Where We Get Our Best Ideas

When and where do you get your best ideas?

Lin-Manuel Miranda got the initial ideas for his musical after reading Ron Chernow’s landmark biography ‘Hamilton’ on vacation.

For me, ideas come during a walk or bike ride – sometimes in the morning, midday, or after a writing session.

Since the early 1920s, studies on the neuroscience of learning have shown the power of an “incubation break.” This is when we put a problem aside, allow our minds to take it apart, and reassemble it with information.  This ultimately leads to a breakthrough.

Many of us may be familiar with the “shower effect”; in which many of our best, most creative thoughts occur while going about our day– on a walk, washing the dishes, or taking a shower.

According to a 2019 study of professional writers and physicists, not only were these spontaneous ideas self-assessed to be just as creative as the ones they had at work, but they were more likely to be “aha” moments that overcame a creative impasse.

Since the pandemic upended everything from our daily work/school habits to our relationship with technology, many of us are still grappling with how to return to a balance of rest and productivity that feels sustainable to us. This is true for students as well.

And yet, the research is unequivocal: vacations have the power to save lives, decreasing chronic stress and mitigating the impact of work pressures even in the weeks leading up to a vacation.

We tend to overlook clear data suggesting that long working hours contribute to dangerous health problems.  This includes debilitating cycles of burnout and overwhelm. I’ve witnessed many similar patterns in the lives of students. They are overstretched from 50+ hours per week of extracurriculars, classes, homework, and schedules.

Summer is a perfect time to begin to reimagine our relationship with rest and relaxation. All of us benefit from taking time off, and building a toolbox to support our well-being when we don’t have the option to fully unplug.

In the office, we are spending our time on writing workshops, college advising (including our one-on-one college application jumpstart workshop where we do our college application bootcamp in a one-on-one setting), and our college transition support for students in college.

Warm regards,


PS. THANK YOU for all the amazing support for my upcoming book release. Places that are confirmed: NYC, SF, Marin, Denver, Atlanta, Memphis, Washington DC. If your community would like to have me come speak, we can send you the information!

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