Sometimes I feel completely stuck in my work for my dissertation.
On days like this, I feel like my brain isn’t firing right. It’s not able to make the connections between the topics that I have studied. I’m not able to see the big picture. I forget all of the things that I have done and learned.
What I’ve discovered is that this issue is not due to a lack of discipline.
It’s quite the opposite. It’s due to a lack of space for creative thinking to occur.
When I’m asking my brain to do the work of integrating and creating new thoughts from things that have come before, I need to give it space to do that.
No amount of logic and discipline will get me to the place where I can write on the connections between gender bias and intuition. That requires a different kind of thinking.
When this happens, I have a few practical things that I do to help myself out.
The first is to do a brain dump. My brain can’t function optimally if my to-do list is taking up most of the space. I write everything down on a large sticky note (I like these ones).
Then I get ruthless. What on the list really doesn’t have to get done? Is there anything that I can get away with not doing? All of that stuff gets crossed off (ie: no, I really do not have to reorganize the kids bathroom today).
Next, I see what on the list I can outsource. Is there something that I can ask my husband to take care of? Is there something on there that I can pay someone else to do? (Caveat here, I only outsource what I can afford to pay someone a living wage or more to do. You can do a search to see what your state’s living wage is.)
With all of the unnecessary and outsourced items crossed off the list, I make a new list on a different large sticky note of the items that are left.
Next, I ask myself if any of the items on the list need to be done right now, or will bother me if I don’t get them done.
I take those items and I calendar them by blocking off time in my planner. I make a commitment to myself to get those items done in that time.
The rest of the items stay on the master list sticky note which I position opposite the current day in my planner.
Now my brain is ready to think creatively. I know that if I don’t clear it of the tasks then it won’t be able to do the creative work that I’m asking it to do.
Once I am ready to get down to the creative work, I find that I need a few key ingredients:
– unrelated activities that can spur my thinking (nature, fiction novels, art etc.)
Then I’m ready to go. The structure that I use in creating the master to-do list and calendaring tasks clears the way for my thoughts to coalesce into something new and beautiful.