How idle time can help you hone your craft

Operating in an industry as fast paced as PR, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the ‘mile a minute’ approach constitutes the best recipe for success – allowing you to fly through copy and stay ahead of the content curve.

But, in reality, taking ten minutes to pause and look at the bigger picture every now and then is the real silver bullet solution to optimise productivity – and drive optimum results – today.

Whether you’re a fledgling professional just breaking into the industry, or a renowned PR practitioner with a rich portfolio of experience — reframing ‘idle time’ as a help, rather than a hindrance, could be key when it comes to refining and developing your skillset. 

Of course, I’m not talking about disruptive downtime caused by ill-functioning technology, nor about thumb-twiddling over a coffee – which is what a traditional view of ‘idle time’ might look like. After all, in a time of such economic uncertainty, employers would be well within their rights to think, why would I pay an employee to sit and do nothing? 

Instead, by viewing the term through the lens of a more mechanical understanding – insofar as to keep a car engine ‘idling’ means to ‘run while disconnected from a load’ – we can open the door to a more relatable thought process.

With so much noise competing for ‘brain space’ in both a personal and professional capacity, sometimes all it takes to bring a creative idea to fruition is a round-the-block walk after digesting a brief, or a drive back from the office with a podcast on full blast to deliver some linguistic inspiration. Better still, having the flexibility to talk through ideas and welcome different lines of interpretation can be one of the best ways to drive value in a project – and deliver content that truly compels.

When it feels like we’re operating on borrowed time already, it’s only natural to think, ‘where on earth do I find the time to pull away from my workload?’ – but it’s important in helping to rest your brain and organise your thoughts. Creativity thrives in simple, comfortable, quiet environments – allowing you to maintain a sense of connectedness with the outside world, while mitigating the risk of overwhelm.

On the science side of things, ‘aha!’ moments are met with a rush of alpha waves from the brain which allow us to experience a deeper connection with our thoughts. And these ‘lightbulb’ moments happen when we’re doing a passive activity.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that 72% of people admit to getting their most creative ideas in the shower. The relaxing and solitary environment is said to promote the cultivation of new insights, while stimulating unconscious lines of thought. Put into context, within an agency environment, it’s often passing comments and impromptu conversations that spark the most innovative of ideas.

The most important resource in any economy or organisation is, without a doubt, it’s employees – especially within such an employee-driven market. But as the dials continue to turn, it can be easy to slip into autopilot to keep everything on track. Yet, ‘on track’ doesn’t always equate to optimum results.

So, whether as an employer or an employee, here’s your opportunity to think – is this reframed understanding of ‘idle time’ high enough on the productivity agenda? Or could embracing the idea of ‘doing nothing’ help you harness your best ideas?

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