Paul Graham, author of Hackers & Painters, wrote a speech that was to be given to a graduating class of high school seniors. The speech is worth reading, but I thought I’d point out a little gem of wisdom from his footnotes. The following is footnote #5:
The key to wasting time is distraction. Without distractions it’s too obvious to your brain that you’re not doing anything with it, and you start to feel uncomfortable. If you want to measure how dependent you’ve become on distractions, try this experiment: set aside a chunk of time on a weekend and sit alone and think. You can have a notebook to write your thoughts down in, but nothing else: no friends, TV, music, phone, IM, email, Web, games, books, newspapers, or magazines. Within an hour most people will feel a strong craving for distraction.
Of course he’s absolutely right. You ever tried that? Sitting still for an hour? You wouldn’t believe what races through your brain. What he’s describing isn’t meditation, but even so, it’s the same reason why so few people actually stick with meditative excercises. We can’t stand to be quiet, but quiet and stillness can fuel a whole lot of creative impulse and intuition.