I don’t really mean wasting time clicking around the web or binging the latest your favorite show on Netflix. I’m talking about lying or sitting there… quietly… with nothing to do. No obligations… no entertainment… no deadlines… no phone calls… no emails… no — nothing.
There’s a lot of value in doing nothing at all for a bit on a regular basis. If you’re the type of person who likes to be on the go and work on 3 different projects at once, this may be a bit of a challenge. The same goes for someone who can only work well with some background noise and lots of action around them. That’s ok. I still encourage you to give it a try.
If you’re not used to being by yourself in a quiet room with nothing to do, start slow. Challenge yourself to do it for just 10 to 15 minutes a day. Don’t stare at your watch while you’re sitting there. Instead, set an alarm on your phone or use a kitchen timer and put it out of sight. Trust in the fact that you’ll hear the alarm go off when the time is up.
The big question is what you should be doing while you’re sitting there doing nothing. The answer is easy. This is your time to let your mind wander and work out whatever it feels is important. You don’t need to give it any direction, but if there’s a particular problem you’re stuck on, feel free to nudge your thoughts into that direction if they’re not already there.
Don’t judge what you’re thinking about and mulling over. This is a time to relax and go where your thoughts take you. It’s as much to give your mind a break as it is to encourage creative and out-of-the box thinking. If you feel so inclined, this isn’t a bad time to try meditation.
At first this quiet time will feel pretty awkward and you’ll be tempted to grab your phone to check on the time, or if new emails have come in. If it’s tempting you, leave your phone in the other room. At the very least, silence it and lay it upside down so you can’t see or hear alerts pop up.
As time goes by you’ll adjust and come to enjoy this quiet time. Start extending the time you spend each day in quiet free form exploration. Spend 20 minutes, then 25 minutes, and finally 30 minutes just sitting quietly and thinking.
You’ll come out of these sessions refreshed, relaxed, and ready to get on with the rest of your day. Think of it as a break for your brain. The interesting thing is that your mind never completely stops working. Often, I come out of these sessions of quiet time with the perfect solution for a problem that seemed insolvable just a few hours ago.
Give it a try.