Science Reveals The Best Time To Do Amazingly Creative Work

Science Reveals The Best Time To Do Amazingly Creative Work

If you regularly put time and effort into becoming more creative, this post is for you. If your boss or supervisor has commented that they’d love for you to work on your creative skills, this post is even more for you. If you’re an artist, musician, writer, filmmaker, poet, or any other kind of self-identified creative individual, this post is most definitely for you.

We love learning how to be more creative. Creativity remains one of the most highly valued assets in the workplace. Companies are pushing recruiters and HR staff harder than ever to find candidates who can think differently. Businesses want problems solved more efficiently and more quickly, and creative thinking is arguably the most effective way to conquer problems.


Despite all this, how does creativity as a skill (and the fostering of it) remain so utterly elusive? At least, that’s what it seems like. If you were born and raised in a developed country, chances are you were educated through more traditional models. That is to say, standardized testing and rigid classroom structures were more often the rule, not the exception.

Creative Thought Increases Value Everywhere

It’s no secret that STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) classes and majors are prioritized and glamorized over others. These jobs almost unequivocally pay more than jobs relating to arts and literature, history, education, and psychology. Even healthcare jobs don’t always compete salary-wise with STEM-related jobs.


Now, I’m not saying careers involving STEM proficiencies are bad. I’m simply illustrating that career paths not traditionally associated with “creative” or “artsy” thinking even value the leverage of creativity, when all is said and done.

At the end of the day, creativity seems to win universal acclaim. So, let’s cut to the chase and learn when you’re most apt to produce your most creative work. Are all the myths about creativity true?


The Secret To Optimal Creativity

Believe it or not, doing your best creative thinking is most likely to happen when you’re tired. I know, I know; this information pretty much flies in the face of conventional wisdom, especially in regards to hard work. Most people recommend getting up early in the day, getting to your workspace, making sure your desk is well-lit, and hammering away at your craft. These are fantastic recommendations for productivity, but it turns out they aren’t exactly ideal for optimal creativity.

Researchers Mareike Wieth and Rose Zacks conducted a study in which they first determined the peak cognition times of their subjects. The research subjects were given a simple test that determined whether they considered themselves “morning” people or “evening” people. This test provided information on when an individual’s cognition and focus are clearest. This was later referred to in the research as one’s “peak time.” An “off-peak time” was, naturally, the opposite time at which someone’s intellectual function was most driven.


Zacks and Wieth found when we’re at our peak time, our brains are able to more efficiently filter out distractions and get work done. As the day draws near an end (or more appropriately, as we reach our off-peak time), our brains are not able to operate as efficiently, and we become more susceptible to a broader range of information. This component — the default openness to more bits of information and varying interpretations — is what actually drives optimal creativity.

This unconventional but potent realization can come as mild bad news and good news. It may be bad news because you might have to adapt your workflow to optimize your creativity; the good news is that powering up your creative work just became a lot simpler to harness.

Now that you understand when your best creative work can be done, what are a few ways to utilize this wisdom? Check out my recommendations below:

  • Carry a pen and notepad with you at all times. I know this can sound super cliché because everyone recommends it, but that’s because it works. Don’t rely on your brain to remember every nugget, tidbit, and idea you create or encounter; it won’t happen. Write down everything that intrigues you so you can refer back to it later. Even better is to keep a separate notebook by your bed.
  • Reserve a few nights/mornings out of the week to have nothing going on. Just allow yourself to be free of obligations and have the chance to write down new ideas, patterns, and possibilities. Assign these moments in your schedule based on your peak time.
  • Maintain a relatively full schedule. When you have a lot going on, you’re more likely to get tired sooner. And, as we now know, being tired facilitates creativity. The sooner you get tired, the sooner and more likely you are to have some cool ideas coming your way. Not having a decently full schedule can be somewhat of a hindrance to creative thought.

Featured photo credit: Bench Accounting via

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Brad Johnson

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Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.


     A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.


    The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

    “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

    In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

    The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence


      A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.


      Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

      “When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

      When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

      The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

      As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]


      “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

      Silence relieves stress and tension.


        It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

        A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

        “This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

        Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

        Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.


          The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

          Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

          But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]



          Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

          Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via


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