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Sleep and creativity: The most powerful creative tool you’re not using

The next time you’re stuck on a creative problem, don’t put more energy into it. Instead, take your foot off the gas and go to bed. I promise in the aggregate, you’ll get the job done quicker.

Case study: me

Every now and again I make a fun video for our agency, Umault. A few weeks ago I started another of these projects. My concept revolved around my daughters’ budding love of photography. I put my daughters in some pretty cinematically beautiful situations like sunset, blue hour, and a nighttime fire pit – then filmed them taking pictures.

My footage was pretty beautiful but once I entered post-production (editing the video), I noticed a problem: no story!

I’ve got 4 hours of footage and my initial concept (film my kids taking pictures) isn’t really strong enough to carry anyone’s attention.

So this is when I start to do the real work.

I sleep.

I sleep and I sleep and I sleep.

I don’t open the project file.

I don’t even think about the project.

I sleep and watch TV and live life.

I do this for a whole week.

And finally, yesterday, I opened the project file.

And within 20 minutes I refined the concept and a killer story emerged.

This is no accident. This is because of sleep.

Sleep and creativity go hand in hand

It sounds a little nutty, but sleep is how I do my best work. It’s the common thread through all of the videos our clients love.

And there’s some scientific evidence that sleep and creativity might work together to boost creative problem-solving.

I can’t help but think if my fun project was being done at some big corporation, the creative lead would never suggest the entire team go away and get some sleep. Instead, they’d double their efforts and make everyone pull an all-nighter to solve the issue.

Maybe this would work, but probably not. Most likely when the team finally did get some sleep, they’d wake up to see their solve doesn’t work. It’s kind of like when you’re at a party, drunk, and think you’re the smoothest cat in the world. Then the next day you see the video someone took of you, and you want to crawl into a hole.If you lead a creative marketing team, try this next time you’re stuck in a creative rut: give your people the afternoon off and have them assemble the next morning. I pretty much guarantee that within 10 minutes you’ll have your solution.

A world-changing idea has never been willed into existence. Ideas require time to develop.

I’m no expert, but I think sleep allows me to solve a creative problem 5–10 times faster than when I’m tired.

Now for the other type of energy, there’s Taco Bell breakfast!





Picture of Guy bauer, founder of umault

Guy has been making commercial videos for over 20 years and is the author of “Death to the Corporate Video: A Modern Approach that Works.” He started the agency in 2010 after a decade of working in TV, film and radio. He’s been losing hair and gaining weight ever since.

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