Given the emphasis on productivity in our culture, saying we need to be unproductive may sound counter intuitive. Some of the greatest tips for success in life do! I recently discovered again the significance of seemingly unproductive time. As a mommy of twin preschoolers, who also stays busy speaking, teaching and writing, I usually find myself multi-tasking excessively. I strategically schedule time to write during naps, squeezing in a load of laundry while taking a break to refill my coffee. Talking on the phone while walking the trails by our house allows me to have a quick workout, get some fresh air and catch up with a friend or colleague all at the same time! I have even left projects out on the table to work on should the girls wake up in the middle of the night! This pace often leaves me mentally and emotionally exhausted.
Recently, I read an article discussing Google’s 80/20 concept, where employees are encouraged to spend 20 percent of their work hours doing whatever they want. Why would a major company propse such a policy? They know the benefits of rest, daydreaming and amusement. Down time can increase problem-solving, creativity, concentration and well-being. In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey’s seventh habit is that of balanced self-renewal, or what he calls “sharpening the saw.” He emphasizes intentionally renewing our physical, spiritual, mental, and social/emotional wellbeing. Covey explains, “This is the single most powerful investment we can ever make in life—investment in ourselves, in the only instrument we have with which to deal with life and to contribute…we need to recognize the importance of taking time regularly to sharpen the saw.” While such a statement may sound selfish, it rings true. An exhausted, overworked, distracted individual has little to offer to anyone in his or her life.
While on a walk with my husband, daughters and dog, we came to a small lake. While my husband scratched the dog and talked to the girls, I walked out to the end of a dock and sat down. The rustling of the leaves tickled my ears and the peacefulness of the water captured my gaze. I felt my body begin to relax and happy memories of summers fishing with my grandparents flooded my mind, bringing a smile to my face. My husband asked if I wanted to continue walking. I answered, “No, I am just going to sit here!” I needed to capture that moment! In this season of life, I may not be able to spend 20 percent of my time daydreaming or even engage in regular activities to “sharpen my saw,” but I can take 7 ½ minutes to enjoy the stillness of the sun reflecting on the water before the kids start to fuss, or read three pages from my favorite book before drifting off to sleep at night. As we enjoy the busyness of the upcoming holiday season, be sure to pause and soak up some moments of peace and reflection. These moments may prove to be the most productive in the day!
Dr. Jolene Erlacher is a wife, mommy, author, speaker, college instructor and coffee drinker who is passionate about empowering the next generation of leaders for effective service!