The modern world is a raucous symphony of noise. The squawks and pings of mobile devices are only the latest additions to a cacophony of rings, bells, announcements, conversations and other noises producing distractions, even stress, in our daily professional lives. Interestingly, getting things done — being productive — is largely a result of silence. In fact, the quieter we can make our internal and external worlds, the more productive we become.
Here are five ways to leverage short periods of silence during the frenetic day.
1. Engagement. When we listen more and talk less, our worlds are quieter. Instead of pushing noise out into the world, we can listen to what’s going on in it. More importantly, we can listen more closely to what others are saying. The more we listen (and hear) what others say, the more engaged they become. More engaged people need less motivation and guidance from us.
2. Negotiations. Negotiations are ostensibly about finding a mutually agreeable solution. Unfortunately, they tend to devolve into verbal justifications for the position taken. Alternatively, we often seek to shorten the natural course of a negotiation by continuing to give ground throughout the process — more talking! The best negotiation strategy is to state a position, then remain quiet until the opposing side has responded to that position. If they refuse to respond, suspend the negotiation and get on with more productive work.
3. Transition. Transitioning from one environment to another — work to home, home to work — is a terrific time to collect our thoughts and relish any silence we can find. Turn off the radio in the car, turn off the TV at the house, turn off the iPod during the commute. Walk, sit or drive free from self-induced noise and allow the relative silence to collect and organize the day just finished or just beginning.
4. Rest. Create quiet times throughout the day to rest and rejuvenate. The mind is a function of the brain. The brain is an organ of the body. All body parts need rest and recharging. Even a short rest is an excellent way to recharge the mind throughout the day.
5. Productivity. As mentioned above, productivity comes from focused effort. Focus is best achieved when our internal and external worlds are as quiet as possible. Find ways to quiet down your spaces — close the door, turn off new message alerts, sequester yourself in an empty office. These small slices of silence will increase productivity, as well as your sense of well-being.
Silence is an underrated productivity tool. We often mistake noisy activity for solid productivity. The truth is that the more ways we leverage silence, the more truly productive we become.
Paul H. Burton is a recovering corporate finance attorney who helps people regain command of their day. As a nationally recognized time management expert, he regularly speaks to audiences about getting more done and enjoying greater personal and professional satisfaction. He is the author of five books on individual and leadership productivity. Learn more about Paul and his practice at quietspacing.com and follow him on Twitter @QuietSpacing.