Want to be More Creative & Successful? Take Screen Breaks!

Feb 7, 2020

How did a guy like Leonardo DaVinci get so good at so many things?

As our kids read classic books and study history and literature, the people they learn about and learn from amaze us. It wasn’t unusual for influential people in the past to speak multiple languages and master multiple creative and academic disciplines. DaVinci himself was a painter, scientist, musician, engineer, and more.

A younger person today might wonder, “How did they learn all of that without Google or a smartphone?!”

The thought in many peoples’ minds today is, “Maybe it’s because they didn’t have any of that stuff!”

Recently, I’ve been reading books and blogs by Cal Newport, an influential computer science professor and writer who doesn’t use any social media. I highly recommend his books, including Deep Work, that explore the idea that we might even achieve more success if we reduce the amount of tech in our lives, especially social media.

You may wonder, “how much screen time is too much for my student?” I’d like to suggest three simple ideas to help you be more creatively productive, by decreasing the time we spend with our devices.

be more creative like davinci

  1. Refresh your brain with some reality. Want another historical example? Charles Dickens is said to have written most of “‘A Christmas Carol” in just six weeks, depending on very long walks! Other studies have shown that exposure to nature increases our ability to be creative. So,
  • Spend time in nature– walking, hiking, sitting in the sun, etc.
  • Sit and talk with a real person, without any devices nearby. It’s good for your relationships and it can be like a big RESET button for your mind.
  1. Get Physical – use your body to get more creative. We are built to move around, respond to our external world– hot, cold, up, down, light and dark. If we spend too much time isolated in one mode, sedentary, quiet, hunched over a keyboard, or squinting at a tiny screen, whole portions of our brains are not really engaged.
  • Exercise, even if it’s simple and brief.
  • Cook, clean, or make something simple and tangible using your body.
  • Play music in a way that involves your body: singing, drumming, strumming, bowing, etc.
  1. Do something totally “unrelated” (It may turn out to be related!) When I am in this place, I won’t choose something connected to the problem I’m working on or a task that’s on my to-do list. Maybe an inspiring movie could contain a little nudge to encourage me to rise to my daunting task. Or, it could be reading poetry that “turns off” my analytical brain and “turns on” my emotional/evocative brain.
  • Music: play and/or listen
  • Read Poetry
  • Participate in Sports
  • Cook
  • Practice an alternative hobby: analogue photography, painting, knitting, etc.

I hope you will be encouraged and not feel nagged about this stuff. Here’s a final link for you, from Deep Work by author Cal Newport – The Analog January Challenge (not limited to January!)

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Consider Tom Khazoyan’s Using Media Without Being Used course. It’s part of our Bridge Builder series.

Tom Khazoyan has been teaching online film and screenwriting classes and in-person workshops and seminars since 2010. He began his career on the production side of the film and television business. He’s an award-winning producer, director, cameraman, and editor. He has produced projects ranging from television commercials to documentaries to dramatic films in over 30 countries.