When do you do your best thinking?

November 8, 2010

I do my best thinking while running.

(Outside, anyhow. While running inside I just think about how much I hate the treadmill.)

No, that's not me. I just like the scenery. (Photo by Flickr's Luluemon Athletica)

Why is running such a thought-producer for me? I think it’s because my mind has complete freedom while I’m putting one foot in front of the other. Freedom from all the things I’m obligated to think about during the rest of the day: work, communicating, remembering to do this and that. While running, I don’t have to think about any of those things. I can let my mind wander, uninterrupted, giving my ideas the opportunity to grow and multiply and morph into something bigger and better.

Sometimes, while running, I write in my head. I write full phrases, revising them until they’re just right, and then repeat them over and over until I’m back at home, where I dump all of those carefully constructed words onto my computer screen. Running is such a productive thinking and writing time that I wish my iPod had a recording function, one I could dictate my ideas into as I pounded the pavement.

Some people say they do their best thinking in the shower. Others like to think while traveling. I think well in each of these places, but running still takes the cake.

When do you do your best thinking? And how to you record those thoughts before they disappear?

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    18 Replies to “When do you do your best thinking?”

    • Andrea James says:

      Same here — love to think while running! …Also, I’m a better worker and producer after a run, after having cleared my mind.

    • Wendy says:

      I’ve been known to bust out from the shower to the computer in record time attempting to get my thoughts down.

      Certainly running or walking and they bombard me in that precarious time just before and after REM.

      ~ Wendy

    • For me it’s the shower, but also the elliptical, walking the dogs on a quiet deserted road, and right before going to sleep.

    • Andi says:

      Absolutely running! Though my best was when I was in NYC and I had to ride the subway to and from school 45 minutes every day.

    • Doug Mack says:

      Yep, running. Or Rollerblading. For all the same reasons you’ve said. Now and then, I’ll carry a pen in my pocket and write a few notes on my hand, but most of the time, I just figure that if the idea is good, it’ll stick somehow. If I’m really worried about it, I’ll keep repeating the idea like a mantra for half a mile or a mile, or focus on a particular landmark, trying to connect the thought to the visual aid. Doesn’t always work … but often enough!

    • My mind seems to be working and “writing” all the time, even while I’m watching my favorite TV shows. I keep a pad and pen by each chair (and on my bedside table) to make sure those profound thoughts don’t slip away.

    • Jessie Carty says:

      Most often for me it is when I am driving. Something about routine really can open up your thoughts. I have had to, on many occasions, pull over to write something down!

    • I couldn’t agree with you more. I do my best thinking while walking/running or even in spinning classes or on outside bike rides. What you need is the iPhone as your iPod so that you can use the voice recorder app. That’s what I use when I’m walking or when I’m driving. I voice record thoughts I have and it uploads to my iTunes when I’m done.

    • Alyssa says:

      How funny that you memorize sentences on your runs! I find that awesome!

      I think I do my best thinking right before I fall asleep, when my mind should be settling down but just, well, won’t comply! That’s why I need a notepad next to my bed now. Super helpful.

    • I often find myself waking up far too early in the morning, full of sentences begging to be put on paper. Also, on the subway. Feeling like one little person in the hordes of commuting Beijingers sparks my creativity.

    • Jennifer says:

      Swimming, though I hardly get to swim laps anymore, but I used to swim laps a lot in grad school. I remember a meeting with my thesis advisor when I gave him five or six pages solving a problem that he had brought up at our last meeting. He commented that it was exactly what he was looking for, definitely the direction I needed to go in, and what did I do to finally come up with this? “I’ve been swimming” I said, and he didn’t think it was an odd answer or a non-sequitur at all. He just said “Good. Keep swimming.”

      Something about the numb repetition of that kind of exercise lets my mind wander in a more relaxed way and it generally stumbles across something that stays hidden when I look too hard for it. The only problem with swimming is it’s really hard to have any sort of notation device nearby! You just have to memorize it, which is good, but then it keeps me from being able to do even more of that rambling thinking that is so productive.

    • Kim Kircher says:

      For me it’s hiking. I love to hit the trail and let my mind wander. If I have my phone with me, I will even jot down a few ideas on my calendar so that when I get back to the computer I can recreate them. Best of all, being outdoors, breathing in the mountain air just brushes away the clutter in my mind. It’s like a little form of meditation.

    • I don’t know about best, but I get fabulous, productive brain dumps when I’m pissed as hell. Everything comes out. Everything seems clear. I storm off and write and write and write. When I read it later, it’s usually 70 percent crazytown and 30 lightbulb moment. But I swear, the lightbulb stuff is good! Too bad I hate being angry. 🙂

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