On my recent trip to London, on the Underground a friendly recorded voice would remind you to ‘please mind the gap’ when stepping off the train. Today, I want to talk about another type of gap that we need to be mindful of.
Once upon a time, not too long ago, we had lots of little gaps in our lives.
Waiting on hold on the phone, on your morning commute, sitting in a waiting room…
Now, I feel compelled to check my Facebook on a short bus trip, read blog posts while I’m watching TV, Instagram while on my walk and catch up on Twitter during ad breaks.
How is it that we suddenly don’t know how to just do nothing?
All those empty spaces seem like such an inconvenience. A total waste of time when I could be being productive.
But the spaces in between can provide some of life’s most meaningful moments.
People-watch while waiting for your friend to arrive at the coffee shop instead of burying your head in your smartphone and a stranger might give you a compliment that will make your day. Look at the world around you instead of chatting on the phone while out on your lunch break and the autumn leaves might spark an idea for that new artwork you’ve been struggling with. Talk to your child instead of checking your email as you wait for dinner to cook and you might find out something you didn’t know about them. Stop channel surfing during the ad breaks and just enjoy a cosy moment with your partner.
We need space to breathe, to ponder, to take in the world around us, to rest, to be inspired.
Constantly trying to multitask and fill these gaps with technology and social media and we rob ourselves of the opportunity to experience life’s simple pleasures.
A real-life example? The other day I was walking to the post office with a bag full of orders (as I do every other day) and I noticed the warmth of the sun on my face. I (quite literally) basked in that sense and could feel it instantly lifting my mood during what had been a stressful week cooped up in the office. If I’d been listening to my iPod or trying to squeeze in a couple of quick calls I don’t think I would have even noticed.
So while I am usually advocating all this technology in this Tooling Around column, there is such a thing as too much.
If you can’t remember the last time you felt like you let yourself do nothing, it’s time to switch off.