Let's say you've been tasked with some creative project, like if your boss asked you to think up a dozen new slogans to put on hilarious T-shirts or come up with five new ways to get more cheese into a pizza ("We can put it INSIDE the pepperoni!"). And let's say you're allowed to create the perfect work environment to spur your creativity. You'd almost certainly ask for a place that was quiet and full of kind, supportive people, and for a relaxing work schedule that guaranteed you'd always be fresh and wide awake.
And you would be screwing yourself before you even got started. Because science shows that almost everything you hate about your shitty office actually makes you more creative. For instance ...
5You're More Creative at Work When You're Tired (or Drunk)
Creative individuals tend to bump into two stereotypes: Either people see them as bottle-hugging semi-professional winos, or they're labeled as lazy bastards who procrastinate until the deadline is looming and then engage in sleepless, coffee-fueled, last-minute workathons.
For instance, there is an amazing documentary called Six Days to Air about how the makers of South Park will create an episode in just six days, working all night, every night, sleeping for a few hours under their desks. By the end of the process, they're barely able to speak coherent sentences, exhaustedly delivering the final cut four hours before broadcast. Why do they do it? Science says it's because working while tired -- or even drunk -- simply works.
"So technically I have more of a drinking solution."
Scientists found that people who were tested during their least optimal time of day (when they were at their most tired) were more effective at solving puzzles that required creative thinking than when they were at their most alert. This goes a long way toward explaining why your weirdest, most outside-the-box ideas always come to you at three in the morning (a time of day when you're so sleepy, you almost feel drunk).
Well, shit, why stop with merely feeling drunk? Why not go for the real thing? So researchers set up a word-association test where they tested a group of sober guys against another group who were knocking back liberal amounts of vodka and cranberry. The groups were presented with three words ("peach," "arm" and "tar," for example) and asked to come up with a fourth, connecting word ("pit"). Awesomely, the intoxicated subjects wiped the floor with the sober ones: Out of 15 questions, the drunk group scored 8.7 correct answers on average, as opposed to the sobers' somber score of 6.3. And not only did Team Vodka Cranberry find creative thinking far easier than their sober counterparts, but they were a lot quicker to provide their answers, too. Obviously, there's a limit to how much you should drink -- most people find it difficult to paint the next "Mona Lisa" while passed out in the gutter.
"Back up. I think I'm about to Jackson Pollock all over this bar."
But these examples are pointing to the same phenomenon -- you're at your most creative when you are unable to focus properly. By confusing yourself with booze or lack of sleep, you are able to kick your brain in the balls and give your imagination temporary free rein as your analytical thoughts are busy writhing on the floor in their own vomit.