Recipe for success: unfocus, nap and pretend to be someone else

The brain operates optimally when it toggles between focus and unfocus

After a 10-minute nap, studies show that you become much clearer and more alert. Photograph: iStock

After a 10-minute nap, studies show that you become much clearer and more alert. Photograph: iStock

 

The ability to focus is an important driver of excellence. Yet as helpful as focus can be, it also has a downside. Excessive focus can drain your energy and make you lose self-control. So what do we do? Focus or unfocus?

In keeping with recent research, both focus and unfocus are vital. The brain operates optimally when it toggles between focus and unfocus, allowing you to develop your resilience and creativity and make better decisions.

There are many simple and effective ways to help yourself unfocus throughout the day.

Use positive, constructive daydreaming: Positive, constructive daydreaming is a type of mind-wandering different from slipping into a daydream or rehashing worries.

To start, choose a low-key activity such as knitting, gardening or casual reading, then wander into the recesses of your mind. Swivel your attention from the external world to the internal space of your mind while still doing the low-key activity.

Take a nap: When your brain is in a slump, your clarity and creativity are compromised. After a 10-minute nap, studies show that you become much clearer and more alert. But if it’s a creative task you have in front of you, you will most likely need a full 90 minutes for more complete brain refreshing.

Pretend to be someone else: When in a creative deadlock, try embodying a different identity, such as that of an eccentric poet. It will get you out of your own head and allow you to think from another person’s perspective.

– Copyright Harvard Business Review 2017