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When you’re two years old, a busy day just needs a restorative nap, while you are carried home by your parents. When you’re older, and your productivity matters, you need more than that:

Increasing creativity will happen naturally as we tame the multitasking and immerse ourselves in a single task for sustained periods of, say, 30 to 50 minutes. Several studies have shown that a walk in nature or listening to music can trigger the mind-wandering mode. This acts as a neural reset button, and provides much needed perspective on what you’re doing.

This fascinating NYT piece on holidays and the brain’s reset button by Daniel J. Levitin, director of the Laboratory for Music, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University, is an excellent summation of the results of research into how our brain functions, and the interplay between productivity and daydreaming states. The conclusion is good news for us all, I think:

If we can train ourselves to take regular vacations — true vacations without work — and to set aside time for naps and contemplation, we will be in a more powerful position to start solving some of the world’s big problems. And to be happier and well rested while we’re doing it.