We often try to use idle time as a way of getting other things done or picking up overtime shifts to make more money to make ends meet, but we don’t realize the importance of idle time. Idle time is when we get to go into recovery mode.
There’s a lost skill we need to bring back. One our younger generation completely lacks. It’s how to be bored.
Most kids can’t stand even a moment of idle time and they crave constant entertainment and engagement. They lack the ability to handle boredom and the value of idle time.
For us adults, it doesn’t happen often, but we come across idle time here and there. It might be two minutes, maybe an hour, or maybe a whole day. Either way, idle time is important, and in our crazy busy stressful lives, we too have lost the art. We find ourselves filling that time, however long or short, with tasks or overtime shifts. We’re missing the importance of idle time.
Filling the Gap
It’s not that idle time is needed so we can fill the gap with tasks and overtime shifts. Idle time is recovery time, a time for pause and rest. You can sit with your thoughts for a moment and mentally breathe. If you don’t physically breathe, well, you know. And if you don’t mentally breathe… What’s meant by that anyway? Let’s talk about that.
You finish a shift that was filled with back-to-back calls and high-stress situations and you finally get home. Everyone is sleeping but there’s the laundry out. You dump your things at the kitchen table and see a bill that’s a bit more than expected. You also realize you’re out of milk. So, you instantly think, “Okay, next to be done is laundry, pick up a shift this week, and go get milk before the morning.” It’s what you do, right? Shower and clean up first then pick a chore or two before bed? Wrong.
Well, yes, shower, but don’t jump right to business. You just worked a stressful, nonstop, twelve-hour shift. Shower and – sit – right – down! Or take thirty seconds to a minute of just pausing to breathe. Take in the sounds of a quiet house. For some, silence is filled with thoughts and that’s not always good. Listen to the heater or refrigerator or whatever house sounds you have.
Maybe you have a cat or dog to pet. When you drop your things, take a moment to drop your thoughts too.
Now is a time to be idle, if only for a moment. Breathe. Digest the moment. Even journal if you need to, but sit and be still. Check yourself. Are you okay? Even if you are, it’s important to self check to be sure. No one is so busy they don’t have sixty seconds to just stop and breathe.
Tom Hodgkinson says in his article The importance of Being Idle, “To be idle is to be alive, and to be yourself.” He lists 10 ways to build free time into your week ranging from staying off social media to meditating. You may not be looking for new ways to be creative, but in your idle time you may find new ways to accomplish more and feel good about it.
If you do have time on your hands, that’s okay! It’s recovery time, discovery time for you, you, to use for self purpose. Digest what happened. Be in the moment, perhaps a moment of peace. Rest and recharge your mental state. You good? Find out. If we’re constantly filling our down time, our idle time with busyness, we’re not recovering.
Imagine an athlete who trains every day, hours upon hours a day, with no rest. He wouldn’t last long before burnout or injury. Athletes know they need a day of rest and recovery.
Our brains are our mental muscle. We need to rest them too, let them catch their proverbial breath. This is why idle time is so important to use wisely. Use it wisely; don’t use it up! Yes, the chores will be there and maybe your idle time is short, but it’s still vital.
This time of year leaves less free time than any other, but that’s why it’s even more important to find those mini breaks between shifts, errands, and chores. If you run from one to the next without a breath, you’re more likely to forget things, snap at people, get discouraged, or burn out. Take care of you from the inside and pace your days. The best way to be productive and happy with yourself may be hiding in the quiet of little moments between the bustle.