Preoccupied is one of my favorite words in English, for two reasons:
- because its meaning is quite different from that of words that look just like it in other languages, such as preocupado in Spanish or préoccupé in French
- because its meaning is faithful to the combination of the preffix pre- and the adjective occupied, as in already occupied
In English, when you are preoccupied your mind is somewhere else, concerned with something else -thus, you do not pay attention to the here and now and that can lead to mistakes and/or accidents.
Of course, it is hard not to be preoccupied these days, when most of us lead lives full of demands from bosses and peers -in the professional realm- or family and friends -in the personal one. To make things worse, we are bombarded by an almost infinite amount of information and the constant nagging of notifications in our mobile devices.
But we need to be aware of the consequences that being permanently busy can have on our quality of life:
- incapacity to focus our attention and notice little details
- addiction to constant stimulation, with signs of withdrawal when offline
- difficulty escaping an action>reaction line of thought or action
Especially negative, though, can be its impact on our creativity. Being creative requires time to:
- process stimuli
- conceptualize ideas
- design implementation plans
- develop and test prototypes, and
- evaluate results.
A long process that is not feasible on an already overloaded mind. So the question that follows is, what can be done about that? Well, this is one of those situations where we can say that there are no magical recipes, although I can suggest a few useful ideas:
- exercise for an hour a day, outdoors if possible, but without any distractions (no music, no cellphone) so that you can use that time to think and organize your thoughts while stimulating your neuronal connections
- get out of your comfort zone, don’t be afraid to engage with people who do not share your point of view so that you can open your mind to new possibilities and ideas
- reduce the inflow of information in your life (prioritize quality over quantity), starting by going on a social media diet so that you can reduce all that background noise and focus on the things that really matter
- look at things with new eyes, don’t be afraid to be surprised or even challenged, so that you can substitute a certain feeling of déjà vu by a feeling of vuja de
- de-clutter your life, get rid of all those excess things that surround you so that you find it easier to get organized and focus your creative capacity
Last, but not least, don’t be afraid to space out, to find time to do nothing, to procrastinate. That will provide your mind with the time and space needed to develop brilliant ideas and be truly creative. So go ahead -finish reading this and then go lie on the couch and do nothing for a while. Just make sure to share those ideas with me later, okay?