Inspiration favors the quiet mind. Find a place (and or a task) where you can go to clear your thoughts and relax your mind. Go there at the beginning of the day or in the middle of a stressful project. Pretty much whenever your mind is cluttered with self defeating or extraneous thoughts or when you just need to “warm up” your brain.

For me (as I’ve mentioned here before) this task is painting Star Wars models. My workshop (aka my garage) becomes my zen garden. Much like raking sand the painting keeps my mind occupied and allows me to shift my focus away from stressful thoughts and gradually creates a mental state that is more conducive to creativity. This is my meditation.

Sometimes during a really intense deadline I emerge from the garage and my wife asks “I thought you were supposed to be working?” to which I reply “I am working.” Yes, painting Star Wars models (or whatever it is you do in your zen garden is working. It’s one of the most important parts of the process. It’s the oil in the engine and the kindling to the fire.

This might feel like time you can’t afford to spend but in the end you’ll finish faster and more sane than if you didn’t invest this time. I’m not saying I don’t periodically have insane deadlines that force me to throw all of this out the window but most of the time this works like a charm.

Your place (and task) can be anything but shouldn’t be something you feel obligated to do. Don’t try to kill two birds with one stone and try to count doing chores as your zen garden task. It should be something just for you. Something you look forward to doing and do simply for the fun of doing it.

I often start my day in my zen garden (just for 20-30 minutes) as a bit of a running start to dive into an overwhelming schedule. The medial task frees up my brain to subconsciously organize thoughts and come up with a game plan for the day. Having this creative distraction lasts through the day and even for the duration of the model I’m working on (which can last months before I’m on to a new one). In the mean time the “real work” gets done faster and much less painfully.

This is also a trick I use for falling asleep. I visualize myself painting my models and planning the next part of that process and I’m peacefully asleep in no time.

Where is your zen garden and what do you do there to quiet your soul?