An interesting phenomenon:

I was working late last night, armed only with some new music I copied to my laptop and a mug of leftover coffee from this morning. I had to finish something for today which I’ve been working on since Saturday night. After a not-so-fruitful Saturday late night (or Sunday morning), suddenly, last night, I was getting all these ideas.

So from about 50%, I was able to advance my slides to about 85%.

I noticed that when I switched from work to Facebook to refresh myself, the inspiration switch was still turned on. I was practically noticing everything, from grammatical puns to trends in Facebook chat. Coming from a Psychology background, I found this phenomenon very interesting and I wanted to look deeper into it. But that’s another story.

I have dubbed this state of inspiration, “Non-transferable Inspiration”. It’s similar to the focus we have at work when we don’t want to be bothered while typing an email or making a report. The difference is, you can’t switch your attention to anything else; if you do, you lose focus.

I call it non-transferable because even though it carries over to non-work things, it has little utility there. Simply put, when we’re hit with inspiration for work-related tasks, we should maximize it there, where it is most useful.

But sometimes, though, this backfires at us, and our inspiration dries out more easily. So, like what I did last night, I propose a mental exercise when in the state of non-transferable inspiration: temporarily focus on something else. Look around you, look outside your work box and see what you notice or what you would usually miss. Your quick thinking outside your work box might give you something new to bring inside your work box. Even if you might not bring something back in, at least you have refreshed the lifespan of your inspiration.

This sounds like a good exercise for innovative thinking.

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