Although the whole “left brain vs. right brain” idea has been debunked, it’s still true that we use different areas of our brains for different tasks. It’s also true that a lot of us tend to favour one over the other, so how can analytical thinkers incorporate some flair into their daily lives, and how can creatives learn to embrace a little more logic?
In other words, how can “left brainers” be a little more right, and vice versa?
Left brain vs. right brain thinkers: which do you identify as?
Maybe you don’t consider yourself a creative person (I know I didn’t until very recently), but remember that creativity isn’t limited to artistic ability. Instead, it comes into play any time you create something. Sometimes it’ll be a meal you’re throwing together from whatever ingredients are available and reasonably fresh, or making up a new game to get your kids to co-operate at bedtime. (Seriously, mothers are some of the most creative people out there!)
Or maybe you’re always creating and crafting, and you feel that you spend so much time “outside the box” that you no longer remember what the inside looks like. But remember that most daily tasks and chores are “logical” in that there are set steps to follow to get a certain result. Anything you do as a habit or on autopilot or that has step-by-step instructions can be considered logical or “left brain”.
So, whether you identify as more analytical or more creative, the fact remains that we all incorporate elements of both into our everyday lives. Finding balance between the two is important to keep our lives interesting and our minds sharp.
The trick is to batch and alternate.
Left brain vs: right brain: how to make the most of each
There’s a whole module dedicated to optimising your to-do list in my signature e-course, the Productivity Power-Up, and one of the best ways to do it is to batch your tasks. This means putting similar tasks together. When you’re doing the same job for any reasonable period of time, it’s much easier for your brain to get “in the zone” than if you were constantly chopping and changing.
- It's easier to make all of your phone calls one after another than it is to spread them throughout the day.
- It's more efficient to run all your errands while you're already out and about than to make several trips.
- It's quicker to write a few paragraphs all at once than it is to try write a sentence here and there.
- It's easier to wash and chop all your veg for the entire week than it is to do a small amount every single day.
Task switching tires out your brain, so do it as little as possible.
When you’re planning your day, look for ways you can batch all the “logical” tasks together. Once those are done, be sure to take a decent break before then launching into the more creative jobs.
Left brain vs. right brain: which one comes alive at night?
So what time of day is the best to tackle each type of task?
Generally speaking, you’re better off leaving the more creative chores until you’re sleepy. It may sound silly, but it’s at the point where your analytical brain is starting to slow down that your creativity really kicks in, and allows for that “outside the box” thinking that logic would otherwise limit.
(It’s also why some of our best ideas come to us in the shower, because we’ve temporarily tuned out reality and our subconscious comes rushing in to fill the void.)
When we’re fully awake and alert, our brains are better prepared to follow things to their logical conclusions. Our focus and concentration are at peak levels, so it’s easier to understand instructions, however complex. We’re more adept at analysing information, patterns and shapes, and looking for similarities. Therefore, daytime is usually best for tackling these types of tasks, and creatives should attempt to complete what they would consider “mundane” work during these hours.
When we’re tired, on the other hand, the brain makes crazy connections as it tries to process the scattered puzzle pieces of our day. Like a small child, it will pick up random bits to see if they match. More often than not, there will be two pieces that fit together perfectly, even though they don’t actually belong together.
That’s what true creativity is — the ability to make connections that nobody else sees. The power to shape sentences that speak volumes. The ability to mix two different mediums to make a work of art. The unique insight that allows a message be conveyed in a new way.
In essence, tiredness frees the mind to think a bit more liberally, removing the limitations that alertness and analytical thinking can bring.
So “right brains” should batch all the “routine” tasks of everyday life together and tackle them when they’re feeling most awake and alert.
And “left brains” will find more flair if they look for it later in the day, when pieces are put together at random until something finally clicks. You may not be left with a perfect picture, but you might find some interesting new patterns all the same.
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