Reflections under the Christmas tree


Towards the end of the year I take a break. When the Christmas tree is decorated and the candles are alight my world comes to a halt. In part the reflections are about what I am grateful for, what went well and what did not go that well and about making plans for the next year. But it is deeper. It is some sort of down time. I enter into a reflective state, a sort of emptiness for introspection, detached from the busyness that usually keeps me in captivity. And in such a state of mind surfaces what really matters to me and what should be the guiding lights on my horizon.


2It is this reflective space, that I also try to create with my clients (not only at Christmas time of course). Entrepreneurs, professionals and managers alike. In the craze of everyday life, the hectic of short term targets at work, the overload of information, e-mails and IPhones we can keep ourselves busy until we drop dead. Being busy all the time can be very unproductive. Many of us regularly forget that working hard does not necessarily translate into more productivity. And sometimes we wake up and find ourselves working in the wrong direction. Effective executives know how to act and how to reflect. How do we get from working hard to working smart? How do we ensure that what we do is meaningful and effective?


While I was pondering about this blog and the importance of down time, I came across a paper of Manfred Kets de Vries, psychotherapist and professor at INSEAD business school. The title is “Doing nothing and Nothing to Do: The Hidden Value of Empty Time and Boredom.” He explains that when we are very busy usually our left brain is dominant. The left brain is the seat of our logic and cognitive processes; our control centre. When the dust settles in our mind and we relax, the right brain usually comes forward. The right brain represents the more creative, associative and intuitive part of us. Very important for creative and innovative ideas. This also explains why often – when we are working hard at a problem – the solution will not come; but once we go for a run in the woods or wake up in the morning the solution is suddenly there. It is important to invite the right brain more often into our life, work and decision-making.


Also in empty time the subconscious part of our brain, many times bigger and more influential than the conscious part, pops-up in our consciousness with small messages and teasers. It is easy to discard them. But when we let them in and give them space it brings us closer to ourselves and what is meaningful, resulting in a better alignment between what we do and what really matters to us.


Regular downtime is very important for our health, wellbeing and effectiveness. Over the next weeks I wish you a lot of downtime and Reflective Space so that when 2016 knocks on your door your findings will guide you in making a meaningful plan and smart goals for the year to come.


Best wishes for a productive and meaningful 2016!

Elsbeth Boerboom