Be Idle and Achieve

by Amanda Linehan on June 30, 2008 · 10 comments

in Uncategorized

4:35.55
Creative Commons License photo credit: seanmcgrath

Idle time is one of the least valued and most valued things in our lives.  Least valued because we tend to think that faster is always better and most valued because we’re already going so fast that all we want is to be able to slow down.  Periods of slowness are important not because of what we are doing, but because of what we are not doing.

You Need Idle Time to Examine Yourself Objectively

Without time for self reflection you can’t see yourself.  Self reflection is like being out of body and looking at yourself at the way another person would look at you.  (Although you have an advantage because you also know your thoughts and feelings.)  This is necessary in order to be able to evaluate how things are going – to decide what parts of your life should go and what needs to stay.  This is a period of time that gives you the proper perspective to make decisions.  Although self reflection needs vary among people, don’t cut out this time with yourself alltogether.

Slowing Down Helps You Avoid Sloppy Mistakes

Being quick or timely is not the same thing as being rushed.  We need to be able to do things quickly, and as we gain more experience doing something we are able to do things quicker, but with the same amount of quality.  Rushing is speed without quality. 

Have you ever rushed around your house in the morning, barely making it out of the door on time, and then realized that your keys are in your house, behind your locked door? 

Great Solutions and Insights Tend to Happen When You Are Engaged in a Simple Activity

I always have great ideas in the car or when I’m doing something routine.  I hear a lot of people say that they have great ideas in the shower or when they are taking a walk or doing some other form of physical activity.  Giving our busy minds a rest seems to bring out the best in them.

In his book Creativity:  Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has this to say about the “Aha! Experience.”

The insight presumably occurs when a subconsious connection between ideas fits so well that it is forced to pop out into awareness, like a cork held underwater breaking out into the air after it is released. (p. 104)

But, in order to have a “subconscious connection” you can’t be directly thinking about the problem or idea you are working on.  The idea needs some room to work.  You see, even when we are not doing much of anything, great things still do happen.

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1 vered June 30, 2008 at 1:33 pm

I completely agree. Sometimes it seems to me that in our quest for productivity, we forget that slowing down and taking breaks are good for us and will actually help us be more productive. Great post.

2 Amanda Linehan June 30, 2008 at 1:46 pm

Vered – thanks for stopping by. I don’t know what I’d do without a few breaks here and there. :)

3 Lance June 30, 2008 at 3:19 pm

Well said Amanda. I find that in order to be my best I must have some idle (or quiet) time to re-focus myself. I think that if we don’t do this, we just keep going where we’ve always been, and life’s opportunities pass us by. And all the while we rushing along, seeming so busy…but what’s it really buying us?

4 Amanda Linehan June 30, 2008 at 6:29 pm

Lance – Re-focus is exactly the right word. You really can’t see yourself properly if you never stop to look.

5 Robert A. Henru July 2, 2008 at 4:33 am

Hi Amanda, just would like you to know how I enjoy the article you did with Tina. Thanks for representing us, the introverts!

I like the tips on why we should not think that people always look at us, because most people do think of themselves.

I believe you’ve got lots of traffic from the article as well. Wish you the best!

Cheers,
Robert

6 Amanda Linehan July 2, 2008 at 5:34 pm

Robert – Thanks! I was very happy to represent the Introverts!

7 Naomi Dunford July 3, 2008 at 12:58 am

I love your points, especially the last one. I have made more business decisions while washing dishes than in any other activity. Probably more than all of them combined.

It reminds me of when our grandparents used to tell us to put things on the back burner. Let them simmer. We don’t have to be actively involved in everything. Sometimes stuff cooks on its own.

8 Amanda Linehan July 3, 2008 at 6:15 am

Naomi – Thanks a lot. Yeah, routine household chores are great – I tend to think a little too much, so anything that I can be somewhat engaged in, but still let my mind rest helps a lot.

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