Strategic Idleness

shutterstock_134514503 - CopyIn a recent survey in the US, 83% of people said they had no time for ‘relaxation or thinking’ at all. In a knowledge economy, what hope can we have as individuals or as corporations if we’re not thinking. More specifically, there’s a type of thinking that is more under threat than any other kind: the thinking that happens when we’re relaxed or idle. Martin Heidegger made the distinction between calculative and meditative thinking. Calculative thinking is focused, activity-driven and outcome-oriented; meditative thinking is more relaxed, internal and expansive. When we’re busy, we employ calculative thinking. When we’re consuming reality TV or YouTube videos of dancing cats, we’re not really thinking at all. Meditative thinking only happens when we are neither producing nor consuming; in other words, when we are idle. My concern is that the twin drives to produce and consume are squeezing idleness out of our lives; and idleness is important because it is the origin of meditative thinking.

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Productivity through chunking and slicing


How long does your attention stay on one thing at work?

One study found that office workers switch task every three minutes.  You’re working on a project and ‘ping’ an email arrives. You leap into action and deal with the email before returning to the project…then an IM pops onto your screen. It feels good swatting away all those incoming demands, like some task-juggling Jedi: the brain rewards bouncing between tasks with a release of dopamine. The more we hopscotch, the more effective we feel. Continue reading…

Thinking with your body

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For this little experiment you will need a pen.

Hold the pen lightly in your lips.  Then read the following statement: Why don’t oysters ever donate to charity? Because they are shellfish! Now, take the same pen and hold it in your teeth.  Now read: Where is the English Channel? I’m not sure. We don’t get it on our TV! Continue reading…

The madness of creativity

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Writers and artists are 8 – 10 times more likely to suffer mood disorders than the general public. Does this show what many have long believed: that truly creative people are a bit odd? Maybe, but I think is has more to say about the importance of mood on creativity.

So what does it take to be ‘in the mood’ to be creative? The advice around producing a creative atmosphere, for example for brainstorming, has always been to foster a trusting, positive mood. Rubbish! The results just don’t support this ‘best practice’ view. Continue reading…