General Question

Harp's avatar

Under what circumstances do you do your best thinking?

Asked by Harp (19142points) June 19th, 2008

Say you’re working through a thorny problem; what would be the optimal conditions (e.g. time of day, particular activities, environment, chemicals…) to set you up for a “eureka” moment?

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33 Answers

arnbev959's avatar

I think very clearly if I had a good night’s sleep the night before, then had a slight headache, then got rid of the headache without the use of any medicine. A few hours after my headache goes away everything seems really simple. Usually I try writing then, it’s the only time I can manage anything creative.

Mtl_zack's avatar

In the shower, or in a crowded place like at the caf at school or on the metro.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Under pressure when all hell has broken loose. Which is a shame as I try to avoid those situations at all costs.

El_Cadejo's avatar

under the influence of LSD

shrubbery's avatar

Well, I get a lot of my ephiphanies in the middle of the night. The best essay I’ve ever written happened this way. It was in the holidays, we didn’t have to start it til we got back to school but I woke up one night and just knew exactly what I wanted to say so I typed it all out and even though I went over and over it before I handed it in, I hardly changed it. I got straight A+s, pretty cool.

hollywoodduck's avatar

I try to think about it indirectly. Like I will do an arts and crafts project or throw my rubber band ball around for a while and let the problem swim around in my head for a while. Usually once I stop thinking about it, I find the solution.

richardhenry's avatar

While traveling. I often have to do it purposely to get rid of creative block.

SuperMouse's avatar

When I have a huge problem to think through I usually take a run. It always clears my head and helps give me a fresh perspective.

janbb's avatar

I take a daily walk in the summer and do some great thinking then. Also, while swimming or during water aerobics class. I do my best thinking while on vacation, and feel particularly bright and creative when I’ve just come back from Europe. (Jetlag is great for my brain!) Unfortunately, that kind of creativity doesn’t come cheap!

eambos's avatar

Sitting in the sunlight with some ambient noise. That way I can relax, yet also listen to the world around me.

flameboi's avatar

with a campari in my right hand, a cigarrete in my left hand and a very nice view, also, when I’m in serious trouble lol

whatthefluther's avatar

When I worked, it would be while driving my 60 mile commute each way. Now that I’m retired, I don’t have to think anymore. Just kidding. Now I do my best thinking while relaxing in the garden amongst my “yard art”, fruit trees and flowers.

shrubbery's avatar

I also agree with supernutjob, I love going for a run, I can either think about things in more depth, clear my head, or zone out, whichever I feel like- amazing!

Skyrail's avatar

To sit at a desk and spread my arms out across it like I am now. I can think clearly with space. Sometimes music helps. I tend to think clearer I guess in the morning after a shower. But I like to have space, what I do hate is when there’s just one person who won’t shut up and keeps bringing up random things. I just like to sit and think.

Harp's avatar

There is something about a shower, isn’t there? I knew a chef once who would take a shower to come up with new dessert ideas.
Maybe there’s a commonality between the shower and the running and the crowds and the ambient noise and the rubber band ball and the cigarette in that they all involve some steady, but non-distracting, sensory input. I’ve never been in a sensory deprivation tank, but I wonder if that would be conducive to clear thinking or not.

generalspecific's avatar

honestly, whenever i smoke weed. everything seems so much simpler, and easier to understand. i’ve come to many useful realizations while i was high.

ljs22's avatar

I get some good thinking done while I’m bartending. I think the physical nature of the work (running around and fetching things) frees my mind up.

Other than that, my favorite spot to think is in my car while speeding down the highway.

mzgator's avatar

Early in the morning, sitting outside in my backyard, alone with my thoughts, a great cup of coffee and after my morning prayer. If I have a problem, a solution or plan to fix whatever is wrong usually comes to the surface. My days usually are great when I take these brief moments of reflection before getting to work.

robmandu's avatar

Besides the oft mentioned rubber ducking, I’ve also found that playing classical music in the background whilst contemplating the issue often works very well.

Listening to my typical fare is fine once I’m underway with work, but not so useful when in the middle of reasoning out a particularly thorny problem.

sndfreQ's avatar

I’m a night owl, and get a lot done when everyone’s asleep and I have darkness and quietude. I guess it’s just an old habit from college that seems to work still, though as I get older, recovering the next morning’s getting more and more taxing!

beast's avatar

Sitting at my desk, with my mind clear, and some Mozart playing.

elchoopanebre's avatar

Late at night alone or secluded in a corner of Highland Coffees (a local coffee shop). Listening to fast trance and techno with no words also helps me think.

jlm11f's avatar

I make my best decisions under stress. In general, I work well under stress and pressure. Which is good for me, because as a pre-med student, I am under stress a lot and learning to deal with it early on is always helpful. Going out for a drive is my method of relieving stress, sadly, i will have to find a new way because with the gas prices I can’t afford to relieve stress anymore.

xxporkxsodaxx's avatar

A place where I can calm down; a cafe, my big comfy chair, the shower, a park, my universities courtyard, etc.

Jill_E's avatar

Surrounded in nature is when do my best thinking. Mostly looking at sunsets.

spendy's avatar

I need noise, lots of noise. Any variety will do, as long as it’s clammering, bustling, hectic, mind-jostling, close-out-the-whole-world-or-you’ll-lose-you-mind noise. Quiet doesn’t do it for me (my mind wonders), and middle-ground just distracts me.

scamp's avatar

I’m like sndfreQ I like to do my planning and problem solving in the middle of the night, when the rest of the world is asleep and all is quiet.

susanc's avatar

When I’m half asleep. This can be either a) I’m whirring like a fanbelt with anxiety, can’t sleep real sleep, worn out, can’t get up and make noise/will wake other people up, totally wacked out: get up and make a list.
or b) very relaxed, a little dreamy.

Harp's avatar

@susanc (and shrubbery from earlier)

I read recently about how people have used these pre-sleep (“hypnagogic”) and post-sleep (“hypnapompic”) mind states as well-springs of creativity. Edison and Salvador Dali used them quite methodically. Both would drift off to sleep holding a piece of metal over the floor; when the metal fell to the floor and roused them, they would immediately take note of their thoughts and imagery. Einstein apparently got the inspiration for special relativity while waking from sleep.

urugeht's avatar

Late at night when everyone else is sleeping and it’s really quiet.

thewied's avatar

Late at night i go to the park by my house and I look at the lights from all over LA county and it just clears my mind. Or it could be the clean night air…either one.

Nimis's avatar

Under pressure. And asleep.

It’s kind of funny to say, but most of my best work (for architecture studio) has been done in my sleep. I’ll lay in bed thinking intensely of the problem, all the little details I can think of, go to sleep and voila! I used to do my high school math homework like that too. I’ll wake up with the solution all worked out in my head. Though, to be fair, I am a really strange sleeper. I’ll be asleep, but if you ask me a question, I’ll answer you—in a clear voice. (And remember answering you in the morning.) Maybe I never actually sleep?

90s_kid's avatar

Morning. I think all the time in the morning.

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