95% of my good ideas come to me while I'm in the shower or walking home from the train.
In total, that amount of time represents about 25 minutes a day, or only about 2.5% of my waking time.
The fact that such a little amount of time seems to be so productive has made me consider spending more time in the shower. If I could increase my shower time to, say, 30 minutes a day, and take a more circuitous route home from the train, stretch that 10-minute walk into an hour, my career might really take off.
The truth is, we have creative breakthroughs (ideas) when we're in the shower because we're not actively thinking about the problem. Our mind has all this junk in there rolling around, and it's processing, but we're not sitting at the desk, staring at the blank piece of paper, trying to force the idea, burning ourselves out.
And the reason it happens when we're not thinking about it is because to solve a creative problem, you usually need to approach it from a different angle. Approach. That's important. Because you can't approach something if you're slogging around in the muck of it. You need to climb out, go do something else, and then come back to it. Approach it.
That's what those strokes of genius are. They're just us coming back to the problem with a fresh mind, from a different angle. This is why you find ping-pong and pool tables and video game consoles at agencies. They give the mind a recess.
Now some will say that's hogwash, that I'm just giving an excuse for laziness. And be sure, many a lazy creative has spent entire afternoons at the ping pong table telling himself that it's how ideas are formed. He's fooling himself as much as the creative who sits at his desk 12 hours a day staring at his notebook trying to will an idea to happen. Both parts of the process are required.
Work smarter, not just harder. The brain needs a recess. Or sometimes it just needs a shower.