Shower thoughts outside the shower

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Anthony Pica
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Shower thoughts outside the shower

Shower thoughts outside the shower

Most of the ideas I write about in my Work Smart, Lead Better newsletter come to me when I'm not trying to think of them.

It's when I'm doing something else—cleaning the house, going for a walk, or reading a book—that I unexpectedly have the proverbial "shower thought."

I realized that much of my newsletter writing happens when I'm not actually writing, which led me to two questions:

1. How can I create more opportunities for shower thoughts?

Easy, take more showers! But really, why are shower thoughts a "thing"? Well, it seems that we're put into a creative state while in the shower partly because the demand for our attention is limited: no cellphone, no email, no pressure from the outside world.

If we think of the brain as having finite bandwidth, then one might claim that the more information we input, the less we can output at the same time. Production decreases as consumption increases.

So I'm trying things like:

  • Not listening to music while taking a walk.
  • Closing my email during work meetings.
  • Just sitting (no social media) while waiting at the dentist.

In fact, my sister-in-law came up with an idea for a new dog-training-nosework-toy while she was in one of those sensory deprivation float tanks. (You can search for "The Nosey Nose" if you're a dog lover. The idea has become a 5-star bestseller on Etsy.)

But perhaps it's not just about having more shower thoughts, but also capturing our ideas more often, which brings me to the second question:

2. How often do I have novel insights that I forget?

I can't remember how many times I've had a shower thought that never amounted to anything beyond the fleeting moment.

That's why, in my opinion, it's worth creating a system to capture those shower thoughts—even the half-baked ideas. Steven Johnson, the author of Where Good Ideas Come From, makes the case:

"Most great ideas come into the world half-baked, more hunch than revelation ... most great ideas first take shape in a partial, incomplete form. They have the seeds of something profound, but they lack a key element that can turn the hunch into something truly powerful. And more often than not, that missing element is somewhere else..."

It begs the question, how many hunches never come to fruition because the idea seems fuzzy at first, and it drifts away, lost to time, as the hustle and bustle of the day takes over?

It's why I love note-taking and journaling. The emerging tools-for-thought (TfT) ecosystem is really exciting because apps like Roam Research, Logseq, and Obsidian help seemingly disparate ideas connect and evolve into novel insights over time.- One of my goals for 2022 is to create more empty space for creative thinking while writing down more of my ideas before they slip away.

After all, as writing guru David Perell said, your ideas are the most valuable currency in a knowledge-driven economy.

"All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone."
—Blaise Pascal, 17th-century French philosopher

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