I was asked the other day on a podcast interview what I would do if I suddenly had an extra hour in every day (if I had a 25 hour day instead of 24 hours). I thought it was a great question. I didn’t have to think about it too long. My answer was… I would do nothing.
I don’t need another hour to get more work done. Is there more work that I could do? Of course! I am, after all, a very busy mom.
But I personally believe that too many of us are running around constantly spending our time “doing” and not devoting enough hours to just “being”. In our technology age, many of us no longer know how to be bored. The moment we have some down time or a few free minutes, we pick up our technology of choice and entertain ourselves. Whether it’s a youtube video, a blog post, a podcast episode, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, texting, music, news headlines, or something else entirely, we’re regularly distracting ourselves with technology.
Not that any of those are bad in and of itself (afterall, I create a lot of those items myself). But it can be bad if we’re spending too much time on them and spending it too often.
I’m as guilty as the next person of picking up my phone if I’m “bored”. But it is something that I am aware of and constantly work to minimize. Why? Because it is important to do nothing and just be alone with our thoughts at times.
One of my favorite sayings is from St. Francis de Sales, who said “Everyone of us needs half an hour of prayer each day, except when we are busy – then we need an hour.”
As counter-intuitive as it may seem, time spent doing nothing can actually make us more productive. I know that sounds crazy, but it really is true.
How do you actually make this happen in your life? It might help to take a lesson from Winnie-the-Pooh* and create a Thoughtful Spot of your own where you go to do nothing.
My Thoughtful Spot has varied over the years. Sometimes it has been the kitchen table, sometimes, my bedroom, and quite often it has been my closet. And then about a year ago I did something different. This was difficult for me because I rarely spend money on myself, but I bought myself a writing desk. And then Jim surprised me with a nice, comfy chair (instead of the hard plastic one I was using).
I was very intentional about my writing desk*. There is absolutely no technology allowed anywhere near my writing desk – no phone, laptop, or anything. At my writing desk I have my journal, my Bible, some pens, and stationary for writing to people.
I try to get to my writing desk every single morning. It doesn’t always happen, but it happens more often than not. I have a routine while I’m there, but it’s more of a loose frame work than it is a set of steps that I follow.
Journal. The first thing I do is pull out my journal* and write down the day of the week, date, and time. Then I just start writing whatever comes to mind. This can cover anything from what happened yesterday to what is happening today to my feelings and actions and thoughts. It can take anywhere from five minutes to thirty minutes and cover a quarter of a page up to several pages. The most important thing I keep in mind when I’m writing is to keep it positive. I do not ever use the journal to complain. Ever. Even if I want to.
Bible Reading. I then open my Bible and start reading. I don’t have a set amount I read, it depends on the day. Right now I’m in the Psalms. I generally read until something jumps out at me. Once I find the “right” verse, I write it down in my journal. Then I write down my thoughts about why that verse is important to me and how I can apply it to my life.
Give Thanks. After the Bible verse, I write in my journal “I am Thankful for” and list at least three things. I try to make these specific to what is going on in my life. For example, I wouldn’t write, “my husband”. Instead I would write, “I am thankful my husband loves me enough to want me to be comfortable and spent his time locating the perfect chair for me*.”
Think About Today. Then I write in my journal “What would make today great?” This one takes some thinking. Usually I lean back in my chair and try to figure out what I want the day to be. Sometimes they are very structured business goals I am trying to reach (“having x new online customers”). Sometimes they are tasks that are hanging over me (“getting all the tomatoes picked and processed.”) And sometimes they are more relational (“get a specific child alone to help with his/her current struggles.”) This is very powerful for me as it helps me to think about what is really important in my life right now.
Pray. Once I have done all this, then I spend time in prayer. Sometimes I write down in my journal what I am praying for or about. But more often I just talk to God.
Sit quietly. Before I get up, I spend some time just sitting in my chair. Sometimes my eyes are open, sometimes they are closed. During this time I may try to meditate (focus on my breathing and empty my mind) or I may just reflect and ask myself specific questions or I may let my mind wander and see whatever comes up. It is during this time that I find I often get a lot of ideas and new angles on problem solving.
After this time at my writing desk I am almost always excited to live a new day and see what will happen.
I always aim to sit at my writing desk in the morning because it has the greatest impact on my day when I fit it in at that time. But life being what it is, that doesn’t always happen, and I will try to fit it in at some point during the day (typically after lunch).
Some days I’ll sit at my writing desk in the evenings before bed, but that is my least preferred time. I find that in the evenings instead of enjoying the time at my writing desk, it is more of a chore I have to check off before I go to sleep. So I often skip it rather than forcing it to happen.
I don’t have a specific amount of time that I spend there. Sometimes all I can manage is ten minutes. On these days I’ll generally not write anything, but just sit and think. Twenty to thirty minutes is more often what I am able to accomplish. But there are days where I’m able to spend an hour or longer. These are the days that are most meaningful and have the biggest impact on my life. But even so, I’d rather have a month where I get ten minutes every day than getting two hours only once or twice.
My children are a lot older now (ages 10 – 20) so it is easier for me to do this and be consistent about it. But I’ve always made it a priority in some form. When the children were younger, we always had “Quiet Hour”. This was typically at nap time. The baby and toddlers would nap at the same time. The older children had to sit on their beds and be quiet. They could do whatever they wanted (read, color, or rest) as long as they made no noise. They were also not allowed to get out of their beds for any reason.
If you ask my children, the older ones will tell you that this time was sacred to me. I never spent this time cleaning the house or doing chores. I spent it pretty much the way I just described. Even though I didn’t have a writing desk, it was easily accomplished in my bedroom or at the table. I do admit, there were a lot of days I fell asleep during Quiet Hour, but that’s ok too. I think maintaining quiet hour was also easier for me because we didn’t have technology. I had no cell phone. We had no television. I wasn’t on social media. I had a desktop computer and that was it.
I spend a lot of time trying to help busy moms spend their time more efficiently. But please remember that it’s more important to spend your time wisely. And this requires time spent not doing anything but thinking and reflecting. If you are able to make this a part of your daily life, I think you’ll be amazed at how your overall productivity increases.
How about you? Do you spend time doing “nothing”? Do you want to?