Most people are bad at being lazy. And when I say "lazy," I'm not talking about occupying your time with mindless distractions; I'm talking about proper idleness - or choosing to do nothing.
For much of the day, our goal is to remain focused so we can keep checking things off our to-do list. That's a good thing when, for example, we're in the office. It helps us develop a productivity mindset and accomplish more.
But there's a time and a place for everything. When it comes to relaxation and rejuvenation, most of us could use a little more practice in the art of doing nothing. If we're constantly go-go-go, we never give ourselves a chance to recharge our batteries. We become burned out and stressed, which can lead to all sorts of health problems.
The magic of a wandering mind
According to a 2011 study, when our attention is at rest (i.e., during bouts of idleness or laziness), the places our mind wanders to include the future (48% of the time), the present (28%) and the past (12%).
This matters because, in the process, we can “literally become more creative and better at problem-solving,” researchers found. In other words, a wandering mind allows us to do three critical things:
- Plan for the future. We think about the future 14 times more when our attention is free to roam, compared to when we focus on just one thing. So without even realizing it, we’re reflecting on long-term goals and setting intentions.
- Come up with new ideas. Try to remember the last time you came up with a creative idea or solution. Chances are it didn’t happen when you were racing to beat a deadline. Instead, you may have been taking a long shower or sitting on a bench enjoying park scenes.
- Make time to recharge. When our brains are at rest, we’re actually conserving our mental and physical energy so we can expend them on the right things. In a way, we’re also investing in our mental health.
Give yourself permission to be lazy
Hardly anything saps our productivity more than an anxious mind. Now more than ever, we need idleness and the calmness that it brings.
So stop being so busy and allow your brain to do nothing. Stop obsessing over the news. Forget about the value of your time. Detach yourself from the productivity mindset.