It used to really bother me when my mother would tell me to ‘count sheep’ when I couldn’t sleep as a child. It was never the answer I was looking for, which of course, was “Alright, you can stay up for another hour”.
But now as both a father and a business owner, I realise the value in what she was saying. These days on those nights when sleep alludes me, I try to set my mind to something other than fretting about needing to get up in ‘x’ number of hours. I’ll hop up briefly, have a cup of tea and then hit the hay once more.
And it’s the same when trying without success to complete a task at work. Getting stuck, hitting a road block, coming up against it – however you look at it, this problem is nothing new for any of us. The question is, do you know what to do when the problem strikes?
As Ron Friedman, author of Get Your Brain Unstuck attests, if we keep turning over the problem in our heads, we just run into the same walls.
This idea that dogged persistence, and not getting up until the task is done, has been the undoing of many in the past. It’s not to say don’t persevere, but give your brain the chance to become unstuck by switching tasks when you’re not achieving anything.
Indeed, sometimes the best ideas come to us when we’re least expecting it. It rarely happens when we’re sitting and staring at the screen, pushing ourselves to work harder.
A distraction can revive our creativity, and when we step back from the problem, our perspective expands. How many times have you been idly waiting for the jug to boil, standing in the shower, or refilling at the bowser when suddenly magic strikes?
In future, when a big and important task looms large, try setting aside short, sharp creative sessions to work through it, rather than large chunks of time.
And if you’re anything like me, you might just find that taking a short break to ‘count sheep’ might be just the thing to get your task back on track.