I’ll be honest with you -- I’m terrified of being alone. During the past few years, we’ve all become pretty connected with one another. Texting, reading a friend’s Twitter feed, hopping on Facebook and reliving some great memories -- even when we’re home alone, these sorts of activities can make us feel like we’re socializing.
Being connected and developing relationships has become easier than ever. Nowadays, I think it’s harder to learn how to disconnect than to connect.
And that’s a scary thought, because being alone and getting some “me” time has tremendous benefits creatively, emotionally, and mentally.
Are you as afraid as being alone as I am? If so, I’d like to make the case for you to embrace that fear head on. Being alone brings several noteworthy benefits useful in both your personal and work life.
Let me tell you a few.
Being alone inspires creativity.
Ever wonder why your best ideas come to you when you’re by yourself at 11 p.m. just lying in bed?
Turns out there’s some science behind this phenomenon. A handful of studies have linked being alone to spikes in creativity. When we have time to sit down and think about what we’re doing, we can formulate ideas without the pressure of someone scrutinizing our thoughts.
Being alone boosts memory.
Ever struggle with your memory? It might be because there are too many people around. Anna Guerrero points out that being alone can actually improve our memory, helping us to remember specific images and words, which -- wait for it -- can create a bump in creativity.
For instance, one study found that when someone thought they were working on a task by themselves, they were able to remember more about the task than someone who thought they were in a group. Imagine being able to remember small details about a prospect or a call you made weeks ago that you’d like to use again. Working alone might make this more feasible.
To take advantage of this effect, schedule some “me” time during your work day. Give yourself a half hour (on my calendar I call it “Coffee and Stuff”) to be alone and read the things that interest you. This alone time will help you remember details better, and improve both your memory and creativity down the road.
Being alone makes you more productive.
This might sound obvious, but it’s worth noting: Being alone means less distractions, and less distractions mean more productivity. When you’re by yourself, you’re in charge of your time, and able to dictate how much effort you put towards each task. In addition, psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter writes that being alone increases your ability to concentrate, solve problems more efficiently, and think deeply about what’s ahead of you.
One of my favorite productivity tricks that takes advantage of alone time is called the 10-minute hack. When you first wake up -- before you brush your teeth, make your bed, or put on coffee -- spend 10 minutes by yourself focusing on one task. Do this every morning, and let the creative juices flow. If it can help David Kadavy write the #18 best-selling book on Amazon, it can do wonders for you.
Being alone gives you time to reflect.
Humans by nature are goal-oriented. Giving yourself an hour to be alone can enable you to reflect on what you’ve done, what you haven’t done, and what you’d like to do. When we have time to sit down and review what it is we’re after, we can formulate a much clearer picture of the future and set up a route to success.
We’ve all been conditioned to be connected so thoroughly that it might be hard to disconnect. But while there is plenty of value in checking social media networks and email regularly, ensure you’re taking enough time to yourself, too. Being alone might be the key to achieving maximum creativity or productivity.
Originally published Dec 4, 2015 7:00:00 AM, updated June 15 2021