To Strengthen Leadership, Find Time for Silence

Who would you be if you took time for silence? 

Given the level of noise that surrounds us, we might never know the answer to that question unless we consciously set aside time for quiet. By “noise,” I mean not only the sounds of phones, construction, screens and traffic, but the chatter of texts, emails, websites and social media that fills our days. 

“Recent studies are showing that taking time for silence restores the nervous system, helps sustain energy, and conditions our minds to be more adaptive and responsive to the complex environments in which so many of us now live, work, and lead,” write Justin Talbot-Zorn and Leigh Marz in the Harvard Business Review article The Busier You Are, the More You Need Quiet Time.

The authors point to research associating quiet with everything from development of new cells in a brain region associated with learning and memory, to supporting cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Creative ideas often surface in quiet.

Some leaders tell me that it feels like a luxury to sit and reflect. And yet, when we do take that time, we are likely to feel restored and go back to work with more endurance, concentration and creativity as a result.

In silence we are also often able to grasp the bigger picture: to connect the dots of our lives, see recurring themes, and figure out who we are and where we really want to go with our lives. When we are living in the noise of life this self is sometimes nearly abandoned. Taking that time for quiet, even for extroverts, can give us a chance to let our inner selves unfold.

You may already know when and where you can get some quiet, but if not, could you walk in the park for 15 minutes before or after work and leave your phone behind? Or how about finding silence in a quiet corner of your house or at a library, a museum, an art gallery or a church? Are you able to block out 5 or 10 minutes at your desk twice a day to close your phone and computer and do nothing but breathe and look out the window? Or do what some leaders I know do on the weekends, and take time for a media fast, staying off the internet and away from screens for an hour or a day. You’ll probably feel a burst of intellectual energy as a result. 

I hope you can all find some time for quiet this week. 

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