The image of the solitary artist, painting alone in her studio or typing away by herself at a writing desk, is a familiar one. But how important is alone time, really? It turns out that alone time is actually critical to creative success. Studies have shown that spending time alone leads to many benefits, including better memory, focus, creativity, and mood.
Research has proven that, when you spend time alone, your memory works better than when you spend time with others. When you’re alone, your brain doesn’t have to focus on others’ needs and actions; it only focuses on remembering what you’re trying to recall. Studies show that you will most likely remember facts you’ve learned, associations you’ve made, and ideas you’ve come up with better when you’re alone.
For the creative process, this has enormous benefits. You can better remember your past creative projects and the steps you took to get to your final product. Alone, you’ll also better remember the mistakes you made, which will help you know how to avoid them. Alone time empowers creatives to fully utilize their past experiences when completing a new project.
Similar to improving memory, increasing focus is another benefit of spending time alone. Again, you don’t have the distractions of others’ actions and needs diverting your attention from the project at hand. When you spend time alone, you can zone in on exactly what needs the most of your focus, time, and energy.
If you’re researching a copywriting project, for example, it’s much easier to focus when you are the only person finding articles, reading them, and taking notes on their content for your project.
When there is another person sharing your space or assisting you with the task, you might be sidetracked by their ideas. When you have a creative task at hand, focusing in on your own resources and ideas saves you confusion and time.
Collaborating with others can often lead to great ideas, but not always. Studies show that when we brainstorm with others, we don’t put all our ideas on the table because we are afraid of judgement and limited by the group’s thought process.
Creative tasks require idea generation that leads to results. If you aren’t coming up with ideas, or if you aren’t following through on the ideas that you’ve thought of because of the group, then you’re reducing your creativity.
Let your ideas flow unchecked. Come up with a list of ideas for your next creative project on your own. You’ll be surprised by what you’re capable of when you work independently.
Better Mood (Long Term)
The research about the effect of spending time alone on your emotions appears to be contradictory, but actually makes sense when you consider the big picture. Here it is: in the short-term, alone time has a negative effect on our emotions, but in the long-term, alone time puts us in a better mood.
When you’re in a better mood, you’re more likely to trust yourself and your creative process. Better moods lead to better relationships and more satisfaction with your work. While it may feel lonely in the short-term, in the long-term, spending alone time will actually make you happier.
One Disadvantage of Alone Time
However, there has to be a balance. While research across the board shows that alone time is needed for creatives to thrive, it also shows that spending too much time alone can lead to negative emotions.
Make sure you are regularly connecting with others outside of your creative hours. Keep in touch with family, friends, and others in your field. Don’t spend too much time completely alone.
When you balance alone time with meaningful connection time, it is ultimately is more helpful than harmful for creatives.
The Benefits of Alone Time
Studies have shown that alone time leads to better memory, focus, creativity, and mood. Having the mental space to work out your problems and generate new creative ideas is key to leading a fulfilling life.
Nowadays, though, it’s easy to get caught up in constant online communication. Whether you’re connecting with friends, family, or coworkers through email, text, chat, or social media, it’s easy for our alone time to become internet connection time. And that’s not really alone time at all.
Here’s how you can make your alone time a truly solitary space.
A Beginner’s Guide to Alone Time
- Set limits.
Tell everyone that you won’t be available at a certain time because you need to focus on deep creative work. Put your phone in a different room. Turn off your WiFi (unless you absolutely need it). Isolate yourself as much as possible from the internet.
- Stick to a time.
Research has shown that our brains function best in 90-minute blocks. Find an hour and a half to put your phone in another room, block all distracting sites, and sit down and truly focus on your creative work.
- Create a solitary space.
If you can, set aside a corner of a room and designate it the place where you’ll spend your alone time. Make it as distraction free as possible. Keep it clutter-free and stocked with all the tools you need for your creative projects.
Alone time is critical for creativity. Protect your alone time from intrusions (whether they be people, pets, or the internet) and rely on just your brain for your creative tasks. While it might feel lonely in the short-term, in the long-term, alone time will lead you to fantastic ideas.