Posted in Coaching

The Idle Brain

We’ve all had those sudden strikes of inspiration, moments where an idea materializes so vividly that you have no choice but to get to work.

Those moments aren’t the rule though. They happened to me more often as a kid and teenager. Now, as an adult, I find that they rarely happen. 


Scientifically those moments of inspiration, ideas, etc are more likely to happen when your brain is able to idle. For most people, an idling brain is a difficult thing to come by.

If you’re like me, a parent working full time, caring for pets, home, and seemingly everything else, there doesn’t seem to be time for your brain to idle. There’s always something to do.

Not only that, we live in a society that so prioritizes “multi-tasking” and “working well under stress” that it’s no wonder we can’t let our brains idle. We’re conditioned to be busy, especially in the workplace where the idea that if you aren’t busy then you aren’t working still prevails. 

Let’s talk for just a second about multitasking and what it really means. For years I thought multitasking meant being able to jump from task to task and get many things done at once. In reality, multitasking is just misdirection. 

Every time you leave one task to work on another you actually perform slower than if you were to just focus on one task to completion. If you are constantly moving from one task to another then it’s likely you feel that you never actually get anything done.

In a world that embraces a constant busyness, how do we allow our brains to idle?

One method is putting our physical bodies to work on something that doesn’t require a lot of brainpower. The brain is always working, it never stops but if we do things that require simple physical rote memory and not a lot of brainpower then we have the ability to set our brain into idle mode. Examples are taking a walk, hike, gardening, even cooking – without distractions meaning no earbuds or youtube to keep you company. This may also be why we sometimes zone out while driving, it’s a rote activity that allows our brain to slip into idle mode.

All of this is great but how do we find time in the midst of everything else to let our brains idle?

If you’re completely booked up then schedule time. You can set aside 10 or 15 minutes to take a walk outside or to find a quiet place to just sit and let yourself daydream. At first, you may not be able to set problems aside and just let your mind wander, that will also take practice. Like meditation, when thoughts come up during this time, acknowledge them and move on, don’t move your focus to them. Listening to nature outside or using a mindfulness app to help guide your thoughts can also be helpful. 

The more you practice, the better you will become at allowing your brain to idle and the more benefits you will begin seeing from it. 

As a coach, I help people develop their creativity through this practice and others, if you are interested in learning more contact me here.

Photo from the Pexel’s photo library shows an abandoned boat on a beach during sunset and a person approaching it.


Letters from inside my head

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