The One Thing Your Brain Needs to Think Clearly

It’s more than just a break from technology.

This Harvard Business Review article has some smart advice for those of us (i.e. all of us) who’s brains can feel a bit foggy in the face of our hectic daily lives: Embrace the sound of silence — both actual and metaphorical.

In the HBR piece, writers Justin Talbot-Zorn and Leigh Marz reference a recent Vox interview with writer and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of Between the World and Me. Coates, in conversation with Ezra Klein, argues that young journalists — and all writers and thinkers, really — need to get off Twitter for their best ideas to come to fruition.

Coates’ argument wasn’t a knock on the 140-character missive platform but a call to arms: If you really want to think deeply and clearly, it’s time to “get beyond the noise,” as the HBR authors write, and find quiet.

Image courtesy of Unsplash

Getting above the noise is especially important at the office, where many of us are expected to do our best thinking. It’s not just about tuning out your chatty coworkers in an open-plan office (which research shows has more cons than pros), but silencing your own inner monologue, too. As another recent HBR article outlines, referenced by Talbot-Zorn and Marz, we spend a lot of time thinking about what to say next — in person, on social media, over email — and that makes it hard to “make room for truly different perspectives or radically new ideas” as Talbot-Zorn and Marz put it.

Silence is beneficial for our bodies. Talbot-Zorn and Marz highlight research showing quiet can help calm our respiratory systems. They also point to a recent study that linked silence with the development of our hippocampus, the part of our brain correlated with learning and memory.

There are some easy ways to find calm amidst a noisy office or your Facebook news feed. HBR outlines four main ways to do it, from finding a few minutes of quiet before a meeting to the more intense option of venturing to a meditation retreat. Other suggestions include going outside for a long walk, or our personal favorite, unplugging from your devices. While actual noise will always exist, turning off email or notifications can allow you to quiet at least one part of your noisy existence and give you the space you need to come up with novel ideas.

Read the entire HBR article here.