How Doing Nothing Can Improve Your Productivity
Don’t tell my clients, but I take naps at work. I sometimes get up from my desk, find an empty room, and zone out for fifteen minutes.
When I worked in an office, I felt guilty doing it. But now, as many of us are working from home, I may indulge in it more than I should, thanks COVID.
It took me a while to realize these breaks were a vital part of my day. They are as important as eating or drinking.
As a writer, I spend my time pulling words out of the air. Trying to produce articles continually can lead to days where I don’t feel productive.
I’m sure many of you can relate to this, no matter what you do.
You work day in and day out and get in a groove.
Then it starts to get monotonous, and it feels like you’re getting nowhere. You get frustrated, and your work suffers.
You should know all of us go through these highs and lows.
What you should also know is there are a few unconventional ways you can help overcome the monotony.
In a recent article, I discussed one idea that daily doses of nature could open up creativity, productivity, and help your overall health.
Exploring the Outdoors to Recharge
What new research is discovering about the power of Nature
What about those times we can’t get outdoors?
If you don’t have the time during your day to get outside, consider an alternative.
As much as having an active lifestyle is important, it’s also essential to have times when nothing happens.
Where we experience the joy of boredom.
Yes, you heard me right. Most days, I look forward to twenty minutes in an empty room doing absolutely nothing.
Letting yourself get bored.
We continually process information from all around us. People, computers, cell phones, and even refrigerators in our houses provide us streams of data-I’m looking at you Samsung and your touch screen enabled fridges.
They keep us engaged, addicted to the next piece of information.
Boredom is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Allowing your mind that time it needs to regroup and mull over thoughts, ideas, and emotions.
It frees our monkey brains for a while. By letting yourself relax and think of nothing, you permit your mind to turn off and recover.
Mike Lewis, host of the “When to Jump“ podcast, introduced me to this concept. Lewis talks in several episodes that he often uses boredom to create a situation where he could listen to the “little voice” in his head. The voice gave him clarity on many circumstances in his life.
His advice is sound and backed by a recent study published in the journal Academy of Management Discoveries. In the study, groups completed a series of tasks. Some groups did mundane things like sorting items by color, while others did more creative craft projects.
The groups then had to brainstorm ideas for a prompt. In this case, they had to come up with excuses for being late that wouldn’t make them look bad. The group that had the mundane task outperformed the crafting group in terms of quality and quantity of answers.
The study showed that the group that had the trivial task weren’t getting any outside stimuli, so they had to rely on their minds for creativity and problem-solving. The second group was already stimulating their minds to do the craft. They had a sort of “burn out” effect and weren’t as good at creative thinking.
Getting bored should be the most natural thing you will ever do, period. Look at the picture for this article, do that. It’s that easy.
If you need a little push, here it is. Find a quiet room, get comfortable. For me, lying on a carpeted floor works well. It is soft, but not forgiving, and it makes it difficult to fall asleep.
Then think of one thought or idea that is giving you trouble. It could be an issue at work, home, or school. Then just be, become a lump on the floor. Let thoughts come and go.
More often than not, your subconscious will process the information and come up with possible solutions to your problem. If not, you’ll have a well-deserved break.
My wife, jokingly, calls this “nap time.”
Being an adult, I prefer the term “unstructured time.”
Whatever you call them, they can be vital.
But Isn’t this meditation?
No, it’s not. I would say it’s the opposite of meditation. With meditation, you’re trying to focus on one particular thing, like breathing, to train awareness and attention. When the mind wonders, you want to bring it back to focus on breathing.
With boredom, you are letting your mind race, moving from thought to thought. You aren’t caring where your mind goes, and you aren’t trying to refocus it.
There is a place for both practices. You will need to be aware of which one you are working toward.
In your daily routine, don’t forget to add time for boredom. It is worth it to spare a few minutes to sit quietly and ponder. Let your subconscious take over and work on your issues. The break will do you some good and, if nothing else, have a few moments of quiet rest.