Time and time again the battle call is: Be more productive. Stop doing X, Y and/or Z so you can get more work done. (By the way, please let’s not be foolish enough to still believe multi-tasking is an answer. It’s not. It’s a fool’s game.)
News flash! The brain doesn’t work that way.
That is, the brain, like any muscle, has limits. There are real (i.e., scientific) reasons why there are times you feel like you just can’t think anymore. It’s because you actually can’t think any more.
The reality is, to be more productive, less can, and very often is, more. Push harder against the rock your brain has become doesn’t make the rock movable. In fact, you’re probably only making matters worse. Or put another way, there are reasons why you have breakthrough ideas at what seem to be weird moments (e.g., in the shower). Sometimes the brain needs to catch its breath. Sometimes the brain needs silence.
Two related books I’ve read and recommend:
David Rock – “Your Brain at Work”
Daniel Goleman – “Focus”
Yes, Goleman is the “Emotional Intelligence” guy.
You may have also noticed that often breakthroughs come once you start to discuss a problem out loud (usually with a colleague). Verbalization changes how your brain processes the ideas, and sometimes that shift is enough to help see something that previous wasn’t as visible. Verbalizing helps you see the bottleneck differently.
The bottom line…Make time for the pause. Plan for the pause. Because the pause is a milestone.