately, most dreams are quickly forgotten, the best chance of capturing them is by beginning to write them down as soon as you open your eyes.
If the thought of early morning alarms sends shivers down your spine, you’re not alone. But switching up your routine might pay dividends in the long run if you’re hoping for a flash of brilliance. Try opting for decaf and brainstorming in the morning—a little AM drowsiness can lead to unexpected ways of framing the same tired story. To come up with out of the box solutions, we need to be a little out of our minds. The best time to let your imagination run free is when your brain isn’t fully there to stop it. Get out of your own way and get out of bed a little earlier.