Home Insights Opinion Tips to declutter your brain: Schedule in a few slots of solitude Solitude is a practice of deliberately removing oneself from daily distractions to become more reflective and calm by Rehan Khan November 21, 2020 Some years ago, I felt myself becoming busier and busier, and yet this wasn’t resulting in improved quality of work. In fact, the opposite was happening; the busier I got the more my work deteriorated. Frustrated, I began to study what was happening to my performance at a cognitive level and one of the changes I put in place was to build periods of solitude into my schedule. Within a few weeks, I noticed myself become calmer, more reflective and the deliverables I produced were far superior to anything I had done before. Now I was in even more demand, but this time, I made the firm decision to decide what work I wanted to take on and said no to everything else. Slots of solitude speckled throughout my day indeed proved to be a game-changer. I mention this because insurance firm Bupa Global recently announced the findings of its Executive Wellbeing Index, which examined the impact of the coronavirus on global business leaders and wealth creators. The research, undertaken among 2,000 high net worth individuals (HNWIs) based across Europe, North America, the Middle East and Asia, reported that seven in 10 experienced poor mental health during this time – with the figure rising to eight in 10 among business leaders. As a result, many were looking to initiate shifts to re-calibrate work-life balance, with a greater focus on overall wellbeing. Yet I wonder how many have considered solitude and its relationship with wellbeing. Now, I want to make a clear distinction between solitude and loneliness, as various research has demonstrated that loneliness is associated with a range of health problems – such as addiction, depression, heart disease, and premature death. The economist Noreena Hertz makes a strong case against the dangers of loneliness in her book The Lonely Century (2020). Loneliness arises when you want to make real physical connections with people but aren’t able to do so for whatever reasons. However, solitude is a practice of deliberately removing oneself from the daily digital bubble-bath we immerse ourselves in and stepping back to ponder, think and reflect more deeply. When building solitude into my diary, I oten go for walks, wherever possible outside, or even around my house. If I happen to be close to some form of nature – grass, plants, trees, sand – I wander off into these environments. The American philosopher Thoreau, writing in Walden (1854), believed that there was a fundamental connection to nature and the thriving of human life. He wrote: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” When I’m off on one of these walks or simply sitting still looking out the window, I have no devices on me, thus avoiding notifications that would in any way disturb my cognitive frame. I let my mind wander, with no particular intention of where it should be going. And yet every time I come out of these moments of solitude, I’ve oten resolved some professional problem which would have been gnawing at me. Perhaps it was a strategic issue, or a formula in a spreadsheet, or even how to respond to an emotive email. Your brain will do the heavy lifting when you are in a state of solitude, as it purrs away in the background making connections you haven’t yet seen or noticed. The hardest thing is actually having the discipline to schedule time in your diary for solitude wherever you are – just being with yourself with no digital or real distractions around you. Tags Brain Office productivity Rehan Khan Solitude Walks work 0 Comments Share Tweet Share Share You might also like Dubai’s DMCC opens representative office in Shenzhen, China Think Week: What is it and will UAE professionals benefit from it? How best to counter an overwhelming email culture to spur productivity How should regional leaders manage change successfully?