Quiet solitude, or 'fallow time', should be viewed as an essential part of the work cycle.
The brain needs quiet, but there is an unfortunate dearth of quiet in our world today. The scream of social media, the drone of endless playlists, not to mention the pressure to perform visibly at work, conspire to create an atmosphere in which it is difficult to spend time alone with one's thoughts.
And yet, many people would perform so much better at their jobs if they created space for quiet, solitary time. New York Times contributor Bonnie Tsui calls it 'fallow time' and writes that it should be an essential and respected part of the work cycle, not viewed as an unproductive time-waster. She writes,
"In periodic intervals around the completion of a project, I have lately given myself permission to watch 'Deadwood: The Movie,' to nap over the newspaper, to take a walk and restore the white space for complex thinking and writing. It can feel indulgent. It can feel... lazy. But the difference between lazing around and laissez-faire is that I’m actually going about the business of my business."
Taking time to think is an act of rebellion against the crazed 24/7 work culture that we inhabit. It can also be life-affirming and revolutionary. In an episode of Slow Your Home, environmental engineer and designer Katie Patrick argues that we can only "access our full creative potential – the same creative potential that we need to access if we want to create world-changing solutions – if we learn to slow down." Patrick asserts what many of us know instinctively, that the brain does not function optimally when it's constantly stressed out.
"So in that sense, day-dreaming and doodling and working on creative projects with no specific outcome attached is not only good for our health, but it’s good for our brains and the planet itself."
Stop for a moment to think about how often you do precisely that – just stop and think. Is there enough 'fallow time' in your life? If not, create opportunities for it. Leave the music off, the phone at home, the WiFi disconnected. Go for long walks (this is a powerful creativity booster, as I've written before), stare out a window, take an afternoon nap, sit on a park bench. Let your brain rest, relax, and replenish.