It might look like I’m doing nothing. But physiologically, my metabolism is very busy!
The Power of Silence
People cannot be “on the go” every minute of every waking hour.
An orchestra is nothing more than a loud cacophony of white noise, if all instruments played all the notes they can. Pauses, gaps, space—they are all of importance equal to any poignant note or chord, lest the latter be stifled. The power of these notes is in standing out from the space around them.
So, too, is our activity pointless without pauses. Silence is part of the production.
Productivity doesn’t exist without its antithesis—idle time. That is to say, idleness isn’t wasted time. Down-time is a necessary part of any sustained activity, be that activity physical, or the mental activity of applied focus and concentration.
The Folly of Industry
This is in stark contrast to most current-day models of commerce and industry. If you own a production machine—weaving cotton, stamping steel plates, printing newspapers—it often makes sense to run the machines 24/7. The machine doesn’t tire, it needs no sleep; and it only adds to business when it’s running. If it’s not running, the machine is only depreciating in value, as a liability.
Yes. Machines! But for some reason, we’ve allowed society to apply this reasoning to humans. It’s another instance of (irrational) people confusing rationality with common-sense. Tell a human to work 24/7 and see how much damage this does to your business already toward the end of day 1. Doubtful they ever make it to the “7” in “24/7”.
And you don’t need to be a corporate consultant to have the message shoved down your throat daily. Media in western societies where socialism never took off almost make it shameful if you’ve not worked 12-hour days. The message is everywhere — hustle, be disciplined, time waits for no man, boost productivity (in professional and private life), optimise, life-hack and, courtesy of silicon valley, move fast and break things.
You may get there fast, like this. But where is the there? The short-lived fame of a hollow-feeling entrepreneur? A 10k profit for your millionaire boss? An early grave?
As the analogy goes—beware of spending your whole life climbing the ladder, only to find this ladder doesn’t lead up to where you’d like to be. This type of relentless self-harassment is largely responsible for 2021’s epidemic of burnout.
The Actual Way, to Find True Power
The down-time is a regenerative phase, for refuelling your energies. Mental energy tends to spontaneously re-fuel whenever it’s not getting expended. However, precisely where and how your mental down-time happens dictates the how effectively restorative that idle time is.
In my next article, I will be introducing the 4 spaces of regeneration. Not every type of down-time is equal, and not each type of regeneration is appropriate for each person.