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The Unexpected Connection Between Mental Load and Creativity

Excess mental load decreases creativity
The Unexpected Connection Between Mental Load and Creativity

Believe it or not, being idle and taking time to rest may make you smarter and more interesting. Your brain needs time to recharge, to process information, and to foster creativity. By incorporating relaxation practices into your schedule—such as mindful breathing or engaging in a hobby—you allow yourself to recover from stressors, conflict, and overstimulation.  

Famous examples of creative breakthroughs abound throughout history, often occurring during periods of relaxation or rest. For instance, Albert Einstein was known to play the violin when he needed a break from intense cognitive work, and it was during these times that he would often experience breakthroughs. Similarly, Isaac Newton famously formulated his law of gravity while in leisurely contemplation under an apple tree. More recently, J.K. Rowling spoke of how the idea for Harry Potter came to her during a delayed train journey, a period of enforced relaxation. These instances illustrate how allowing the mind to rest can often lead to incredible moments of creativity and problem-solving.

This not only boosts our immediate focus and clarity but also promotes long-term cognitive health. Regular periods of relaxation vs. rushing and overscheduling your day with back-to-back meetings or a to-do list that is jam-packed have been linked to increased productivity. They can reduce stress and prevent burnout, ultimately leading to sustained performance and greater innovation.

If you're looking to liberate yourself from mental overload and boost your creativity, here are some tips to consider:

  1. Face Yourself

  2. Scan Your Body

  3. Learn to Master Your Breath

  4. Develop Sharper Clarity

  5. Sit with Gratitude


Reducing Mental Load Through Other Activities

  • Write things down. Put your to-do list onto paper so you can forget about it without worrying that you’ll miss your next dental appointment. Electronic versions are also fine if that’s more convenient.

  • Play games. Do you lose track of time when planning your next move in Words with Friends? Taking a break from work can help you to return more refreshed.

  • Move around. Clear your mind with an afternoon run or visit to the gym. Physical exercise also burns calories and releases stress.

  • Use your handsRepetitive movements can trigger breakthrough ideas as you tap into your unconscious. Knit a scarf or play piano. Chop vegetables for dinner or paint an accent wall in your bedroom.

  • Slow down. If running too many programs at a time makes your computer less effective, think about what excess multitasking does to your brain. Try to immerse yourself in a single task while you remember your purpose.

  • Appreciate nature. Nature is a powerful antidote to cognitive overload. Spend a moment enjoying bird songs and cool breezes.

  • Take a nap. If you can fall asleep easily during the day without disrupting the quality of your nightly slumbers, napping could be for you. Studies show that a brief sleep enhances memory formation. According to some research, people who nap also tend to live longer.

  • Turn off your phone. Some distractions are beyond your control, but you can opt out of being available around the clock for non-emergencies. Disconnect your devices for an hour each day. Shut down social media during the work day, allowing yourself to cut push notifications and addictive scrolling down by 80%. Give yourself quiet time to stimulate your creativity and think on a deeper level.


In our fast-paced society, it is all too common to prioritize productivity above all else. You push yourself to work longer hours, multitask constantly, and sacrifice your downtime to get ahead. However, in the long run, this may be counterproductive. Your brains need time to rest and recharge to function at its best. Incorporating periods of relaxation into your daily routines can increase your immediate productivity and promote long-term cognitive health.


Whether it's taking a few moments for mindful breathing or indulging in a hobby you love, these small acts of self-care can have significant impacts on your productivity and creativity. Remember, rest is not time wasted but rather an investment in your future success. Join me this week for Deep Work Fast LIVE on Tuesday at 3:00 PM PT on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.


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