You’re at your desk. You’re deep into a problem. You’ve stared at it for hours. You’ve hacked away most of the obvious nonsense. You’ve got it down to the core.
And now you’re stuck.
You need to figure out:
- That right combination of words for your marketing
- That next pivot in your business model
- That bug in your code that pops up inconsistently
- That connection that ties your research together
- That last line of your article
- That first line of your article
- That logo design
- That new feature that will keep your users from churning
- That perfect flow of information for your talk
It’s so close. If you can just focus a little harder you’ll get it. Turn off the music. Close those other 27 browser tabs. Lean in.
It’s a battle of attrition. You will crush this problem through sheer force of will.
Nope. Still stuck.
You could keep pushing yourself deeper into the weeds. You could try to get even closer to the nuances of the problem.
But the truth is you need a shower.
The shower isn’t for your hygiene…though you’ve been at your desk a while, so you may need some freshening up.
The shower is a way to force yourself away from the problem.
And not just “away” to work on something else. “Away” to a place that’s screen-free. “Away” to a place where you can get some distance and give your brain a chance to sort and process information on its own.
That place doesn’t have to be a literal shower, but it provides a nice mental shortcut for the idea.
It just needs to be a place to forget about all the endless details for a while.
This isn’t a new concept of course. We already know that the distraction of a shower can produce “aha” moments. We’ve all heard about the benefits of stepping away from work in some form or another. You may have even read research on the benefits.
But I find myself needing reminders again and again. So, I wrote this article to see if it would help the idea stick in my own head.
A Recent “Shower” Moment
Prime example for me came this past week. I had given a lot of thought to the value proposition of my business lately. Trying to take a fresh look not just at the problem I was solving, but what made my position unique.
Friday night, I got a pass from the family to take a night out on my own. As a natural introvert, it’s especially important for me to get solo time to clear my head.
I had an IPA and went to see a dumb, action movie. (Technically on a screen, but strictly for consumption, not interaction).
On the drive home, I was totally chilled out for the first time in days. My focus was on the the view of the downtown lights in the distance, the fresh night air, and some background music.
That’s when my brain chimed in with an answer to the value proposition question.
It was like I had prepped my brain with info, sent it off on an assignment, and now it was time for it to hand in its homework.
This mini-breakthrough gave me a whole new perspective on the concept. It wasn’t a total 180 in thinking but rather a connection between ideas that already existed.
I hadn’t seen this connection earlier because I put all of my brain’s energy on the trees themselves. When I backed off, it gave my brain a chance to see the forest in a new light. I’d given my brain the ingredients, and the space provided room to rearrange them.
There are lots of “showers” that can provide the same effects:
- IPA and a movie
- A walk around the block / neighborhood
- A hike
- Some other form of exercise — swim, shoot hoops, jumping jacks
- …or just take a shower…especially if you stink from all the exercising…
The only requirement is to focus on something else. Give your brain some space for a while. Don’t push harder. Back off and relax.
That small break may feel like a temporary loss of productivity, but it could reveal the exact breakthrough you need.