You know this feeling: You’re bogged down with tedious work when an enticing Gchat window pops up. Suddenly, you’re happily gabbing and distracted. It feels like a break, which, as we know, can boost productivity at work, but it turns out it’s the kind of break you take that matters.
To really maximize your me-time, take a moment each day for something that’s increasingly rare in today’s plugged-in world: silence.
And that means more than a hiatus from speaking, reports the Harvard Business Review, via Science of Us. To fully experience the benefits of this type of time-out, you need to cut yourself off from all information flows — so no email, Slack, texting, social media or news.
And what are those benefits exactly? “It’s about taking a temporary break from one of life’s most basic responsibilities: Having to think of what to say,” writes the Harvard Business Review.
“When we’re constantly fixated on the verbal agenda — what to say next, what to write next, what to tweet next — it’s tough to make room for truly different perspectives or radically new ideas. It’s hard to drop into deeper modes of listening and attention. And it’s in those deeper modes of attention that truly novel ideas are found.”
It’s not surprising then that a whole host of successful people, from author J.K. Rowling to Congressman Tim Ryan, cite silent periods as a critical part of their regimens. But even with the promise of increased creativity, this kind of meditation might sound painful for the many of us who can’t keep our eyes off Instagram.
Luckily, it seems that you don’t have to stay quiet for all that long for the benefits to kick in. While these reports don’t cite scientific evidence to support a specific time window, the Harvard Business Review suggests “[punctuating] meetings with five minutes of quiet time. If you’re able to close the office door, retreat to a park bench or find another quiet hideaway, it’s possible to hit reset by engaging in a silent practice of meditation or reflection.”
That sounds doable now — doesn’t it?