Thursday, January 17, 2008
In the January 21st edition of Maclean's magazine there is an article by Kate Lunau on the increasing lack of time or space given for quiet time and creative contemplation in our information saturated workplaces, where we are expected to sort through and answer a gazillion e-mails every hour.
According to Dr. Edward Hallowell, many modern workers display symptoms of "culturally induced attention deficit disorder" and are restless and irritable from the increasing demands and interruptions of their time. The article goes on to explore how some companies, such as Intel, have introduced "quiet time" for some of their employees, where e-mail and phones are purposely shut off during a designated time once a week and uninterrupted quiet contemplation and creative problem solving are encouraged.
The fact that is sounds so obvious it to me a sign that it is probably a great idea. It brings me back to kindergarten when the teachers would pull out the little mats for quiet time, complete with the dimming of the lights in the vain hope that a pack of feral children would remain quiet for at least a few minutes. Sure, my five-year old cohorts and I would make farting noises with our hands cupped under our armpits, getting "shushed" every two minutes by our teachers, though at least we had an opportunity to pursue our blissful daydreams, which is tragically missing for many of us grown-ups.
I was also thinking about the Utopian articles that appeared in the early 90's telling us that in the 21st century we would have more leisure time as the result of being "liberated" by technology, complete with those mythical 4 day work weeks. It seems that rather than having some servile robot bring us our tea while we contemplate life in our hermetically sealed relaxation chambers we are slaves to little PCs and hand held devices, where every time an e-mail or an "urgent" text message appears, you can almost hear a malevolent mechanical voice muttering "resistance is futile".
Personally, I try to go low-fi from time to time and choose to walk down the hall and talk to people in person rather than just sending and e-mail. Radical yes, though I do occasionally enjoy human interaction even if the communication is for largely instrumental reasons
Anyways, I am all for bringing back quiet time. Lets roll out the little mats, unplug for a little while and contemplate the mysteries of the universe. Even if no major epiphany or flash of insight occurs at least you can rest assured in the knowledge that doing nothing can often be the most productive thing you could choose to do.