Dolce far niente, the sweetness of idleness

Tim Kreider, author reinforced this well: “Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice, it’s 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… It is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”

Idleness has been common practice amongst employees at progressive companies like Google, Netflix, LinkedIn, Eventbrite who aren’t just being super-generous when they offer unlimited holidays. They are aware that these downtimes are vital to running a workforce whose levels of creativity are vital to their competitive edge.

The good news is that rest doesn’t only happen during long vacations. There is a lot of research to support the need for mini vacations. These are also vital but require some experimenting to see what works best for you.

Remember, the key is to keep switching up the pace. And this can happen just as effectively on a daily, or weekly basis with self-monitoring. Here are a few pointers to kick-start 2020 and get you shaking things up a bit.

Time management

For those preferring a more logical approach to rest, here is some interval time management training to get you going.

The Pomodoro technique:  Twenty-five (25) minutes of uninterrupted working to five (5) minutes’ rest, in 90-minute work blocks. It’s effective because it works with your body’s natural rhythms of mental focus. Research shows that performers practised in no more than 90-minute intervals.

The 52-17 method: Work for 52 minutes, break for 17 minutes. Proven to be the most effective. 

Ringfencing occasions

Dedicating certain activities or times to rejuvenating or resetting your mind is another way to ensure you are getting the rest and distance you need. It’s important that you lose yourself in a physically engaging activity like running or swimming where your mind needs to focus on your movements.

Phil Libin, chief executive of Evernote, has a personal recovery time whenever he flies. He consciously uses that time to watch movies, read books, play video games and allow himself to daydream. I personally like the daydreaming technique, where we let our minds wander.

Sir Richard Branson, creative guru and Virgin’s CEO, pointed out: “When you go on vacation, your routine is interrupted. Freed from daily stresses of my working life, I find that I am more likely to have new insights into old problems and other flashes of inspiration.”

Overcoming Personal Obstacles

Herein lies the most common deterrence. It all makes perfect sense to Staples who conducted a survey last year that suggested that the main reason we don’t take all of our time off or even breaks within a day is because of feelings of guilt and being judged by others.

This is the tricky bit with self-care, we need to acknowledge it before we have major crises. I’d like you to make a personal pledge to yourself to invest some time in yourself and your team, carving out time for resting and recovering.

Whether it’s respecting each other’s time off, non-working days with no contact, work-free travel or some mindless web surfing at 3pm, you can make a conscious effort to manage a personal care routine. For many stepping away is sometimes just as challenging and purposeful as leaning in but I guarantee after a break you’d be concentrating a lot better.

Let 2020 we all embrace that the sweetness of idleness and doing less actually gets us a little bit further.

Would you like to set up a call to discuss your personal routine and how you can improve your levels of creativity by fitting in moments of sweat idleness, then please do reach out today.


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