How can you best divide your attention?
Is it better to focus on one project?
Or is it better alternating your attention between two or more projects?
Our brains are a wonderous box and once we fill it with ideas, we can explore new possibilities and sometimes the most amazing solutions and insights may appear. Consciously focusing the attention on certain aspects may lead to new insights but we do not always need to actively think about something.
Our brains can bake ideas without us consciously being aware it. We gather ingredients or knowledge, then we mix it up and allow it to bake in our brains. If we put the right ingredients in the oven and use the right temperature or thinking tools, allow it time to bake then we can provoke ideas out of our brains.
The brain is complex and we do not know exactly how it works. Yet, taking a break to work on something else can help us avoid falling into the trap of using existing solutions. A break may help us to break the pattern. We can also use thinking tools such as provocations to help us break away from existing solutions. But if the problem is tricky, it could be good to simply jump between projects instead of blindly focusing on finding a solution to one problem.
Incubation, as it is called in creative circles, is when we allow an idea to rest in our mind. Taking a break from the project to go for a walk, focusing on a hobby, or indeed jumping between projects prevents us from stressing out the parts of the brain that are dealing with finding a solution to the problem. The neurons are firing in the same parts of the brain and this may make it more difficult to fire neurons in other parts of the brain – making it difficult to explore new possibilities.
If you are working on a project or problem that requires mostly a logical approach to thinking mix it with a project or problem that requires a creative approach to thinking. This may result in a more creative solution. And if you are facing a creative challenge, switching to a problem that requires a logical approach to thinking may help you discover aspects that you are cognitively blind to. If you plan your projects, jumping between them can require different modes of thinking. This approach may promote creative ideas and solutions as well as more solutions that are logical.
Looking for a creative project? Japanese art director Tatsuya Tanaka has a miniature photo project, where he uses office supplies, food, and other found objects that he utilizes as set pieces or backdrops for miniature inhabitants. You can see new images from the Miniature Calendar project every single day on Instagram and Facebook.