INNOVATE

4 Weird Habits of Famous Inventors

We can thank Edison for more than just the lightbulb.

Share on
BY Rohini Venkatraman - 27 Jun 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Creative inspiration is elusive. It's difficult to come by or predict, and some of us are convinced that we are incapable of ever experiencing it. But that shouldn't stop us from pursuing it. One way to boost creativity might be to mimic the known habits of successful inventors. After all, if it worked for them, it may also work for us.

Here are four tried and true habits of inventors (with bonus validation from science) to attempt the next time you need to spark your creativity.

1. Give yourself alone-time

Dr. Nakamats, the inventor of the floppy disc (and with 3300 other patents in his name), was said to have relaxed in his 24-karat-gold tiled bathroom every evening. He claimed it helped him think better, explaining that the walls protected him from television and radio waves. If you don't have the means to go out and build a gold-tiled room, don't worry. Any location where you can enjoy some solitude will suffice.

Neuroscientists have found that when we reflect inwards, we use a different part of our brain than when we are focusing our attention externally. When we are processing the outside world, we use our executive brain network, and our imaginative network is suppressed. But when we reflect inward, we provide our brains with the right conditions to awaken our imagination.

2. Commit to daily walks

Einstein walked one and a half miles to Princeton and back each day. He considered this walk precious. He was also known to take daily walks with his friend MIchael Beso, during which they discussed his research. It was during one of those walks that Einstein brought up a problem between the speed of light and the speed of other objects. (Book: The Universe--Order Without Design). Whether it's with a friend or on your own, throw a walk (or 3 if you're Charles Darwin) into your daily routine.

When we walk, we experience transient hypofrontality, or the temporary turning down of certain parts of the brain. The frontal lobe is one such area, which is involved in higher processes like judgment, memory and language processing. It is possible that this allows us to think in more uninhibited and creative ways than we might when we are sitting.

3. Take power naps

Edison was vehemently against sleeping through the night. He thought it was a waste of time, and it is only fitting that his most famous invention, the light bulb, enabled people to stay up longer instead of going to sleep with the sun. While he may have only slept three or four hours each night, Edison also had a sleepy secret: He power-napped. He had cots placed all over his property in labs and libraries. Consider scheduling a few 15-minute naps in your day. If you're caught, you'll be in good company--Edison was found (and photographed) napping on several occasions!

Research led by UC San Diego researchers has found that while time is enough to help us solve creative problems we've already been working on, only REM cycles can help boost creativity when it comes to new problems.

4. Do a headstand

Composer Igor Stravinsky, known primarily for his ballets, started each day with a set of exercises, ending with a headstand. He reportedly did this to clear his head. If you can't do a headstand, perhaps it's time to learn. One New-York based yoga and pilates instructor has created a beginner's guide to headstands.

There are many benefits to inverted poses like headstands. Headstands improve our circulation and detox our glands. They also focus our thinking and enable us to see things (literally and figuratively) with a new perspective.

We owe a lot to great past and present inventors. But maybe their biggest gift is in inspiring us with unusual habits to replicate in the hopes that we one day join their ranks (or in the least, can think just a little more creatively).