This is one of those delightful cases where psychological research makes exactly the argument you want it to: Taking regular breaks from your work, as Science of Us has explained before, doesn’t just make the day go by a little faster — it also makes you a more productive employee, leaving you mentally refreshed and reenergized for all the things left on your to-do list.
But as a recent column in Harvard Business Review pointed out, there’s more than one kind of break — and while allowing yourself a few minutes of mindlessness is important, you should also try to make time throughout the day for silence. And that doesn’t mean just abstaining from talking out loud (which, with the advent of Slack, isn’t really much of a feat); it means cutting yourself off, briefly, from all forms of communication.
“This kind of silence is about resting the mental reflexes that habitually protect a reputation or promote a point of view,” writers Leigh Marz and Justin Talbot-Zorn explained. In an environment like the office, where people express themselves a little more carefully than they would at home, pretty much everything you say or write takes a bit more mental effort; going silent, then, is “about taking a temporary break from one of life’s most basic responsibilities: Having to think of what to say:”
When we’re constantly fixated on the verbal agenda—what to say next, what to write next, what to tweet next—it’s tough to make room for truly different perspectives or radically new ideas. It’s hard to drop into deeper modes of listening and attention. And it’s in those deeper modes of attention that truly novel ideas are found.
That doesn’t mean you have to full-on meditate at your desk, but you might want to consider using your break time to take a head-clearing walk, rather than firing off a funny tweet. Even if you only have time for a few minutes of escape, true silence is so hard to come by that it will feel great — decadent, even — to find an empty conference room and shut the door behind you.