Monday, 9 October 2017

Taking the time to think

Many of us were brought up with, and still adhere to, the old adage, ‘The devil makes work for idle hands’. In other words, not having anything to do invariably leads to negative occurrences. Thus, to keep out of harm’s way it’s all about, to borrow from Rihanna, ‘work, work, work, work, work’; always having something to do, always being busy. Indeed.

However, there is a growing appreciation -- backed up by research -- for a little bit of, if not quite utter idleness at least a bit of boredom in our lives. The thinking is, in today’s always-connected world, we don’t leave enough time aside to actually think. It’s all go, go, go.

Disconnecting is good for us ... (Image from ClipArtPanda.)
What’s more, even in our ‘down times’, a lot of us are staring at a screen, plugged into music, messing around on our phones or such like. There are distractions all over the place preventing us from truly switching off and getting in touch with our minds on our own terms.

Where once the daily commute to and from work could be used as a time to ponder, now it’s rare to find somebody not fiddling with their smartphone. (Heck, even the old sanctuary of the toilet is under attack, be it with people using their devices on the throne or rushing the experience so as to get back to work.)

For sure, a lot of people don’t view using the latest app or whatever in their leisure time as a bad thing, but research suggests that it can adversely affect creativity. A case of when we’re using such things, even if they’re educational, somebody else has already done a large part of the thinking for us, so to put it. (Where alcohol, to a point, stimulates the creative juices -- so some like to think -- being too busy, too ‘switched on’ impedes them. Sure didn’t some of the best Irish writers of times past like a drink every now and again?)

From a personal viewpoint, not having a smartphone, nay any phone, these last few days -- a forced absence due to a theft albeit -- has been quite refreshing (we’ve found the silver lining in this cloud).
Nonetheless, and unfortunately in certain aspects, not being in the smartphone loop these days can mean missed work opportunities, especially for independent workers.

What’s more, for those of us working in areas where the internet is a fundamental part, there are many pros to having a smartphone. In effect, it’s a convenient, pocket-sized office. So what previously was considered lost time, like waiting for a meeting to start, can now be used more productively.

In theory, this should free up other time to be used as we see fit, at our leisure, letting our minds wander. In practice, however, it often leads to us trying to squeeze more smartphone time into our days. Rather than letting the battery die, many of us frantically search for a power point. ‘Sure I couldn’t be without WhatsApp for 30 minutes now, could I?

Another angle to all of this is multitasking. Modern technology has allowed us to have lots of things on the go at once. What can happen here is that we fail to devote enough time to any one of them to complete them properly. A variant of the old ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ line.

As we’ve said before on similar themes, it’s all about balance. Finding time in a busy, always-on-the-go life to pause, take stock, let the mind drift, this is important. This little bit of helpful ‘boredom’.

On the other hand, however, there are those who perhaps think too much, question what they are doing, where they are going to the point where it becomes a problem in itself. This can be a momentary thing, like after the death of a loved-one or some other life-changing incident, a natural reaction really.

Yet, if it’s more long-lasting, it’s more than likely a sign of feeling unfulfilled, believing our lives lack purpose. In this scenario, the ‘cure’ may be found in less moments of boredom or excessive thinking and more action.

Whatever the case, bored or busy, keeping that dastardly devil at bay, that’s the key. Most of the time anyway.
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