Game Republic

picture of a sunset on the coast, blue, pink and white clouds

Digital detox to recharge your creativity and motivation

Dr Jackie Mulligan at Game Republic has some advice to fuel creativity, and it happens to be something you can do more easily when you are off work.

The holidays are here so if you are physically away from the office (be it your home office or an actual office outside your home), make sure your mind gets a chance to be away too. It’s a hard thing to do but so important for your mental health as well as your work. Research has shown that giving your mind a chance to relax or zone out can pay dividends for your creativity and motivation. My own research into creativity showed that relentless mindfulness (constantly thinking of things you had to do) was very poor for creativity. It becomes so much harder to properly switch off when our minds are linked to devices. It’s ironic that when your battery is at 100% and your Wifi is full strength, your brain’s creative battery has more chance of running out of charge. My advice for benefiting your creativity and motivation is to ensure that when you are away – you disconnect from anything that links you back to work. Instead take time to reconnect with yourself, your friends, loved ones or just to where you are.

Free yourself from distractions for creative dividends

Free from distraction – you can be present and be allowed to drift and dream.

Picture this – a rose pink sunset descends on the harbour at Seahouses – grey stone harbour walls take in the colours of boats, water and sky being gently lapped by turquoise sea in this little quiet haven in Northumberland. I stop to look at the calm water. I pause and take a seat on a bench perfectly located to take in the view and that big summer sky. Next to me, a woman stops too, irritating the little shiatsu she is walking. “We always forget to stop and look,” she says.

Sometimes it takes a removal from everyday surroundings or an inability to get a phone signal, to force us to stop and look. When in that moment, you do manage to look around, it is easy to get a sensation that you have missed things. Sometimes you might be engulfed with guilt about that, but don’t be. Just make sure to learn from it. Promise yourself not to miss things this holiday, because it is the stopping and looking (up from devices) and the time to take note of your thoughts that will help you most now and when you get back to work.

Boost your creativity

My doctoral research on creativity showed how the ability to pay attention is critical to improving creativity and motivation. When we pay attention, we gain creative dividends, we get lost in thoughts or in an activity and feel more motivated. Paying attention enables us to discover, to explore and to innovate. Dependency on smartphones is a part of modern life and often a core part of our working lives. So when we are on holiday it is even more important to put them down. Phones and devices are made for distraction, and there is plenty of time and space for that. At work we can be multitasking all the time, but the relentlessness of that can take its toll on our ability to innovate and come up with new ideas. Holidays are not the time for online distractions, and if we take the opportunity to switch off and abide by the message on our ‘Out Of Office’, it can help us in our work later on. Time away from work gives us all time to (re)focus and to recharge our creative batteries. This time can also serve to remind us of who we are outside our work. Something Rosie Taylor identified as crucial to looking after our mental health “Your life is not your job and finding joy and peace outside of your work is so important.”Picture of Jackie Mulligan with a drink, background view of coast and tables

Dr Jackie Mulligan at Seaview Restaurant enjoying some downtime on the North Yorkshire Coast.

Tips for switching off this Summer

When we go away I remove notifications and emails from my phone and switch off the socials. My phone is there for an emergency call and to take photos but that’s it. If you are CEO or the lead of a department, you might even consider a holiday as a way to stress test your company! I remember doing that for the first time one Summer and it was terrifying for 3 days and then immensely liberating for the next seven. Provide one key contact with your number so you know if it rings, you are needed – better still make that contact number someone else so any emergency can be filtered again. If you have to connect to work, time it, one hour each day or each week and be specific to your colleagues and family so it is expected and planned. But really, honestly and really, if you are not a paramedic, can your company not do without you for a few days…?

In a hotel room, charge your phone away from your bedside – this is a good idea for home too but I don’t want to be too ambitious here! If you have kids, show them that you are not using your phone and even if you have teens constantly on TikTok they might follow your lead too. It is amazing how much more you can see when you look up in real life and how interesting the 3D world of IRL can be.

In the games industry, it is harder than most industries to withdraw from devices – after all we like playing games in our leisure time too. But I urge you all to do it this Summer for at least one week. Taking time to look around you and giving your brain a chance to rest is absolutely the best way to let your brain incubate new ideas. It’s one of the reasons why some of the best ideas come to us when we are just drifting off to sleep or in the shower or driving on a long journey. Our mind enjoys being in that twilight state, neither asleep, nor busy.  Taking that time out is good for you and those you like and love. It also means that when you do return to work, after having been ‘away, Away’ you will have more energy and motivation too. So remember, this Summer that a holiday is not simply about moving your body to another place, it is also about moving your mind.

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