A relaxed and spacious mind allows for new ideas to be explored; with an active, occupied mind we come up with familiar thoughts, more of the same. 

When you are able to create space and let your mind wander, when you allow the neural networks to rummage around, it can comb through our huge database that is stored in our brain combining concepts that would otherwise go unrecognized. It allows you to come up with more profound solutions. 

Nowadays, few people experience such peace of mind that allows us to feel and think in that way, which is not so strange in our hectic always-on world. 

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. 

How to create brain space at work

We should fundamentally change our view of work. Our thinking of having to be productive for 40 hours originates from the time of factory workers in the era of Henry Ford. 

In a time of knowledge work with the complex challenges we face and in our always-on world, you need and deserve a different approach.

Here are some easy to apply interventions and fundamental habits that can help you to create more brain space. 

Start the day with your phone on flight mode, turn off notifications, and set e-mail to ‘pull’

This creates more space for your own thoughts, if you start with your own ideas and have your messages on pull, other people won’t take over your thinking space. Try it this evening and set your phone on flight mode, the next morning try to go as long as possible with your phone on flight mode. —You can thank me later.

Have fewer meetings

At companies like Netflix, Gumroad, Automattic, Amazon, and Heineken people find all sorts of ways to have fewer meetings. Through better online documentation, through more autonomy and delegation, or through automation of business processes. When you do have meetings, maybe make them a 1 on 1 walk and talk meeting. 

Make time to play

Play is essential to free the mind. You might have seen it in children, when they play their minds can create new realities and they create their own mental space exempt from rules.

Many famous inventors used to play to create brain space. You can think of people like Dorothy Hodgkin, who was very much into drawing. Which she says allowed her to discover the structure of penicillin for which she got a Nobel prize. Einstein was very fond of sailing and playing the violin. Claude Shannon laid the foundations of artificial intelligence and created brain space through unicycling and juggling. What is something you could do?

Go into nature.

Going for a walk through nature can be beneficial to the mind and body. It lowers your heart rate, blood pressure, reduces stress hormone production in the brain which helps create a clear mind.

Meditate, do Yoga, Sports

Meditation can also help to create clarity. Online mind-body skills training is associated with acute improvements in stress, mindfulness, and cognitive flexibility.

Yoga is also a great way to create brain space. Did you know Yoga has the ability to ‘reverse’ DNA reactions caused by stress?

Actually, any type of sport that makes you feel better, you should do more of it. Just schedule it in your calendar at least 3 times a week. 

“I don’t have space for these interventions and fundamentals in my work”

You might be thinking, the above is impossible in my work environment. You can’t take a stroll in nature, have fewer meetings, let alone start with your phone on flight mode.

I encounter this type of thinking a lot. Although many modern very successful companies already include the above in their ways of working. Please also remember you have more power than you think.

Let’s first define what you need as an individual and also what the people around you need. 

Just ask the following questions:

  • What is going well?
  • What can we improve?
  • How would you sculpt your ideal life?

You’ll find that many people have the same kind of needs which are often unfulfilled. From my experience, the lack of brain space is often high on this list. So why don’t we fix that together?

After defining our needs our next step is to make decisions (together) that iterate towards our desired goals and towards working in the best, most spacious way possible. —It’s an invitation to join the realm of possibilities.

With some of our clients we decided on no meetings Wednesdays, we also document more insights and decisions digitally. Creating more time to explore and enabling space to think. People also rediscovered their need for time away from work. 

Be aware to not fill up all your time again with other tasks, the intent is to create brain space.

Start with creating more brain space today

We need brain space to really think, to process what we have been doing, to come up with ideas and solutions that really matter.

The benefits of creating space are clear. Get in sync with yourself and the people around you on how you want to create more brain space.

For more clarity and happiness, but also for a higher creative and innovative output.

Wishing you happy mental wandering and optimal creativity.