We’re a society of being on the go. And, if we’re not constantly doing something then we feel as if we’re lazy. It’s become a national pride to answer “I’m so busy…gosh, can’t keep up” when someone asks us how we’re doing.
Now, don’t take me wrong. I used to be in that group too and I still struggle with the mindset that doing nothing is okay. We’ve become so trained that being busy is productive and if you’re not doing something all the time you’re simply not.
Which is ridiculous! It’s not cool to be so busy you can’t catch your breath. We’re not robots. We’re human beings cramming way too much crap into our days. That has to change.
Remember those days and times when you had nothing to do? Most of us probably have to go back to high school or early 20’s to remember that! We hung out with friends and well, just hung out. For hours at a time!
Life was certainly simpler back then or at least that’s what my memory tells me. Adult life is full of work, family, friends, responsibilities, and an array of “must-do’s” that fill our schedule from dawn to dusk. But funny enough, we’re the ones that fill our schedules.
Schedule Things On Calendar
If you were to look at my schedule I have huge blocks of “personal time” which is blocked out for me time. No meetings, no work. It’s time meant to be used any way I wish. But I can honestly say, I seldom do nothing. Although I’ve become better at chilling on the couch reading a book for longer periods (my goal is to read 100 books this year so I’m motivated) I still have that nagging feeling inside I should be doing something more “productive.” Silly, I know!
Now that said scheduling things in on your calendar is key to getting stuff done. Just think back to school, you had a full day of classes and yet found time to exercise, hang out with friends and more. Right? I don’t want to assume but I bet most of you felt you had more time then. Why? You were on a schedule. Yes, life was a bit simpler but as adults we start winging it way too much and just like Parkinson’s Law states, the task expands into the time you give it. It’s time to pretend we’re back in school and get structured with our time.
Scheduling in “Doing Nothing” Time
If we take a look at neuroscience we know that our brain needs plenty of rest, sleep and good nutrition to stay productive. Our brain use more energy than any other part of our body. The brain is not a computer, although we often forget it’s not. It works as a muscle and needs to rest after being “exercised.”
Our ancient brain, the one that kept us alive from tigers and other hungry animals back in the cave-days, tends to use its energy to scan for threats when we’re sleep deprived or not well rested. Which is why we view things in a more negative light when tired. It affects our mood too. Well, that’s your ancient brain doing it’s job. When you’re tired you’re missing out on opportunities, and your creativity and productivity goes down as well.
When you’re rested and your brain has had a chance to recharge either through sleep or by doing nothing, the ancient brain’s “scanning for threats” is reduced and you start viewing things in a more positive way. That’s why you start seeing more opportunities. And yes, your creativity and productivity goes up too.
The No Input Rule
In order to help recharge our brain and allow it to be “on” less we also need to reduce the noise it receives. The brain receives about 11 million pieces of input every single second. Only about 40 of those are transmitted to the processing part of the brain. We receive more and more input through social media, TV, news and the world. Our poor brain never gets a break. We’re constantly bombarding it with something. And during our “breaks” we check social media or surf YouTube. Hence the “brain-fog” feeling, which is your brain screaming for a break.
Day-dreaming isn’t much of a thing anymore. Henry Ford wanted his men to kick up their feet and day-dream. He found that when his men did that they came up with great ideas, which in turn helped increase revenue. Can you imagine any corporation today asking their people to “kick up their feet, lean back and daydream” in order to be more productive and boost revenue?
But when we take a break and do nothing it’s just like when we step into the shower or go for a walk. Our brain gets time to bring us ideas and answers. But instead of hiding in the shower to get your thinking time why not schedule in “doing nothing” time when you can kick up your feet and think of whatever comes to mind?
I know it’s not socially acceptable but it’s time to challenge the status quo. You may not be able to get away with it at work. Or at home. Or feel as if you have time. Hiding out in your car for 15 minutes before going somewhere could be the answer. Or very long showers, although that is not good for water conservation, nor your water bill.
I challenge you to join me in taking back our “kicking up the feet and day dream” time by scheduling it in. Find the time. Make the time. Your brain, your productivity, your creativity and your sanity depends on you taking the time.
If you decide to do it at work, when your boss comes by wondering why you have your feet up and day-dreaming, tell him or her it’s the latest productivity hack and to go try it too. I mean, you shouldn’t be keeping those kind of hacks all to yourself. 😉