Idleness…There is a very specific feeling I get when I know that it’s time. When I start hopping from one task to another without finishing any of them, I know it’s time. When I find it tough to make even the simplest decision, I know it’s time. When I feel this starting it feels like my mind is ‘losing traction’ and the ‘wheels are starting to spin.’
This feeling tells me two things. I probably didn’t prepare my mind-body well enough at the start of the day, and taking a step back from my tasks and doing nothing for a while would best serve me. I pay special attention to that urge to ‘just get back to work’ and realise that this is not the right thing to do right now. When this feeling goes on for a few days I know I should have taken a holiday a week ago.
Modern consumerism tells us that achievement will fill the holes in our soul. It drives us to be ever busier and to ‘get more done’. The message is that we need to work harder and do more. In that mindset, sitting quietly for some time each day does not seem like a productive thing to do, it might even seem like a waste of time. Taking a holiday is what other people get to do but not you, you’re too busy.
“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets,” writes essayist Tim Kreider in The New York Times.
On all levels through our mind-body we are well served by creating downtime on a regular basis. When we do this and allow our mind-body and spirit to rest, restore and recharge we can return to the world of ‘getting things done’ with a renewed sense of fun and a make bigger impact.
Idleness is Essential to Productivity
It’s useful to use the ‘5 minutes a day’ principle to get started. Those who do it notice some difference within a few days. You might observe your breath, counting 5 seconds inhale and 5 seconds exhale for 5 minutes. When your mind wonders, let the focus gently return to your breath. One person even hid under her desk at work and used calming music to make sure she got her 5 minutes in! The point is that there are lots of ways to use your 5 minutes, all you need it 5 minutes. Most like it so much they progress onto 10 or even 40 minutes a day because they feel like they are getting more done and feeling less stressed.
Taking a few moments out of the busy-ness of the lives we’ve created for ourselves will help us get more from the time, energy and attention allotted to us and make a bigger impact in the world.
This was an adapted excerpt from Thrive! by Dr Greg Venning.
Edit: Links to previous workshops were removed.