Find Your Chairlift

There’s a point in most quantitative research projects when you enter the saturation zone.  You become so immersed in the data that you start to feel a bit overwhelmed and it grows increasingly difficult to see the big picture.  If you’re under a tight deadline your first instinct is to press on, but I’ve found when I reach the saturation zone it’s time to step back, take a break and go to the chairlift.

What do I mean? A few years ago I was wrapping up a project while on vacation in Whistler, British Columbia. The more I worked, the less I accomplished.  That’s when I knew I reached the saturation zone and it was time to take a break.

It was a warm, sunny late spring day and the weather was ideal to take a chairlift up to the peak of Whistler Mountain to explore and enjoy the spectacular view from the top.  I spent an incredible couple hours watching the snowboarders and experiencing the sights, sounds and clean crisp mountain air.  I expected it would be fun and relaxing, but what I wasn’t expecting was a creative breakthrough on the project.

Turns out that what I needed more than anything was something to jump start my right brain thinking process after all that left brain thinking time in front of the computer.  As I was riding the chairlift back to the base of Whistler Village I started to think about the project waiting for me back at the hotel.  I watched the village grow closer and ideas about the project started flowing.  Something about the movement of the chairlift and changing views helped me to brainstorm and connect ideas emerging from the research.  I grabbed a sketchbook from my backpack and was able to capture some great ideas in the last 15 minutes of the ride.

These days when I reach the saturation zone and need to “go to the chairlift”, I grab my camera and head out for some physical activity like kayaking or hiking.  Anything that gets me physically moving and immerses me in an activity works.  So, the next time you find yourself in the saturation zone on a project, my recommendation is to take a creative break and find your chairlift.

Photo: © iStockphoto.com/Stephen Goodwin