Doing nothing is creative work. Because when you’re consciously doing nothing, the conscious part is only a tiny part of what your brain is. The rest of it, the unconscious, is chugging away all the time. There’s this process cognitive psychologists call “incubation” – the brain churning over associations. And these associations can pop into awareness as insight. The incubation process is supercharged during sleep, and also when doing nothing, letting your mind wander and having no particular task to perform.
If you keep people’s minds busy all the time with tasks, that inhibits this incubation process. I don’t want to say that people should become Luddites and get rid of all the gadgets and become hermits – all that provides raw data for incubation.
But what we need is a balance between doing nothing and doing something – we need both to fuel creativity and insight.
Brigid Schulte writing in The Washington Post