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Why designers should keep a notebook or sketch pad on their nightstand

Too many times I’ve awoken from a dream or near sleep with the perfect design solution or a brilliant idea that will make millions. I tell myself I’ll remember that in the morning and lay my head back down - but inevitably, I forget it in the AM. 

I’m sure I’m not alone. In fact, everyone I talk to can relate to this, since it’s not constrained to creatives only. Anyone struggling with a decision or wrestling with a problem will often suffer this nighttime revelation and morning memory lapse.

After too many times struggling to recollect the prior night’s brilliance, I now keep a notebook by my bed. So when I wake up with my stroke of genius, I can quickly write it down or sketch what I was thinking. And it’s fascinating how frequently it really is a good idea when I look at my notes the next morning. It may not be the perfect solution, but it’s often surprisingly a fresh perspective or a direction or solution I would not have normally considered.

Recent research (ScienceDaily : June 9, 2009) has begun to explore the functions of sleep and dreams and how they affect creative problem solving. And the interesting findings seem to bear out the old adage “let me sleep on it”. It seems the brain does work at solving problems and creative thinking while we sleep. Just as the lack of sleep makes us less able to problem solve, it seems getting sleep can help us to do so

So this is why I now keep that notebook on my nightstand. Sure, I’m still waiting for my million-dollar idea to come to me in a dream, but until it does, I’m happy to allow my sleeping brain to pull its weight - to have it help me creatively solve problems.

Jun 26, 2009
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