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.