“C’mon people, focus”! Ever heard that statement when you’re trying to solve a gnarly problem or dream up a creative strategy? In fact it’s most often the opposite of what you should do.
Cognitive effort is highly focused, logical thinking activity that draws a ton of energy. It also makes time slow down. That’s why many workdays (and most meetings) seem to last forever. Unfortunately, it’s the very type of effort most business people employ everyday. That very focus inevitably causes you to become unfocused. You’ve got to give your brain a break to reenergize.
Non-cognitive effort on the other hand (like improvisation exercises) requires very little effort and leaves you more energized. And it’s literally true, time flies when you’re having fun. These exercises are very much like game playing with simple, minimal rules and most importantly, no defined outcome. They allow the whole brain to operate randomly and freely, stimulating alpha waves that enhance creative output.
There are proven exercises employed in improv classes that are great, but there are simple things you can do every day to warm up your brain or to snap out of a cognitive funk. Brush your teeth with your opposite hand. Strike up a conversation with a total stranger. Take a completely new route to work. Go on a mid-workday walk. And for your next brainstorming session, consider bringing in some toys or playing a game to help pump up the creativity.
Let your brain off-leash a bit everyday and open up some new pathways to creative thought. Many business folks are now taking improv classes to really rev things up. They’re fun, help you think fast on your feet and can also greatly improve your confidence for presentations and public speaking.
Acknowledgement: Thanks to Stevie Ray, nationally syndicated columnist, corporate trainer and improv master for contributing thoughts and perspective for this article.