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Little Find

The dead zone: Why doing nothing is doing something

Have you ever felt you’ve had some of your brightest ideas at odd, unexpected moments – while out walking the dog, mowing the lawn or just doing … nothing?

Ten years ago, our attention span was three minutes long; today, it’s 45 seconds. We check our emails on average 745 times a day, and we switch tasks on our computers more than 500 times. And it only gets worse with stress and pressure, not to mention social distancing. And this endlessly shifting attention is very costly in terms of brain power, which flounders ineffectively when it has to toggle between tasks. 

So, take the opposite tack: Don’t be afraid to do nothing! Although this may seem like “dead time” to you – the very antithesis of the rush to be productive – it’s actually a moment of intense brain activity. Do you have qualms about wasting time, spaced out on your sofa? Don’t: When your brain appears to be resting, it is actually going into “default mode” and is working at forming new neural connections that link disparate ideas and – unbeknownst to you – solving stubborn problems.  

To go further:

How boredom can lead to your most brilliant ideas

(TED Talk by Manoush Zomorodi, April 2017). 

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Françoise Tollet
Published by Françoise Tollet
She spent 12 years in industry, working for Bolloré Technologies, among others. She co-founded Business Digest in 1992 and has been running the company since 1998. And she took the Internet plunge in 1996, even before coming on board as part of the BD team.