The easiest way to perform better: doing nothing every now and then

When you first arrive at the playa in the Black Rock Desert, you are engulfed in a cacophony of colors, music, bizarre people (in even more bizarre outfits) and alien, often fire-breathing objects. Despite the fact that the Burning Man Festival has also taken a corona break, everyone who has ever been there will immediately relive the entire event.

I can still remember myself like it was yesterday when I first arrived in 2013 in Gerlach (population 34), the last piece of inhabited world before you really go into the desert. Also the last moment that you still have something to reach. After that there is no more connection. And that didn’t happen for the next 7 days.

The lack of socials, mail and news, not looking up something quickly or being interrupted while you are in the middle of a conversation, it ensured optimal attention for what was there. Of course, at a festival like Burning Man there is also enough to completely forget about that digital distraction.

But conversations also suddenly become more intense, because you don’t have any distractions at your fingertips. Facial expressions will stand out. Body language becomes visible. Emotions palpable. That which makes us human. And not only during conversations, but also outside of it. The moments when you have nothing to do. Those moments of wonder, reflection or just nothing at all.

Moments of silence

And it is precisely those last moments that are so essential for our growth and development. It is precisely those moments of silence that ensure that we can recharge our learning and thinking capacity, process our emotions better, strengthen our mental resilience, lower our stress levels and thus also improve our performance.

For knowledge workers, working from home offers a great opportunity to find that peace of mind at work, but instead the number of distractions in the form of (video) meetings has increased everywhere. This only further exhausts our brain (and even leads to more accidents, because we happily continue video conferencing in the car). We are literally filling up every second.

And to be honest, I too often catch myself being too busy and distracted. It was therefore a blessing to leave for the mountains last month with a colleague and nine entrepreneurs. The phones were handed in on departure.

No distraction

This time we stayed in a very simple cabin, without books, magazines or other distractions. The day was filled with mainly silent walks that led to wonderful insights. Nobody cared anymore that we slept in a dormitory, because everyone was already in dreamland before 10 o’clock.

In fact, there was so little distraction that the announcement of one of the contestants to tell a bedtime story sounded like we were all about to go to the cinema together.

Doing nothing every now and then

But the most important thing is that, during the journey, and also afterwards, we all had the space to give a lot of things a place, to put experiences in perspective better, to make decisions and above all to give each other genuine feedback on the things that kept us busy. In those five days of silence, I have seen and learned more than any other training program.

So for anyone who wants to work smarter, it pays to do less. In fact, sometimes doing nothing at all. No distractions, no input, no meetings. Especially not talking. Chances are that if you say something again, it will come out a lot better.

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