The sun is shining, the kids have broken up from school, and many of us are in that frenzied, final push to clear the decks before we pack for our holiday. One of the greatest business benefits of taking holidays is the perspective you gain, and the space that it creates in your mind to reflect on what’s going on.
We often do our best thinking when our conscious brain is a little bit distracted, but not too much. It’s a reason why going for a walk, a run or a swim is a powerful way to clear your mind, and why people often get their best ideas in the shower, in the car, or while preparing to fall asleep. Your conscious mind is distracted by the needs of the task, but the task itself is very simple and it leaves a big portion of your brain able to relax and to do what it wants, un-harnessing it from the yoke of conscious thinking.
These brief periods where your mind is able to process and synthesise completely unrelated chunks of information almost never happen at work, because so much of your mind has to be focused on the task at hand. The majority of your working life demands a focused linear approach to understanding complex problems, making decisions and generally “doing work”, which leaves your mind virtually no space to make the random lateral connections that are at the heart of genuine insight and inspiration.
So when you’re packing for your holidays, don’t just stop at packing the physical things you need, think about packing some mental things too – give your sub-conscious brain some interesting raw material to process in those relaxed, uncluttered, unfocused moments in the coming weeks. Take some time out before you go, or while you’re away, to read just a couple of interesting, and completely unrelated articles. There are some suggestions in the column on the right. And don’t think too much about what you read. Just let it sit in the back of your mind.