In the nascent stages of my career, a trusty Moleskine notebook became my constant companion, capturing a tapestry of ideas ranging from innovative products to captivating stories. Snippets of overheard conversations during commutes found refuge within its pages, snippets of potential fuel for future creativity. I meticulously transcribed quotes from books and films, meticulously crafting my vision of an “Ideal Day.” The purpose? It was irrelevant. My goal was simple: capture every drop of inspiration through a self-made pact.

Does this sound familiar? Each of us encounters periods of heightened creativity and idea generation. Sometimes, these surges are triggered by deadlines, significant events, or even moments of anxiety. Perhaps the looming sale of your company sparks a flurry of inspiration. Your once-secure job may suddenly appear vulnerable, inducing both frustration and fear. Yet, amidst these emotions, a spark is ignited. You find yourself reaching out to connections, reevaluating your experience, and revamping your resume. A cascade of opportunities materializes, new avenues unfurl, and a palpable shift occurs. Even if the sale doesn’t transpire, your energy is renewed by the prospect of new horizons.

I’ve christened this phenomenon: percolation. To percolate is to offer oneself the luxury of time and space for contemplation, devoid of performance metrics. It’s a phase of reflection, exploration, and creation—a reminder that the realm of opportunities extends beyond the boundaries of your current knowledge. As we navigate further along our career paths, the allure of productivity often eclipses the essence of percolation. Our days are dominated by relentless pursuit, as we chase profits, hours, and energy. While we master the art of accomplishing to-do lists, the very essence of our hustle can become monotonous.

In contrast to productivity, percolation embodies the spirit of play. If you’re yearning to reignite your creative flames or breathe fresh life into your career aspirations, consider these techniques to rekindle your exploration mindset.

In 1951, John Steinbeck was immersed in the creation of his latest novel. As he aimed to pen 1,000 words daily, he embraced an unconventional ritual: he would craft a letter to his editor. Steinbeck’s letters chronicled the ebb and flow of his work, sometimes evoking determination and other times revealing frustration. These seemingly mundane missives, once penned, transformed his mindset, enabling him to surpass his word count goals. This practice epitomizes percolation—a liberating torrent of unfiltered thoughts.

Another avenue for unleashing percolation is the practice of morning pages, popularized by Julia Cameron in her book “The Artist’s Way.” By scribbling three pages each morning, you lay bare your thoughts, fears, and embryonic dreams. This priming process often facilitates a seamless transition into meaningful work.

Choreographer Twyla Tharp embraces “scratching” as her percolation technique—a journey through diverse sources to unearth small yet impactful ideas. In her pursuit, she discovers inspiration in reading, conversations, nature, and the works of mentors and heroes. The essence of “scratching” lies in unedited, uninhibited expression, free from judgment. The focus is on releasing creativity without constraints, even if it appears imperfect or unpolished.

Contrast these organic processes with the typical brainstorming sessions or weekly idea meetings. True creative breakthroughs often emerge when we least expect them. Holding our breath throughout the week and then unleashing a torrent of ideas in a confined time frame seldom yields lasting, impactful work. Instead, envision your thinking as a perpetually brewing coffee pot—allowing ideas to percolate gradually, infusing each drop with nuance and richness.

In essence, percolation is the art of nurturing your creative essence, unshackling your thoughts, and embracing the unexpected. It’s a dance between reflection and exploration, transcending the confines of routine and monotony. By championing percolation, you invite curiosity, innovation, and the joy of genuine play into your creative and professional journey.

By Impact Lab