Dishwashing is a chore that most people try to avoid. There are even jokes about guys eating out of anything that will hold food just to skip this mindless task. But Bill Gates says he likes it. Yes, that Bill Gates. A couple of years ago, Gates mentioned that “I do the dishes every night — other people volunteer, but I like the way I do it,” during a Reddit Ask Me Anything.
So why should the rest of us pay attention to this? Simple – Bill Gates has learned the value of taking time to let his mind wander. In a world that is overloaded with distractions, data, and stimulations, our brains need time to sort, organize, prioritize and recharge. The external influences around us 24/7 rarely allow this to happen unless we consciously take the time to reflect.
Now this doesn’t mean you should be thinking about reflection. While it doesn’t hurt to have pen and paper at the ready, waiting consciously for the unconscious to work defeats the purpose. I have a colleague who puts questions in her “slow cooker.” These are the issues for which she cannot come up with an immediate answer. Over time, solutions to her dilemmas generally appear.
Some people maintain meditation is the best path for prompting insights. Others find that a walk in the woods does the trick. For me, it can be a long hot shower. For Bill, it’s washing the dishes. Should you expect blinding flashes of brilliance? No. Will you be staggered by some amazing insight? Probably not. But performing a mindless task relieves you from any self-imposed belief that you need to be doing something every waking minute.
Give yourself permission to escape from your treadmill of tasks, whether at work or at home. Turn off the distractions. Reject the guilt you might associate with this “lazy” endeavor. Embrace the value of doing the dishes, raking the leaves, mopping the floor or washing the car. Let your mind wander and reap the rewards.