Lennie loved to take naps.
He built himself a small building from a kit, behind his house in Connecticut. He filled it with the tools of his trade and added a sofa.
Lennie’s wife would look in from time to time and catch him lying on the sofa, daydreaming or napping.
“I thought you were working,” she would say.
“I am,” was his reply.
For three decades, composer Leonard Bernstein crafted some of his most famous works from his tiny studio. He could usually be found composing, orchestrating a work, or flat on his back staring at the ceiling. Lennie understood the necessity of “making time to waste time” in order to generate great ideas.
Unfortunately, today’s culture of American business is steeped in the philosophy of hard work and focus for productivity, rather than taking time for creativity; to relax the mind so that all of those problems that have been working themselves out in the back of your brain have an opportunity to bubble up to the top.
The most common thread among great thinkers?
Taking time to waste time.
Bernstein did it. So did Albert Einstein, with his long hikes through the mountains. And Steve Jobs, who was known for his dedication to long, long walks. They removed themselves from the moment so that answers could push through. And yes, they were working.
3M invented the philosophy of “creative time” more than 50 years ago, giving each employee 15% of their time to work on a project of their own. Google copied 3M and credits “creative time” for most of the apps and features that have made Google far more than just a search engine.
Wouldn’t it be great to take 15% of your daily work time to devote to letting your mind relax?
Let’s say you have a 7-hour day (which, if you’re a Main Street business owner is laughable).
That’s 420 minutes a day.
Fifteen percent of that is 63 minutes.
One hour a day to clear the mind and let solutions bubble to the top.
And yes, it’s WORKING time. Don’t let traditional, old-fashioned ways tell you otherwise.
Give it a try, even if it’s for just fifteen minutes a day (some of you gotta break into this slowly, I know). Shut the door and lay on the sofa or the floor. Sit in your chair with your feet on the desk. Head out the door (without your phone!) and take a walk in the neighborhood. Try not to think about anything…. Just daydream. If you fall asleep, that’s okay. Your mind never stops working, even when it’s asleep.
For more on creativity, problem-solving, and the imagination, be sure to pick up a copy of Jonah Lehrer’s latest book, Imagine. It’s a fascinating and entertaining look at the power of “wasting time” for utmost creativity.
I’ll leave you with a short video from Jonah, as well as one of Lennie’s greatest contributions to musical theater. Be sure to comment below and let us know how you waste time for creativity – we’d love to hear your stories.