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Discovering the Power of Our Mindless Moments

By Jacquelyn Adams

We live in a day and age of constant engagement — staring at our phones while pumping gas into our cars, watching TV while eating dinner, listening to a podcast while washing dishes. Whether exercising, driving, cleaning, building… in these moments of audiobooks, podcasts and documentaries, are we really learning or simply being amused (and in this instance, I mean its etymological definition a-muse: no think). By constantly being plugged in, are we really turning ourselves into databases of facts, rather than factories of thoughts? What if, instead, we chose to embrace our mindless moments?

Challenging Assumptions About “Wasting” Time

It has become our norm to be perpetually online and tuned in. As an advocate of lifelong learning, I have supported it, but recently I have had second thoughts. And all of this came about because of a quote from my audiobook. There I was, just minding my own business, enjoying Brandon Sanderson’s new, insightful, hilarious, amazing book Tress of the Emerald Sea, when Sanderson went and threw down this quote:

“That is one of the great mistakes people make: assuming that someone who does menial work does not like thinking. Physical labor is great for the mind, as it leaves all kinds of time to consider the world. Other work, like accounting or scribing, demands little of the body — but siphons energy from the mind. If you wish to become a storyteller, here is a hint: sell your labor, but not your mind. Give me ten hours a day scrubbing a deck, and oh the stories I could imagine. Give me ten hours adding sums, and all you’ll have me imagining at the end is a warm bed and a thought-free evening.”

That was more than a week ago, and I can’t let it go. As I said, I love my audiobooks. Recently, they have introduced me to many beautiful quotes and ideas. However, how often do I give them time to percolate? When I fill each moment, each second, are these thoughts getting any time to breathe and grow? If I’m obsessed with finding new, engaging content… am I afraid to be alone with my own thoughts? Can I sit in silence?

Reassessing My Time Investment

A lot of this comes down to our desire to maximize the investment of our time. For example, I recently had a friend happily tell me she is reclaiming bits of her time, like waiting in line or laying down her kids by taking surveys online. This way, she can pull out her phone and make a little money while waiting, instead of simply “wasting” her time. I believe this is based off the notion that if we aren’t doing five things at once, we aren’t being productive enough. Sitting with our thoughts isn’t something that many of us are used to seeing or doing.

However, I would encourage each of us to reconsider the moments when we can embrace silence and let our thoughts wander. To get us started, here are some possible moments that we mindlessly plug-in: commute time (or even driving/transportation time), lunch breaks, exercising, cleaning, gardening, handiwork, or even while falling asleep. Our days are filled with opportunities to let our minds wander — whether it’s being mindful in this moment, just exploring new ideas.

Wasting Time Effectively During “Mindless Moments”

The point is that there are so many points in our day that we can reclaim from our fear of wasting time. To be clear, this can be trickier than it sounds. Perhaps our podcast fuels our energy while we are getting mindless work done. If so, as we start experimenting with silence, we might feel lethargic, apathetic… or even anxious. I get it, and I am there, too. However, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

I have begun to dabble in small doses of silence. For example, when I hit a particularly poignant part of a book or podcast, I pause to sit silently with the idea before proceeding. I will sometimes even “bookmark” that spot so later I can re-listen and think about it again (as I did with the previous quote). We don’t need to spend hours in silence, but we can start giving ourselves opportunities to cultivate our thoughts and let them grow.

While contemplating this idea, I recalled the words of Robert S. Scott: “How many time-wasting activities do you do routinely without seeking a remedy?” Rather than defaulting to mindless content consumption, consider turning inward and embracing moments of quiet contemplation. By doing so, you open yourself to self-reflection, clarity, and the opportunity to live a more intentional and fulfilling life. Break free from the noise and discover the transformative power of introspection.


Jacquelyn Adams

Jacquelyn Adams, founder and CEO of Ristole, uses her column to delve into the wild world of leadership. Whether the article is about her days as a Peace Corp volunteer, exploring corporate training, or even grabbing lunch at Chipotle — she will come out with a story and her “top tips.” As she passionately believes in leveraging her platform to share others’ voices, her column welcomes guest bloggers to create a fuller and more diverse pool of experiences for her readership. So, welcome to “Lessons on Leadership” where you never know what the next article will hold: online networking advice, guidelines for creating a joyful workplace, or even puppies. Just keep reading to discover what’s next!

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