In our society, being busy is practically synonymous with being important. Many even presume how busy they are, how full their agenda is and that they do not have time for nothing. However, being permanently busy is not a good idea. In fact, it’s a lousy habit! Although they have tried to sell us the opposite, telling us that time is money and that we should not “waste it”.
The ideal for our mind would be to balance the linear thinking, which requires a great capacity of concentration, with the creative thinking that comes from inactivity. Being able to change our focus, daydreaming and relaxing without doing anything other than resting, is a vital skill that is being seriously threatened and is practically in danger of extinction due to the unsustainable hustle and bustle to which we submit ourselves.
The daily noise that saturates us
The overload we are undergoing every day is simply excessive. Today we are consuming five times more information than 25 years ago. Out of work we process approximately 100,000 words per day, an exaggerated amount.
The problem is that our brain cannot really process so much information, so it ends up becoming noise. We read news but we do not store them in our memory simply because we switch too quickly from one content to another.
This excessive consumption leads us to waste time without adding value, in addition to undermining our mental energy. And if this wasn’t enough, to keep ourselves busy, as if we were afraid of being alone with ourselves, undermines deeply our creativity.
Being able to disconnect is essential for creativity
To understand the profound impact of being continuously occupied we must understand that the linear thinking is the result of the central executive network, which demands all the resources of concentration of our brain. However, the creative thinking is largely the result of the default mode network, the same that is activated when we listen to music or are idle.
Creativity is related to our ability to daydream, which stimulates free flow and the association of ideas, creating links between concepts and neural modes that otherwise could not be established. When we let our mind wander aimlessly, we discover amazing things, things that are out of our reach when we are busy with a task.
To understand it better, we can imagine that linear thinking is like a tunnel, in which we must keep focused with our eyes on what we have in front of us, trying to reach an objective. That kind of thinking is important, but also prevents us from appreciating the details around us. Creative thinking, on the other hand, does not pursue a fixed goal but jumps and wanders, allowing itself to be captured by the details, as when we’re walking cross-country.
It is not casual that many of the most brilliant minds in history were aware of the need to disconnect and made some of their great discoveries while enjoying the tranquility. Nikola Tesla had the idea about the rotation of the magnetic fields while taking a quiet stroll through Budapest, Albert Einstein liked to relax listening to Mozart when he rested from his intense work sessions.
To enter that mode, we must press the reset button, which means to leave space in our daily routine to lie flat doing anything, meditate or relax listening to instrumental music. It is an impossible mission when every free moment we have, whether at work or at home, we take advantage of it to do the pending task or to check the smartphone.
Addicted to constant stimulation
Little by little, the attention system of our brain gets accustomed to receiving a constant stimulation, to the point that we become addicted to this continuous flow of information and when it is interrupted, we suffer a real abstinence syndrome, we feel restless and irritable. We become addicted to stimuli and activity.
This is very dangerous for our quality of life because not only does it take away our creativity, but also our ability to relax, making us be continuously in “alert mode”. In the long run, that constant connection, the inability to relax and simply enjoy the sweetness of doing nothing, ends up damaging us at cognitive, emotional and physical levels.
The journalist Michael Harris wrote about the importance of relaxing and even getting bored in the age of cognitive overload: “We may need to include scarcity in our communications, interactions and the things we consume. Otherwise, our lives will become a Morse code transmission without interruption: a swarm of noise that covers the valuable data below.”
Therefore, it is convenient that we rethink our day to day being able to get out of this state of frantic superficiality, that we get rid of the addiction to stimuli and make sure to have time to simply let time pass.