Calling all high performers: Slow down, invest in quiet time

Calling all high performers: Slow down, invest in quiet time

April 1, 2017 by Ali El Droubi

How much time do you dedicate each day to silence? We’d bet that most professionals don’t even think about allotting themselves quiet time – and even the ones that do don’t put it at the top of their priority list.

Yet there are handfuls of studies that show silence is one of the best things for us. According to the Harvard Business Review, silence helps improve energy, revitalises our nervous system and helps our brains become more responsive. Let’s take a closer look at some of the evidence:

  • Research by Imke Kirste of Duke Medical School discovered that silence is linked to the creation of new cells in the hippocampus – the area of the brain tied to learning and memory.
  • Luciano Bernardi, a physician, discovered that placing two minutes of silence between musical pieces resulted in increased stabilisation in the cardiovascular and respiratory systems.

Not only does it benefit our health, it opens up space in our brains for truly innovative thinking – a necessity in today’s business climate. Noise creates obstacles to clear thinking, it’s like trying to find what you need in a cluttered room. Facilitating quiet time opens up the room, puts everything in its place and allows you to find the ideas and inspiration you are looking for.

It also makes us better listeners. When we take the time to cut down the talking, we inherently spend more time listening. You absorb what people are saying and in turn begin asking the right questions.

Quiet time opens up the space in our brains for truly innovative thinking.

Creating quiet time amidst the noise

It’s important to note that truly dedicating time to silence is about more than just stepping away from outside noise. It involves clearing your own mind too. You need to commit to pushing the million things on your to-do list out of your brain and taking some time to just be.

That leaves one big question: How can we do this?

1. Commit to it: If you really want to give silence and it’s benefits a chance, you need to treat it like you would treat any other agenda item. Prioritise it on your list of to-dos and consciously carve out the time – whether it’s 20 minutes or a full hour. Getting anything done starts with making a commitment to doing it.

2. Have a media fast: Social media, emails and everything associated with our digital connections create a lot of noise in our lives. Whether it’s an inbox that seems to refill every minute, or notifications that won’t stop pinging, it can do wonders to shut it all down for prolonged periods of time, according to HBR contributors Justin Talbot-Zorn and Leigh Marz. Try to set aside an hour or two every few days where you have a media fast, then progress to full days if possible – quieting that underlying noise can help you refocus and recharge.

Person working with virtual reality screen

It’s important to stay connected but it’s equally important to dedicate some time to disconnect.

3. Book a meditation retreat: If you really want to dive in and make a full-fledged commitment to silence, find a meditation retreat, suggests Talbot-Zorn and Marz. It allows you to completely remove all external factors and focus all of your energy on finding your centre. It is like pushing the reset button on your brain.

Taking the time to slow down is important for any professional. In such a fast-paced business environment it can be tempting to keep pushing and keep moving at all times but it’s not good for your health or your creativity. Turn off the social media, sit down, take a deep breath and just be.

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