How to be more productive by doing nothing

It’s 9:19 on a weeknight….

and no one needs me.

The children and the husband are asleep.

The house is quiet.

Sure the kitchen is still showing its?post-dinner exodus – a dirty stove-top and unrinsed dishes. ?Thomas the Train has spewed his track all over the living room floor and there is a pile of graham cracker crumbs on the side table.

There is no one to ask me for another cup of milk or if the budget is up-to-date in Google drive.

The silence has created a place to think.

I wonder how much I?just sit and think anymore.

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As a teenager, I would sit in my room at night, read, listen to Delilah (oh my), and write poetry and music lyrics. ?I would doodle my future children’s names (none of which are named those names) and think about school and guys and what life would be like in 5 years. ?There was no agenda.

Quiet time is so different now. ?A smart phone and social media compete for my attention. ?The laptop beckons – I can even take it to bed if I want. ?There’s laundry to fold and tables to wipe and maybe even a lesson of homeschool to plan. ?I feel lazy if I’m not busy and wonder if I’ll ever “get it all done.”

The last few days I’ve been reading two books that have made me rethink all of my attempts to do it all.

Essentialism by Greg McKeown and Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung have both made me consider how undervalued having rest and solitude?are in our culture.

As McKeown points out, “In order to have focus, we need to escape to focus.”

And DeYoung, viewing busyness from a Christian perspective says, “We can’t be “all in” all the time. ?Just think of the Israelite calendar. ?It had times for feasting and times for fasting. ?It was for their piety and their productivity that God put them on a predictable pattern filled with daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal, annual, and multiyear rhythms.”

In other words, we need down time to be most productive during our up times.

As Pablo Picasso said, “Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.”

Time alone to ponder?and pray or meditate creates space in your brain to forge the next big idea, to-do list, or dream. ?I’ve found this especially formulaic since having small children, I try to get up early in the morning (it’s hard to beat them sometimes) just to have time to literally think before I have three small voices begging for juice and cereal and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

As McKeown points out, “People can’t figure out what is essential if they’re constantly on call.” ?So true! ?I can’t create an intentional list for my time if I’m under a barrage of requests and noise. ?I need the space in between to master life.

In other words, trying to carve a few minutes of boredom into your day, may just add to your productivity. ?Take a walk around the neighborhood. ?Put away the smartphone. ?Turn off the music. ?Get out a notepad and doodle and think about your life. ?As DeYoung added, “Both work and rest can be good is they are done to the glory of God.” ?I’m going to work on this more- finding the quiet and not reaching for an electronic device to fill the void.


Additional Resources:

Michael Hyatt interviewed Greg McKeown for his popular podcast. ?You can check it out here!

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