How to Be Quiet and Why You Must

A few weeks ago I started a series of posts I’m calling Recover You. The series is focused on practices and habits that I believe lead to a healthier mind, body and spirit, a healthier business and ultimately a healthier economy.

You can catch the entire Recover You series here.


photo credit: emdot via photopin cc

Business is noisy. A typical day might involve dozens of conversations, meetings, decisions, tasks and insights.

Every thought, conscious or otherwise, roars through our heads like the intersection of trains headed into the station.

We get pretty good at muffling the noise, become almost use to it, but it takes its toll no matter what we think.

In fact, in response to dealing with the noise we often lose our ability to actually think, to consider the vision for the business, to make conscious decisions about the impact of every act.

One of the best ways to return our focus to things like purpose and vision is to practice being quiet long enough to turn down the noise.

This isn’t as easy at it might sound. Try this right now. Close your eyes and just sit for five minutes and see how noisy your brain is. Most people can’t do this for more than 30 seconds without beginning to fidget.

We’ve trained our brain to be on and that leads to constantly talking, considering what to do next and reaching for our phones whenever we have a down minute to fill.

I believe we need to retrain ourselves to be still or run the risk of losing touch with why we do what we do.

Here are some of the ways I’ve found to turn down the noise in my head.

Go analog

Set up an area in your office with crayons and paper and other crafty kind of materials and every now and then unplug and go draw, cut and paste while taking your mind off your to do list.


Get a big notebook or use any text editor and get in the habit of free flow journaling. When I first started doing this is was so goofy what spilled out of me, but I didn’t edit a word or judge what I wrote in any way and eventually it became an outlet for releasing thoughts that were somewhere rolling round blocking my intentions.


I’ve written about this before and certainly many now agree on the benefits of a meditation practice. It’s hard for people to do I think because they believe it is supposed to be this path to enlightenment. If you put that kind of pressure on anything it won’t be enjoyable. Think about it as five or ten minutes a day to simply witness your thoughts and experience first-hand how noisy it is up there. Then you can take little steps.

Get outside

I am amazed at the healing power of nature. Every single one of us should get outside and lay on our backs in the grass and watch the white puffy clouds go by for about ten or fifteen minutes a day minimum. If you really want to experience the power of nature take a daylong hike or pitch a tent in a forest near a stream. The bigness of it all is one of the most quieting tonics available.

Sit and listen

Try this one for a little different perspective. Close your eyes and sit and listen to all the sounds near by. Don’t think anything just notice. Then slowly move your perception out farther and farther picking up sounds just outside, traffic maybe, and then a train off in the distance. See how far you can tune in. I don’t know why but this little exercise seems to open up pathways in my thinking and quite the noise that’s right around me.


Of course the biggest, scariest and most awesome things you can do is lock yourself away for a weekend retreat with no computer, phone, TV or need to make any conversation at all. I realize this is pretty impractical for most, but what if you tried it for even half a day? I would write and read inspiring passages but mostly I would slow down and think about the things that really matter, the things I know I’m meant to do, the things I’m grateful for, the intentions I have for my business and my life.

It’s a shame in some ways that being quiet is so hard. Part of this is just the world we live in and part is self-inflicted. The good news is we still have the ability to dial it up and down as a choice in the infinite number of choices we get to make.

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  • Shawn Wright

    One way I go analog is by keeping my guitar or ukulele by my work desk. While it is not quiet I have found that 5 minutes can clear the cobwebs.

    • ducttape

      I love that as well – I have a guitar in the office but for some reason I’ve had trouble getting to it lately – I’ll have to put that back on the list.

  • Ana Lucia Novak

    I work in silence at home for several hours.
    It’s important to hear that small still voice or inner nudging – I like the outdoors as a solution. A healthy walk can often act as a catalyst for coming up with unique strategies and solutions to all problems.

    • ducttape

      Most of my best blog post ideas have come to me during a morning run

  • Jeff Korhan

    I started meditating in ’94 I can honestly say it is one of the most valuable practices for both peace of mind and productivity. I was actually a teacher for 15 years, and that is even more powerful – to be the giver of such an amazing gift.

  • billbennett

    Some time ago I heard about a similar idea: The Digital Sabbath. wrote about it here –

    Essentially set aside one day a week – Sunday is good – to stay away from all things digital. Of course I wrote that before smartphones and tablets made it even harder to get a little space.

  • Callan Young

    Hi! I am studying Social Media Theory & Practice with @DR4WARD at @NewhouseSU. I subscribe to your blog and find your posts more and more relevant as I get deeper into my #NewhouseSM4 class.

    I found this ‘How To Be Quiet’ post refreshing. As a college student, I am constantly running around, talking with others, & on one of my many electronic devices – rarely am I ever just sitting down and being “quiet.” I tried to sit for five minutes to test how noisy my brain is, and let’s just say I didn’t even last the average 30 seconds. I have found that because my brain is so constantly noisy (at the hands of myself and fellow college students around me), all other aspects of my life are as well.

    One of the suggestions in this post that I can relate to and vouch for is journaling. I love writing and so naturally, it is a great stress reliever and a perfect way to quiet down the loud things in your life. Of all of the ways you mentioned to turn down the noise, I think I’ll give the whole ‘retreat’ idea a try once my Social Media Theory class is over. Great advice in this post!

  • MicroSourcing

    Stepping out of the office for as little as 10-15 minutes can be helpful without being disruptive because it allows you to detach yourself temporarily from what’s going on at work.

  • Sheetal Sharma

    Silence is the most powerful language in this world, one must practice silence to empty the past baggage and renew our brain for the upcoming events, in office also it is on of the most important things everyone must practice. It gives you the power of renewal and that’s when we possess the ability to think constructively. At Synechron, all employees have the freedom to take their minutes of silence and refresh.

  • MikeBFS1

    I love the points made in this series. I find each highly effective,and I use some the very “centering” practices discussed in this article.Thank you for the reminder of how tech can damage an individuals equilibrium.