The need to ponder (and have space to think)

An article in The Guardian Magazine this weekend (23 February) got me thinking about why we need time to ponder and think.

The feature was about the idea of working a four day week (which has been seen as a long held ambition and prediction of many thinkers, something that would come true as technology advanced) and mid way through it talked about ‘exploration days’. They sound like a good idea; a chance for people to go away and think.

Not to design another check list or try and go through the overflowing email in box. No a chance to escape and think; to spend time pondering and thinking creatively.

We spend our working day pretty much glued to email or sat in meetings. As technology advances we have become chained almost to our desks staring at a screen and far from seeing our hours reduced we spend a lot of time connected via smartphones and tablets. Can we really spend all day, every day, at full tilt? No we need to pace ourselves like a long distance runner rather than a sprinter.

A quote in the article stuck in my mind: “A big lesson from nature is the importance of fallow time: no ecosystem can be 100% productive all the time”. How true.

In the name of efficiency and productivity we need to have measurable and regular outputs. We can measure this through emails hence their appeal. Time spent thinking doesn’t compute though it can lead to benefits for a team, department or organisation.

But unless we take time out to think or just slow down a bit in reality working in the name of efficiency will make us inefficient. The good old train journey was always a place and time ideal for staring out of the window, dreaming up ideas which could see the light of day. Now a train journey is a time to log on or catch up with paperwork.

We need this pondering time to refresh the batteries, think about our priorities and just think. It’s a chance to research new ideas, come up with new ideas and give our minds a chance to rest. Just because you’re not tapping away on the keyboard doesn’t mean that you’re not productive; in some ways you might be actually more productive.

So three cheers for fallow time. We need it for our own sanity, well-being and the good of the organisations that we work for.

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One response to “The need to ponder (and have space to think)

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