Tim Bray posts that an answer to a tough technical problem came while mowing his lawn. I don’t have a lawn any more, but when I did, I often did my best thinking while mowing. Unlike Tim, I really enjoyed mowing. So much so, in fact, that I mowed my lawn and the next door neighbor’s lawn every week. You just walk around cutting stripes in the lawn and thinking about whatever it is you need to think about. There’s even the mindless drone of the lawnmower engine to drown out other distractions. Incredibly peaceful.
These days I have to rely on the shower for moments of inspiration. For years, I have found that if I go to bed thinking about a technical problem that I haven’t solved, the answer comes to me the next morning by the time I get to work, usually while I’m in the shower. For me, mindless repetitive physical tasks put my brain in just the right gear to do my deepest thinking.