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As we learn to be our creative best, we need to identify the intangible characteristics about ourselves. Do we work better in an office or a coffee shop? Are we more creative on sunny days or rainy days? And probably the most common question, what time of day do we do our best creative work? Is it early in the morning? Late at night? Right in the dead middle of the afternoon?

New research by Mareike Weith of Albion College and Rose Sacks of Michigan State University may surprise you. As reported by PsyBlog, the pair studied 428 students. They asked them to tackle six problem solving tasks at different times of the day. What they found was very interesting. The “morning people” scored better on insight based problem solving – problems that required original thinking in the evening. Likewise, the “night owls” scored higher in the morning and experienced more breakthroughs earlier in the day.

And what is the reason? Overcoming our own minds.

The study proved that most original ideas, as well as innovative thoughts, took place when the students could view the problems from a different perspective; when students felt they were in their zone, they actually got in the way of their best ideas and problem solving skills. They become more mental and less intuitive.

“When we are on, we’re really good at screening out what we think is irrelevant, and we really get focused on one thing,” says Wieth. “That’s great if you’re doing a task where you have to concentrate, but for creativity that’s probably not the best thing. We get stuck on one way and don’t think of other ways to resolve it.”

So how does this impact you and I today as artists?

We have to remember to stay out of our heads. We can’t fall in love with our formulas. Finding different perspectives and working on problems or ideas when we are not “on our A game” may actually help us to be more creative. As artists, sometimes the most important thing we can do is change our routine, our approach, and our surroundings. We have to identify when we’re allowing ourselves to get stale and be honest enough with ourselves about the importance of intentionally finding new methods to be our absolute best. Creativity is not about habits, it’s about new perspectives, imagination, and a unique approach to the ordinary.

What are some of the habits you find that can cause you to slip into the trap of normality?

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