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We’ve all been there before… staring at your computer screen or notepad trying to brainstorm ideas and think creatively, but your creative tank seems to be empty. To help save you some mindless minutes of trying to squeeze out ideas, I’ve done a little research to see what is the best time of day for you to be creative.
What the Research Says
You may think it’s obvious that morning people would be more creative in the mornings and night owls are great thinkers in the evening, but that’s not necessarily true. I’m just as surprised as you!
When it comes to writing, though, no matter what type of person you are, writing creativity is actually at its peak in the mornings after you wake up. This is because you’ve been dreaming all night and “the prefrontal cortex is most active” (1). Then later in the day when your analytical mindset kicks in, you can go back and edit what you’ve written.
If you just can’t seem to muster up the brain power to write in the mornings, set a routine for a particular time of day that you want to write and you can train your brain. You will get in the habit of writing at that time, and you can help boost brain activity during that window.
Less Focused = More Creative
In a study where 428 students were asked to handle six problem-solving cases throughout the day, the results were opposite of what we’d expect (2). Morning people tended to perform better on “insight” problem-solving in the evening and night owls earlier in the day. This appears to be a result of when are minds are “on” and “off.” When our minds are “on,” we can focus extremely well and get tasks done, but consequently are less creative. When our minds are “off,” our thinking isn’t constrained, and there is more opportunity to think outside the box. I’ve even heard it said that a beer helps relax your mind and ideas can come more freely than when you’re wired on coffee and task-driven.
But What If I Just Don’t Want To?
Another important thing to note in deciding when you want to be creative is willpower. Researchers have found, “that we have a limited reserve of willpower, and once it’s gone, it’s gone” (1). That being said, you must still have some willpower to push yourself to be creative at any time of day. If you’re a morning person and you want to get all of your high-focused tasks out of the way and think creatively later in the day, just don’t wait too long into the evening when all you want to do is watch your favorite show then go to bed.
Simply put, you can think creatively when you have the willpower to do so and are also in a more free-minded state rather than laser-focused. Now the only thing left to do is relax and let the ideas flow!
1. The Best Time of Day for Creative Thinking – LifeHacker
2. The Best Time of Day to Get Creative – The Washington Post