The Importance Of Sheep Counting

Michelle Connolly, Creative Copywriter at FRUKT, urges us to take some tech downtime as we strive for greater creativity 

When you work in the creative industry, you’re generally taught, or at least stumble upon, strategies that maximize creativity and efficiency. Do you want to know the biggest secret? Usually, miraculously, the answer is sleep.

Creatives are generally taught to understand the importance of the unconscious mind’s contribution to their work. However, we’re all familiar with phrases like ‘let me sleep on it’– see also ‘clearing your head’, ‘gathering your thoughts’, ‘coming at it fresh’, ‘getting perspective’, and so on..

All used to explain the need for the mind to work through important things at it’s own pace.

However it’s becoming clear that most, if not all of us are getting far less quality sleep – various factors, including an increase of blue spectrum light in the evenings from devices and the FOMO attitude becoming prevalent. It’s hampering our ability to function at peak ability. Complaints like increased tiredness during the day, not being able to focus, weight gain and generally being about as pleasant as a bear with a sore head are massively on the rise.

Sleep is a need, not a want – it’s why you can’t find the words after a poor night’s sleep, and why sleep deprivation is one of the most effective torture methods – without it, you can literally lose your mind.

Hyper connectivity and an ‘always-on’ mentality mean that we are almost never far from tech. Multiple screen usage, tweeting while watching TV, writing while watching Netflix on an iPad – multi-screens mean you struggle to focus on one task at a time, and often the mind is trying to do too much close to the time of rest. It becomes hyperactive and sloppy, even if you consider yourself a multitasker (looking at you here, ladies). Numerous studies have proven that concentrating on one task at a time means you complete it more competently, and in a shorter time frame overall. The concept of an ‘effective multitasker’ is obsolete, no matter how good you think you are, one task at a time is always a faster way to get through a workload.

Time away from tech is important. Using other parts of the mind, doing puzzles, reading books, becoming immersed in another world altogether without distractions and other things vying for your attention. This allows your mind to logically sort its information out in the downtime. I’m going to run through a few of the tips that work best for me – everyone is different of course, and some may be more effective than others, but it’s a good place to start. I’m always looking for new things that help so if you have something you think works particularly well do let us know.

To-do lists and checking things off, although it seems simplistic, allows you to optimize tasks and allocate time more easily rather than ploughing through tasks as they come. If a task goes over the time, unless absolutely urgent, try to move on to the next one and come back to it.

Apps like OMMwriter and Noisli to help you to focus on tasks more single-mindedly by either closing off access to other windows, or else providing soothing and calming background noise that won’t have you singing along or skipping songs. Great if you’re someone who loves keeping a dozen tabs open at a time, like me.

Rather than racing through newspapers on the way to and from work try to use some of the time more constructively. If you find it absolutely necessary, choose one paper to read a day - most will overlap the previous days morning or evening news anyway – and pick an achievable task for at least one part of your commute. A book you want to finish, or a long-term goal like improving a language. Apps like Duolingo gamify learning, breaking it down into easily digestible sections short enough to complete on any commute. Creating value on your journey and switching your brain into a totally different mode is calming and relaxing.

Other apps like Headspace allow you to shut yourself off and chill out, and can be listened to on the go or when you’re relaxing at home. Free and quick to download, it’s an easy way to bring a little calm to the commute. If that’s not your thing, how about getting into a podcast series? Stuff You Should Know has something for everyone.  

Lastly, if you enjoy watching something in the hours before bed, do so in the living room on a television, not a ‘blue light’ device like computers, tablets and phones. If you stream, devices like Apple TV, Chromecast, WesternDigital TV, or a gaming device like Playstation or Xbox mean you can watch comfortably without disturbing your sleep later on. And if you can, avoid using devices in the bedroom – by keeping digital entertainment to other parts of the house, and the bedroom for sleeping, the mind will learn to switch off when it enters.

Best of all? A book.. But then a copywriter would say that, wouldn’t they?

Sweet dreams.

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