life in general

Inspirations favour the prepared mind (part 3)


Few weeks ago, I received an email inviting me to give a short talk on “the process of creating ideas, campaigns, or innovations”. I’m a bit baffled because I don’t see myself as an “idea creator”. I see myself more as a problem solver.

I’m elaborating the content of my talk in three posts. This is the third and last post, where I share my other habits that I believe prepare my mind. I’m too impatient to idly wait for the moment of illumination. Instead, I believe by being prepared I’m in a better position to “fetch” inspirations.


Stick to a routine

In the previous post, I wrote about the rider and the elephant metaphor. The rider is about deliberate thinking, the one that we use when we have to make a big decision with huge and prolonged consequences. The elephant is about subconscious thinking that is instantaneous, shallow, and effortless. This is why the rider takes so much of our mental energy, and the elephant is our default mode.

At work I am paid to use the rider when I digging deeper into the client’s brief or data, and when developing strategies or presentations. This is why I try to preserve my mental energy by sticking to a routine:

I wake up at 5.45
I drink coffee while reading links from last night Twitter and RSS feeds. No emails.
I make my to-do list using Any.Do app
I shower at 7.45
On Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays I wear whites. Tuesdays and Thursdays, colours or patterns. I separate my whites and colours and patterns in my wardrobe. I pick randomly.
I start my journey to the office at 8.30. I check my emails (I don’t drive).
“Thinking work” from 9.20 till 11.30
Go to the gym at 11.30
Lunch at 12.45
“Admin or meeting or reviewing work” from 1.45
Go home at 6.
Dinner at 7.15, stop eating completely at 8.
Sleep at 10.

I’m inspired by this article about Obama in The Vanity Fair. He is quoted to say, “I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing, because I have too many other decisions to make.” Obama only wears grey or blue suits, and someone else decides for him what he will eat.

There’s another article about the daily rituals of the most creative minds in history or great writers. There’s even a book on it.




If you have met me, you’ll know that I look nothing like a person who runs regularly or has finished two sprint triathlon. Yes, I can confidently say to you that for me, running doesn’t help me to lose weight. But that’s not the reason why I run three times a week (and cycle once a week).

I run because for me, running keeps me sharper. This is just not my wishful thinking, there are already lots of evidences on the effect of exercise to cognitive ability (for example, here and here).

I run also because running lets my mind wanders. A wandering mind facilitates creative thinking (read here). Plus, there were few inspirations I caught while I had my post-running showers. Again, this is not my wishful thinking (read the evidence here).

The last reason why I run is because it keeps my mood even. This is important because I become a nicer person at work. I also become less pessimistic. Again, science reveals the link between exercise and preventing depressions (read here). I don’t know what works for me. Is it the released endorphin that makes me feel good? Is it the feeling that I can affect things and that I get better —which does not come often if you work in advertising agency? Whatever, but I will keep on running.

Read or watch lots of stuff unrelated to work, especially literary fiction



If you are in the business of changing how people feel, then you’d better know how to empathise with their feelings. Reading literary fiction (and this is an important distinction) is linked with improved empathy and social skills. “Literary fiction often leaves more to the imagination, encouraging readers to make inferences about characters and be sensitive to emotional nuance and complexity”, as quoted from here.

Also make time to read nonfiction from the field that’s unrelated to your daily work. Not only it broadens your knowledge, but ideas are made by connecting two separate concepts. The wider you read, the more concepts unrelated to work that you know, and the more interesting your ideas will be.

Know when to drink your coffee and your beer

I drink coffee much more often than beer. I do remember, though, I had very productive brainstorming sessions fuelled by just enough amount of beer. Again, there’s science behind this. Look into this amazing infographic that has been famous in the interweb.

Your brain on beer vs. coffee, by Ryoko Iwata from

Your brain on beer vs. coffee, by Ryoko Iwata from

This awesome infographic concludes the mini-series of habits that help me get better at problem solving and changing people’s feelings and behaviour. I hope you want to try adopting some of them. Please drop by and let me know how they work for you. Thank you.


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