How to Do Nothing to Create Much More
By Sandy Schroeder
When I just sit still outside and absorb the quiet, my brain is still working, recovering from its previous endeavors, and restocking to create new stuff. Deep down I know that, but I sometimes still feel a little guilty to be just sitting doing nothing. Our culture tends to encourage that guilt.
If you can relate, you know the value of refueling, letting your creative reservoir fill up with fresh ideas and unexpected thoughts. That's the stuff that keeps us moving forward, alive and productive, able to see beyond the immediate.
Bonnie Tsui explored this process in the New York Times recently, encouraging all of us to benefit from its regular use.
If someone asks you, "Why are you just sitting there?" you might reply: "I am letting my mind and my body regroup. I have been working hard and I need to step out of the groove to remember who I am, and how I got here in the first place."
Or you might say, "I am working hard and you won't see the results for a while, but when you do they will be worth seeing."
How We Got Here
We have all been encouraged to stay in our grooves and keep moving. Motion is often seen as productivity whether it is or not.
Some of my best thoughts or breakthroughs have come at off-the-clock moments when I was just studying the sky, listening to the sounds of a guitar or reading for pleasure. Once the brain gets a chance to navigate on its own, I find it does just fine, striking out in all sorts of novel directions that often pay off later.
Tsui calls this pause "fallow time," which is needed to help us all grow. To do the work ahead, we need to read, rest and reconnect. This deliberate pause makes new creativity a reality.
This pause is not about time spent at museums or on vacations. This pause is a more day-to-day space built into our regular work cycles, where we take a short walk, sit in the sun after lunch, or pause for a break in the afternoon. As one writer said, "This is not lazing around. I am actually going about the business of my business."
Sometimes it is hard to clear space for this refueling process. It feels so right to be in the groove moving along with the expected busyness, instead of just stopping to think real undirected thoughts about whatever comes up.
Our tendency to constant connectedness can push these little pauses aside making us feel like we are out of step with the world around us. Ask yourself how you feel about "doing nothing," and what it actually does to make everything better. Those are the answers that really count when we are looking for new directions.
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