Ok, so I admit, that is a fairly audacious statement to make. In reality, I don’t actually know if Jeff Bezos plays Candy Crush or not. (Jeff, if you are reading this, feel free to reach out and let me know one way or the other 😊 )
But think about it… consider people like Richard Branson, Sheryl Sandberg, Simon Sinek, Barrack Obama or ‘insert your own favourite Thought, Business or World Leader or Successful Entrepreneur here…’. Do you really imagine that they are spending their downtime playing Candy Crush or filling their evenings bingeing on Netflix? I suspect they are using their downtime a great deal more intelligently.
Most of us would love to be more productive, creative and innovative, and yet in our downtime we aren’t giving our brain the time, space and opportunity that it needs in order to be productive, solve problems and to innovate.
So ask yourself, how do the world’s busiest, creative and most successful people use their time, particularly their downtime, in a way that enables them to perform at their best? (I suspect that even Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t spend his evenings scrolling through his Facebook feed…)
Here are three suggestions:
Firstly, move more. Our bodies didn’t evolve to spend 8 hours (or more) sitting down, and, when you think about it, our lives were a great deal more manual and physical until about 100 years ago. It is only a blip in the history of our evolution that we have spent so much time sitting. Movement is the best exercise for your brain. Exercise reduces the risk of dementia, acts as an anti-depressant and regulates our mood (think how good you feel after you have been for a walk or a run). Going for a walk outdoors (without your phone, music device etc…) gets you away from the screens and into nature. You will do your best thinking then. I know some of my best ideas have come to me when out for a walk.
Secondly, create more uninterrupted quiet time in your life. We live in a noisy world and all too often have our phones within arms reach and our brains on high alert waiting for the next ping or buzz to let us know we have a new message or email. I see some people grab their phone when this happens as though their lives depend on it! Being on high alert all the time creates stress and too much cortisol (a stress hormone) which causes the hippocampus (the part of the brain associated with learning and memory) to shrink. Try having phone free evening or weekend. You will be surprised at how often you go to reach for your phone at first. Spend the time instead reading or gardening or doing those odd jobs around the house that you never seem to find the time to do. Take the kids to the park and leave your phone at home (shock, horror!). But what if there is an emergency you ask? Just think for a moment about the last month or year, exactly how many emergencies did you have to deal with on your night off or your day off? And if you did find yourself dealing with countless emergencies in your own time, then that is a whole other conversation that we need to have. Let your brain have the break it needs, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you suddenly find yourself with a solution to an issue that has been bothering you.
Thirdly, spend time connecting socially with others. Humans have a fundamental need for connection (yes, even us introverts need connection at times). Apart from being the number one predictor of longevity, social connection reduces the effects of stress and engages a range of cognitive functions such as thinking, feeling, reasoning and intuition. And when you are connecting with others; be present, be mindful and really be there. One thing I have read about Jeff Bezos is that he is surprisingly present and rarely distracted by his phone. In Jeff’s words ‘when I have dinner with my friends or family, I like to be doing whatever I am doing. I don’t like to multi-task’. So, I figure if one of the world’s busiest, creative and most successful entrepreneurs can leave his phone alone while enjoying time with his family and friends, then it isn’t too much of a stretch for us to do the same.
So, give your brain a break and switch off so that you can switch on all the learning and creativity centres of your brain. Who knows what you might be able to achieve?