The latest Small Business Monitor report by American Express OPEN says that over one-third of entrepreneurs use down time — time when they are not technically working — to come up with creative ideas for business:
More than one-third of entrepreneurs (35%) report coming up with their best ideas during “down-time”. Male business owners are more than twice as likely as female business owners to come up with their best ideas on the way to work (18% vs. 7%). Women are also more likely than men to wake up in the middle of the night with ideas for their business (70% vs. 56%).
At this time of year I do a lot of gardening. I find that the time spent alone outdoors — just the plants, some red-winged blackbirds, a few moles and me — is prime time for coming up with new ideas. There’s nothing like pulling weeds or deadheading flowers to have new ideas jump into your head as if out of nowhere.
But the ideas are not really coming out of nowhere. Our subconscious and even our conscious minds are at work during down times like gardening. Sometimes down time is the only time we have to actually think about breakthrough ideas or new products or creative approaches. On a typical work day we tend to be occupied with phone calls, answering emails, meetings, writing and other specific tasks, leaving little open time. We may have to get out of the office to have unfettered time for creative thinking.
When do you come up with your best ideas?